President Donald Trump said on Friday the United States and Britain could secure a "great" post-Brexit trade deal, lavishing praise on Prime Minister Theresa May and contradicting his own withering assessment of her strategy publicized hours earlier.
In a newspaper interview published just hours before holding talks with May, Trump said her Brexit strategy would "kill" any chance of a trade deal and said she had not listened to his advice on how to negotiate with the EU.
But, as the two leaders stood together for a press conference in the garden of May's grand 16th-Century official residence Chequers, Trump said the British leader was doing a "fantastic job," added it was up to her how to conduct Brexit, and that a free trade deal was very much on the table.
Relations had never been more special, he said, and any criticism was "fake news."
However, while Trump and May exchanged warm words, tens of thousands of protesters marched against the US president through central London, bringing much of the British capital to a standstill. It was one of the more than 100 demonstrations planned across the country during his four-day stay.
"The message we came here to give today is that Trump is not welcome in Britain," said shopkeeper Grish Gregoran, 58, who took the day off to attend. "We wanted to embarrass him and I think we have done that today."
Trump has also frequently angered British politicians and has been involved in social media spats with London's Muslim mayor Sadiq Khan who he said had "done a very bad job on terrorism."
Late last year, May herself criticized Trump for retweeting a message by a member of a British far-right group, and the speaker of parliament has said the president would not be welcome to address the chamber.
After leaving Chequers, Trump traveled to Windsor Castle to have tea with Queen Elizabeth. He was heralded by military bands on his arrival at the 92-year-old monarch's home where her grandson Prince Harry married US actress Meghan Markle in May.
He was due to fly to one of his golf courses in Scotland later on Friday where he will stay until Sunday when he flies to Helsinki for talks with Russia's Putin where he said he would bring up the issue of nuclear disarmament.
However his trip is set to be overshadowed by news that a US federal grand jury has indicted 12 military intelligence officers on charges of hacking the computer networks of 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party.
"We have this stupidity going on, pure stupidity, but it makes it very hard to do something with Russia because, anything you do, it's like: 'Russia, oh he loves Russia'," Trump said at the press conference before news of the indictment.
"I love the United States but I love getting along with Russia and China and other countries."