CAMBERLEY, England — Bringing chaos with him as he moves across Europe, President Donald Trump’s pomp-filled welcome to Britain was overshadowed Friday by an explosive interview in which he blasted Prime Minister Theresa May, blamed London’s mayor for terror attacks against the city and argued that Europe was “losing its culture” because of immigration.
Trump told The Sun newspaper on Thursday — in an interview that was published as he was feted by May at an opulent welcome dinner at a country palace — that he felt unwelcome in London because of protests, including the flying of a giant balloon over Parliament on Friday that depicts him as an angry diaper-wearing baby.
The president downplayed the fallout from the interview as he stood next to May on Friday for a bilateral meeting at Chequers, her official country house.
He said they spent about 90 minutes talking at dinner and claimed they “probably never developed a better relationship than last night.”
“The relationship is very strong,” Trump insisted, though he did not directly answer questions about the Sun interview.
The president also said NATO had “never been more united,” a day after he roiled the military alliance’s annual summit in Belgium by insulting allies’ defense spending.
Interviewed before he left Brussels for the U.K, Trump accused May of ruining what her country stands to gain from its Brexit vote to leave the European Union.
He said her former foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, would make an “excellent” prime minister, speaking just days after Johnson resigned his position in protest over May’s Brexit plans.
Trump added May’s “soft” blueprint for the U.K.’s future dealings with the EU would probably “kill” any future trade deals with the United States.
“If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the U.K., so it will probably kill the deal,” Trump told the paper.
Trump, who has linked his own election to the June 2016 referendum in which a slim majority of British voters supported leaving the EU, complained, “The deal she is striking is a much different deal than the one the people voted on.”
He also told the tabloid that he’d shared advice with May during Britain’s negotiations with the EU and she ignored it.
The controversy will shadow the president across Britain on Friday much like the 20-foot tall balloon depicting him as an angry baby that was airborne for his visit.
The president opened the day by reviewing a private military exercise alongside May at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
“I guess when they put out blimps to make me feel unwelcome, no reason for me to go to London,” he told The Sun, which is owned by his media ally Rupert Murdoch, who also owns Fox News in the United States.
Trump has been getting around by helicopter to avoid the protests in central London.
After meeting with May, a scheduled joint news conference was sure to be dominated by the fallout from the interview before he visits Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle.
The interview was the latest breach of diplomatic protocol by Trump, whose predecessors tended to avoid criticizing their foreign hosts.
As for Johnson, Trump said: “I think he would be a great prime minister. I think he’s got what it takes. … I think he is a great representative for your country.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a statement after the interview was published, saying Trump “likes and respects Prime Minister May very much.”
“As he said in his interview with the Sun she ‘is a very good person’ and he ‘never said anything bad about her.’ He thought she was great on NATO today and is a really terrific person,” Sanders wrote.
On Thursday night, hundreds of demonstrators chanted outside the U.S. ambassador’s residence in London, where Trump was staying, providing a preview of the forceful protests expected Friday.
Trump acknowledged he didn’t feel welcome in the city, and blamed that in part on Mayor Sadiq Khan, who gave protesters permission to fly the 20-foot-tall baby Trump balloon.
Trump also blamed recent terrorist attacks there on Khan, who is Muslim. The president claimed Europe is “losing its culture” because of immigration from the Middle East and Africa.
“Allowing the immigration to take place in Europe is a sham,” he said. “I think it changed the fabric of Europe and, unless you act very quickly, it’s never going to be what it was and I don’t mean that in a positive way.”