President Donald Trump inserted himself back into Britain's Brexit debate Thursday, saying he was prepared to negotiate a "large scale" trade agreement with the United Kingdom after it leaves the European Union.
Trump's message on trade comes just hours ahead of yet another series of contentious votes by U.K. lawmakers, one of which is likely to approve a motion that will seek to delay Britain's March 29 deadline to leave the bloc after rejecting both Prime Minister Theresa May's Withdrawal Agreement and the prospect of a so-called Hard Brexit in separate votes earlier this week.
They also come amid a Thursday visit to the White House from Ireland's Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar, ahead of this week's St. Patrick's Day celebrations, during which Trump said May "didn't listen" to his advice on Brexit, but said he hoped it could be worked out and that a trade deal could be negotiated afterwards.
"I'm surprised how badly it's all gone from the standpoint of a negotiation," Trump told reporters in the White House. "I gave the Prime Minister my ideas on how to negotiate it, and I think it would have been successful. She didn't listen to that, which is fine, but I think it could have been negotiated in a different manner."
My Administration looks forward to negotiating a large scale Trade Deal with the United Kingdom. The potential is unlimited!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 14, 2019
The pound was marked near a nine-month high of 1.3283 against the U.S. dollar Thursday, extending its year-to-date gain to around 4.1%, ahead of today's Parliamentary debates, one of which includes a motion for a second referendum on Britain's EU membership.
"I don't think another vote would be possible, because I think it would be very unfair to the people that won," Trump told reporters.
Trump's push for a trade deal, however, belies the nature of Britain's Brexit complexity and the reason why lawmakers have both rejected leaving with "no deal" and May's painstakingly negotiated pact.
The biggest issue facing UK lawmakers is the issue of the so-called Irish backstop, a means by which Britain can ensure that, regardless of what happens during its negotiated transition from the bloc, a hard border between Northern Ireland, a U.K. territory, and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state, will never be put in place.
The backstop remains a contentious issue in both Dublin and London that is linked to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that ended decades of sectarian violence and create an de-facto interior border between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom.
Having now voted against a "no deal" Brexit, Britain now faces the choice of either remaining inside the EU customs union, which would negate the need for an Irish border but prevent it from signing independent trade deals, or finding a solution that has evaded lawmakers since Britain voted to leave the EU in June of 2016.
Varadkar told reporters in Washington Thursday that there must not be a border between the Republic and Norther Ireland, adding he doesn't expect the situation to be resolved for "a few years."