Welcoming the American president and First Lady Melania Trump to a black-tie dinner with business leaders at Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Churchill, May, at her diplomatic best, said the two countries’ “most special of relationships has a long and proud history”.
“Mr President, Sir Winston Churchill once said that ‘to have the United States at our side was, to me, the greatest joy,’” she said.
“Now, for the benefit of all our people, let us work together to build a more prosperous future,” May added after calling for a free trade agreement with the US after Britain leaves the European Union next March.
Trump arrived at the reception to much pomp and ceremony, with the bands of the Scots, Irish and Welsh Guards playing in his honour.
This despite the convention-shredding president rebuked his embattled host as she struggles over Brexit.
“The people voted to break it up (Britain’s ties with the EU),” Trump said of Brexit shortly after a tense NATO summit.
“So I would imagine that’s what they will do, but maybe they will take a little bit of a different route. I don’t know (if) that is what they voted for,” he added.
The president is set to largely avoid mass protests planned for his controversial trip, which includes talks with May, tea with Queen Elizabeth II and a private weekend in Scotland.
He shrugged off the organised demonstrations which on Friday will include a giant baby-shaped balloon bearing Trump’s features and have required police to be mobilised from across the country.
“They like me a lot in the UK,” he added in Brussels.
Trump is due to leave on Sunday for talks in Helsinki the following day with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose government May has accused of unleashing a lethal nerve agent in the city of Salisbury.