Donald Trump “got it totally wrong” in his response to white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Boris Johnson has said.
The foreign secretary told the BBC it was a “great shame” the president “failed to make a clear and fast distinction between fascists and anti-fascists”.
But he said Trump’s planned state visit to the UK would still go ahead and was “more likely to be in 2018 than this year”, although he refused to reveal any further details.
It is the first time Johnson has openly condemned Trump for his response to the unrest in Virginia, which left an anti-fascism campaigner dead.
But Lib Dem deputy leader Jo Swinson said he should call off the state visit to show he is not Trump’s “poodle”.
“It shouldn’t have taken this long for the Foreign Secretary to criticise Donald Trump for his abhorrent defence of white supremacists,” she added.
“Boris Johnson has long been an apologist for Trump, as he and other Brexiteers are so desperate for a US trade deal.
“But recent weeks have shown just how risky it would be to abandon our allies in Europe and become dependent on an unstable, obnoxious and narcissistic bully.”
In an exclusive interview with HuffPost UK in Scotland this week, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would thwart Theresa May’s “sweetheart deal” with the US after roundly criticising the president.
Johnson was also quizzed on whether international students should be included in the UK’s net migration figures, but refused to give a definitive answer.
The government is under pressure to ditch its “flawed” immigration target, which would see net migration brought down to less than 100,000 a year.
Figures released this week showed estimates of the number of international students outstaying their visas were hugely wide of the mark – with 97% leaving the country when they were supposed to.