NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) - Leading Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage visited Donald Trump at his home on Saturday, after suggesting he could act as a go-between to help smooth British relations with the U.S. president-elect.
British Prime Minister Theresa May is not expected to meet the incoming leader until early next year and Farage has suggested her criticisms of Trump in the early days of the campaign could damage ties with Washington.
“We’re just tourists!” Farage, head of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), told reporters as he waited for an elevator to take him up to the meeting at Trump Tower in New York City.
He later tweeted a photograph of himself with Trump standing in front of a pair of golden doors and smiling broadly, the president-elect giving the camera a thumbs-up.
“It was a great honor to spend time with @realDonaldTrump,” Farage tweeted. “He was relaxed and full of good ideas. I’m confident he will be a good President.”
Trump’s election campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said: “I think they enjoy each other’s company, and they actually had a chance to talk about freedom and winning and what this all means for the world.”
In a separate photograph posted on Twitter, UKIP donor Arron Banks, Breitbart London Editor in Chief Raheem Kassam, and Gerry Gunster, an American whose advocacy firm worked on the Brexit campaign, were also pictured with Trump and Farage.
May - who spoke to Trump by phone on Thursday - and her predecessor David Cameron last year described Trump as “divisive” and “wrong” over his call to ban Muslims from entering the United States. At that time he was not considered likely to win the presidency.
In a leaked diplomatic telegram, sent on Nov. 9 and printed in the Sunday Times newspaper, Britain’s ambassador to Washington, Kim Darroch, said he believed Britain had built better relationships with Trump’s team than other foreign diplomats.
“(Trump) is above all an outsider and an unknown quantity, whose campaign pronouncements may reveal his instincts, but will surely evolve and, particularly, be open to outside influence if pitched right,” he said. “We should be well placed to do this.”
While the British government has congratulated Trump on his election, the head of the opposition, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, said he should “grow up” on the immigration issue and recognize that the U.S. economy depends on migrant workers.
“The treatment of Mexico by the United States, just as much as its absurd and abusive language towards Muslims, is something that has to be challenged and should be challenged,” Corbyn, whose wife is Mexican, told the BBC on Sunday.
UKIP, which has only one member of parliament in London, said Farage and Trump spent more than an hour discussing Trump’s victory, global politics and Brexit.
A UKIP official has suggested Farage could even be the next ambassador to the United States, but British media reported that May’s office rejected the idea of any role for Farage, citing unnamed sources who described him as an “irrelevance”.
A day after Trump’s election victory, Farage called on the real estate mogul to reverse “loathsome” Barack Obama’s policy by making Britain his top priority.
Farage said he had been pleased at Trump’s “very positive reaction” to the idea that a bust of former British prime minister Winston Churchill be put back in the Oval Office.
He has also joked about sexual assault allegations against Trump, urging him to “schmooze” May but not touch her. He proposed that in any meetings between the British and American leaders, he could attend to be the “responsible adult to make sure everything is OK.”
Farage, who spoke at a Trump rally during the election campaign, had predicted the former reality TV host would tap into the same dissatisfaction among voters that led to Britain deciding on June 23 to leave the European Union.
Trump made repeated references to Brexit during his campaign, saying it had highlighted the desire for change among voters frustrated with traditional politics.
(Story refiles to add dropped word “the” in first paragraph.)
Additional reporting by Reuters TV; Editing by Dan Grebler and Robin Pomeroy