Boris Johnson meets Trump team in New York

George Parker

Boris Johnson, the U.K. foreign secretary, has held talks in New York with senior members of Donald Trump's team on Sunday as part of a concerted British effort to build ties with the new US administration.

Mr Johnson clashed with Mr Trump in 2015 after the president-elect claimed Islamists had made parts of London "no-go zones"; the former London mayor said he would not go to parts of New York because of "the real risk of meeting Donald Trump".

Former London Mayor and 'Vote Leave' campaigner Boris Johnson speaks during a press conference in central London on June 24, 2016.
Mary Turner | AFP | Getty Images

But Mr Johnson put those reservations aside to hold for meetings with Mr Trump's inner team including Steve Bannon, chief strategist, and Jared Kushner, the president-elect's son-in-law. There had been speculation he might meet Mr Trump himself, but the encounter never came to pass.

The talks covered foreign policy issues and will have helped prepare for Mrs May's visit to the White House, expected next month. On Monday Mr Johnson will meet Congressional leaders in Washington, including Speaker Paul Ryan, Senator Bob Corker and Senator Mitch McConnell.

Mrs May is expected to meet the new president in Washington next month and has gone out of her way to curry favour with the new administration, in spite of her concerns about Mr Trump's previous comments about women.

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To Mr Trump's observation brought up during the presidential campaign that being famous allowed a male star to molest women, Mrs May responded on Sunday: "I think that's unacceptable and in fact Donald Trump himself has said that."

Mrs May said she had "two very good, positive conversations" with Donald Trump. Her joint chiefs of staff met Mr Trump's transition team in New York last month to prepare her forthcoming visit.

Last month Downing Street criticized outgoing US secretary of state John Kerry after he made critical remarks about Israel's settlement-building program — Mr Trump is a strong supporter of Israel.

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A Foreign Office spokesman said of Mr Johnson's visit: "The discussions will be focused on UK-US relations and other foreign policy matters." Mr Johnson's visit had intended to be "private" but he was spotted at the airport, allies said.

Mr Johnson's visit comes hours after Mr Trump tweeted he is "very much" looking forward to meeting Theresa May in the spring. He referred to Britain as a "long time ally" and as "very special".

The first British politician to meet Mr Trump after his win was former UKIP leader Nigel Farage.