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Theresa May Is Going To Give Donald Trump An Engraved Scottish Cup When She Meets Him

The prime minister is jetting off to meet the US president on a crucial trip where every bit of symbolism matters.

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Stefan Wermuth / Reuters

One of Theresa May's opening gambits in her bid to persuade Donald Trump to back a post-Brexit trade deal between the UK and the US will be the gifting of a Scottish friendship cup.

Downing Street has set out the plan for the prime minister's visit to the USA on Thursday and Friday. It includes May giving Trump the present of "an engraved quaich" alongside a hamper of goods including marmalade, Bakewell tarts, and white chocolate shorties.

They'll then have private talks in which they'll attempt to reconfigure the US–UK special relationship for the modern era, come to an understanding on a free trade deal, and discuss the future of NATO and peace in Syria.

"The Quaich (pronounced ‘quake’) is an ancient Scottish artefact, whose form has not changed for centuries," Downing Street said in a press release explaining its symbolic value. "The term ‘Quaich’ emerged in the mid-16th century, from Scottish Gaelic word ‘cuach’, meaning cup.

"Today it is rarely used as a drinking vessel, but rather it is a symbol of welcome and kinship. Its two handles signify trust, both on the part of the giver and the receiver. Tracing its origins to the distant past of Highland chivalry, the quaich is today a timeless reminder of the enduring Scottish values of friendship and hospitality."

A person, who is not Theresa May or Donald Trump, drinking whisky from a silver quaich.
David Moir / Reuters

A person, who is not Theresa May or Donald Trump, drinking whisky from a silver quaich.

While the choice of drinking vessel may not seem the most important matter, May's team were delighted to secure the first visit by a national leader since Trump's inauguration and were keen to avoid any potential embarrassment by choosing the wrong gift.

Downing Street is also desperate to emphasise symbolic ties between the country, noting that the prime minister will be shown a much-disputed bust of Winston Churchill that sits in the Oval Office as "a symbol of the strength of the transatlantic partnership".

But while Trump preaches his protectionist policy of "America first", May will be hoping to win an exception for a trade deal between the UK and the US.

Her first stop will be in Philadelphia, where she will tell Republican members of congress that Britain has chosen to "reassert our belief in a confident, sovereign and Global Britain" and wants "to renew the Special Relationship for this new age".

But the meeting with Trump on Friday is likely to be more problematic, forcing her to juggle the demand of impressing a new president with not infuriating politicians and voters back home.

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband used Prime Minister's Questions to tell May to remember her "responsibility for the whole international community" when talking to the US president about climate change, while Tory MP Andrew Tyrie urged her to make it clear the UK could not accept the use of torture.

Jeremy Corbyn also demanded she respond to concerns about Trump's misogyny.

"I am not afraid to speak frankly to the president of the United States," said May in response. "I am able to do that because we have that special relationship – a special relationship that he would never have with the United States."

Jim Waterson is a politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Jim Waterson at

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