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Theresa May welcomes Donald Trump's promise of 'quick' and 'fair' UK-US trade deal

Theresa May's spokeswoman praised the president-elect's 'energy' to work with the UK. Credit: PA

Downing Street has welcomed Donald Trump's pledge to work to secure a rapid trade deal between America and Britain.

During an interview with The Times and German newspaper Bild, the US president-elect said he would be inviting Prime Minister Theresa May for early talks in Washington right after his inauguration on Friday.

In contrast to Barack Obama, who said the UK would be at the "back of the queue" when it came to a trade deal with the US, Mr Trump made clear it would be a priority for his administration.

"We're going to work very hard to get it done quickly and done properly. Good for both sides," Mr. Trump said.

"I will be -meeting with (Mrs May). She's requesting a meeting and we'll have a meeting right after I get into the White House.

"I think we're going to get something done very quickly."

Britain is prohibited from signing a trade deal with third parties until it formally leaves the EU. Credit: PA

Responding to the comments, Mrs May's official spokeswoman said: "We welcome the commitment from the president-elect to engage with the UK on this, to work together to agree a deal quickly.

"That highlights one of the opportunities of the UK leaving the EU."

The spokeswoman said that Mrs May's trip, which is expected to take place in spring, would absolutely respect EU rules which bar it from signing agreements with third parties so long as it remains a union member.

She added that it would be possible to hold "scoping discussions" before Brexit takes place on possible measures to bring down barriers to UK-US trade.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has also welcomed Trump's willingness to agree a free trade deal with the UK.

Ahead of a meeting in Brussels, Mr Johnson said: "I think its very good news that the United States of America wants to do a good free trade deal with us and wants to do it very fast.

"And it's great to hear that from President-elect Trump.

"Clearly it will have to be a deal that's very much in the interest of both sides but I have no doubt that it will be."

The Republican has said he believes Brexit will be a 'great thing' for the UK. Credit: The Times

But former deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg warned the Prime Minister that she should be wary of Trump.

The Liberal Democrat said it would be a "fundamental error" to let the UK become a "hapless pawn" in a game led by Trump and Vladimir Putin.

"An unravelling and collapsing European Union is not only bad for the rest of Europe, it's very bad for Britain as well," Clegg said.

In his first UK interview since becoming president-elect, Mr Trump said that, unlike Mr Obama, he welcomed the result of last June's referendum vote.

"People, countries want their own identity and the UK wanted its own identity. Brexit is going to end up being a great thing," he said.

Speaking to backbench MP Michael Gove, Mr Trump also identified the refugee crisis as one of the key factors driving the Brexit vote.

"I do believe this, if they (EU countries) hadn't been forced to take in all of the refugees, so many, with all the -problems that it ... entails, I think that you wouldn't have a Brexit," he said.

"It probably could have worked out but this was the final straw, this was the final straw that broke the camel's back."