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11:17, 09 January 2017 Monday -

Boris Johnson has flown to New York for talks with Donald Trump's team

The Foreign Secretary - who branded Mr Trump ‘unfit’ to hold office 12 months ago - became the first minister to meet the president-elect’s team, ahead of an expected visit by Theresa May.

Boris Johnson has held 'frank' talks with Donald Trump’s closest aides as ministers scramble to mend fences with the incoming US President.

The Foreign Secretary - who branded Mr Trump ‘unfit’ to hold office 12 months ago - became the first minister to meet the president-elect’s team, ahead of an expected visit by Theresa May next month.

He spent around three hours with Mr Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and strategist Steve Bannon.

Their discussions are said to have been 'positive' and focused on how the countries would jointly approach Russia.

News of the charm offensive leaked just hours after Mrs May branded Mr Trump’s past comments about groping women ‘unacceptable’.

Mr Johnson has performed a remarkable about-turn over the president-elect, recently hailing his victory as a ‘great opportunity for the UK’.

The Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister were among a string of senior Tories to attack Mr Trump during his controversial election campaign.

Theresa May, pictured on today's Sophy Ridge on Sunday, has risked re-opening a war of words with President-elect Donald Trump after saying his 'grab 'em by the p****' jib was 'unacceptable'

In December 2015, Mr Johnson said the maverick billionaire was ‘clearly out of his mind’ after he announced he would ban all Muslims from visiting the US. The then-London mayor went further when Mr Trump suggested parts of the UK capital had become ‘no-go areas’ because of the threat from Islamic terrorists.

Speaking at the time, Mr Johnson accused Mr Trump of ‘stupefying ignorance’, adding: ‘The only reason I wouldn’t visit some parts of New York is the real risk of meeting Donald Trump.’ But last night he was heading for Trump Tower in a bid to ensure Britain’s relationship with the US is not derailed by past controversies.

Today he will hold talks with senior Republicans at the US Congress in Washington, including Speaker Paul Ryan.

UK ministers have been alarmed by Mr Trump’s apparent closeness to Nigel Farage, and were stunned in November when he suggested the former Ukip leader should be made British ambassador to the US.

Last week it emerged that Mrs May had responded by dispatching her closest aides to build bridges with the Trump team. The Prime Minister’s joint chiefs of staff, Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy, were sent on the secret mission to New York and Washington last month because of fears the Government could be sidelined by Mr Trump’s friendship with Mr Farage.

Mr Johnson’s diplomatic trip was also meant to be kept under wraps, but news leaked after he was recognised by a fellow passenger. Government sources last night said that Mr Johnson’s mission had been ‘authorised’ by Mrs May, and stressed that it was not designed to upstage her.

A Foreign Office spokesman said the talks would be ‘focused on UK-US relations and other foreign policy matters’.

Mr Johnson has pointed out that Mr Trump, who also backed Brexit, is keen to strike a trade deal with the UK.

Ahead of the EU referendum last year, outgoing US President Barack Obama warned Britain would be at the ‘back of the queue’ for a deal if it voted to cut ties with Brussels.

n Donald Trump accepts that Russia carried out cyber-attacks to disrupt the US presidential election, his chief of staff indicated yesterday. Reince Priebus told Fox News the tycoon plans to consult with his intelligence chiefs on how to respond.