Published:  12:44 AM, 04 December 2019

Trump praises UK PM as 'very capable'

Trump praises UK PM as 'very capable' US President Donald Trump holds a bilateral meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) in New York City. -Reuters

US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that he thought Prime Minister Boris Johnson was very capable and would do a good job, moments after saying he did not want to get involved in the British election campaign.

The Dec. 12 election will decide the fate of Brexit and the world's fifth largest economy: Johnson has promised to take Britain out of the EU on Jan. 31 while opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has promised another EU referendum.

Trump has featured heavily in the British election campaign, where his name is used by the Labour Party as a by-word for a capitalist system that Corbyn, a veteran socialist campaigner, has promised to tear up if he wins power.In London to attend a meeting of NATO leaders, Trump said he did not want to complicate the election.

, but then added: "I think Boris is very capable and I think he'll do a good job," Trump said. He has previously cast New York-born Johnson as 'Britain's Trump' and feted him as the best leader to deliver Brexit.

Johnson's Conservative Party are ahead in opinion polls, but it remains unclear if they are far enough in front to form the majority government Johnson requires to take Britain out of the EU in January.

Trump is a divisive figure for some in Britain, and senior Conservatives are nervous his involvement could upset their campaign.

Trump also reaffirmed his support for Brexit - the central objective of Johnson's election campaign - and denied that the US was interested in gaining access to Britain's National Health Service (NHS) in a future trade deal - the main element of Corbyn's election campaign.

Corbyn wrote to Trump on Monday to ask him to revise US negotiating objectives for a post-Brexit trade deal to ensure Britain's public health service is not included.

Asked if he could work with Corbyn, Trump said: "I can work with anybody, I'm a very easy person to work with." Trump was asked if the NHS could be on the table in post-Brexit trade talks, and responded "No not at all. I have nothing to do with it. Never even thought about it, honestly."

The prospect of US involvement in the NHS - an emotive issue for voters that regularly ranks as one of the most important in opinion polls - has been used by Labour in the election campaign to attack Johnson.

Labour say Johnson wants to sell parts of the publicly funded system off to U.S. companies. Johnson has said that is not true. Trump said: "We have absolutely nothing to do with it, and we wouldn't want to. If you handed it to us on a silver platter, we'd want nothing to do with it."

---Reuters, London

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