Donald Trump cancels UK visit, blaming Barack Obama for a ‘bad embassy deal’, as Sadiq Khan says he ‘finally got the message’
US president Donald Trump has confirmed he will not travel to the UK to open the new American embassy next month, blaming the decision to relocate the building to an “off location”. Hitting out at former US leader Barack Obama, Mr Trump wrote on Twitter early on Friday that he thought the embassy’s move from Grosvenor Square in the prestigious Mayfair district of central London to Nine Elms, south of the Thames, in a 1.2 billion dollar (£886 million) project was a “bad deal”. He wrote: “Reason I cancelled my trip to London is that I am not a big fan of the Obama Administration having sold perhaps the best located and finest embassy in London for ‘peanuts’, only to build a new one in an off location for 1.2 billion dollars. Bad deal. Wanted me to cut ribbon-NO!” Prime Minister Theresa May was the first world leader to visit Mr Trump in the White House and the US president accepted at the time an invitation for a state visit. But that idea was fairly swiftly pushed into the long grass, given the scale of expected protests and opposition within the UK. A petition against a state visit gained more than a million signatures last year. Mr Trump was then reported to be considering a “working visit”, with some publications reporting that a date had been set for the end of February. The visit was due to coincide with the opening of the new US embassy. Writing on Twitter at 4.57am on Friday, Mr Trump said he thought the embassy’s move from Grosvenor Square was a “bad deal”.
Despite Mr Trump publicly blaming his predecessor Obama, the US announced its plans to move to the new embassy site in October 2008 – when George W Bush was in the White House. The new building will open on January 16. On the embassy web page about the project, it said: “The project has been funded entirely by the proceeds of the sale of other US Government properties in London, not through appropriated funds.”
Mr Trump had also been scheduled to hold talks with Mrs May in No 10, with February 26 and 27 marked in the diary. Downing Street had hoped to confirm the dates this week. The president was not due to meet the Queen until a full state visit at a later date. But now Mr Trump has decided to postpone even the scaled-down February visit. Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, will instead represent the US at the embassy opening. In December, US Ambassador Woody Johnson said he was looking forward to welcoming the president when he visited, adding: “I think he will be very impressed with this building and the people who occupy it.” He said the new embassy was a “signal to the world that this special relationship that we have is stronger and is going to grow and get better”. Mr Trump’s decision not to head across the Atlantic comes despite Mrs May saying that a future visit was still on the cards last week. A Downing Street spokesman said: “Our position is that an offer for a state visit has been extended and accepted.” Sources claimed that the lack of “bells and whistles” and royal involvement in next month’s planned visit might have discouraged Mr Trump.
Mrs May controversially extended the offer of a state visit – officially on behalf of the Queen – when she became the first world leader to meet Mr Trump in the White House following his inauguration last year. Since then, however, the president has indicated he does not want to take up the invitation if he is going to face mass demonstrations and it had been expected he could make a low-key working visit rather than a trip which involved all the trappings of a state occasion.
‘Trump has thrown his toys out of the pram’: Reaction to cancelled visit
Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, said that it appears Trump has “finally got that message” that “many Londoners” would not welcome the US President to the capital. He said: “Many Londoners have made it clear that Donald Trump is not welcome here while he is pursuing such a divisive agenda. It seems he’s finally got that message. “This reinforces what a mistake it was for Theresa May to rush and extend an invitation of a state visit in the first place.”
Ed Miliband, the former Labour leader, suggested on Twitter that planned protests had dissuaded the president from visiting the UK, saying: “Nobody wanted you to come.”
Others, including David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham, was clearer in his views on Twitter:
Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Jo Swinson said: “News that Trump has thrown his toys out of the pram and cancelled his trip to the UK will be welcomed by all of us who reject his abhorrent views. “But it’s a disappointing sign of how weak May’s leadership is that she wasn’t brave enough to call the visit off herself. “The Prime Minister should be ashamed that she was so keen to roll out the red carpet to a man who spreads hate and division at every turn, and goes out of his way to undermine British values.” Labour MP Stephen Doughty said on Twitter that Trump “wanted the red carpet treatment and cheering crowds”, but was instead facing “big protests”.
Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, suggested that Mr Trump was more aware of opposition in the UK than in other countries he had visited because it was expressed in English. “I think it’s a great shame; the United States is very much one of our closest allies, but the alliance isn’t based on who lives in the White House and who lives in Number 10, it’s based on shared values, common interests and absolute commitment to the international rules-based system which we have both spent the best part of 70 years upholding through Nato, through the United Nations and through various other treaty organisations around the world,” he told Today. “While I think it’s a shame, I think – if I’m honest – it more reflects the fact that other people criticise in French, Italian, Korean and other languages and we criticise in English, and it’s much easier for him to read English.”
Other MPs line up to react to news
Nigel Farage suggests ‘mass protests’ behind Trump’s decision
Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage, an ally of the US president, suggested that concerns about protests might have been the real reason for the visit’s cancellation. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “Well, he is the real estate guy. I can’t comment on that. He has made rather a lot of money over the years doing it. “It is disappointing. He has been to countries all over the world and yet he has not been to the one with whom he is closest. “I would say it is disappointing. Maybe, just maybe, Sadiq Khan, Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party planning mass protests, maybe those optics he didn’t like the look of.” Speaking on the same programme, Labour MP Chuka Umunna said it was “very welcome he is not coming any more”, adding: “He runs counter to British values.”
How May and Trump fell out over anti-Muslim videos
Mrs May and Mr Trump fell out spectacularly in November over his retweeting of anti-Muslim videos posted online by the deputy leader of the far-right Britain First group, Jayda Fransen. At the time, the PM said Mr Trump was “wrong” to retweet the videos, and the US president hit back at Mrs May on Twitter by telling her to focus on “destructive radical Islamic terrorism” in the UK, rather than on him.
Donald Trump asks why US accepts immigrants ‘from s——- countries’
Donald Trump has reportedly expressed frustration at the United States’ immigration policy, asking a White House gathering of politicians why the US accepted people from “s——- countries”, reports Harriet Alexander. Mr Trump convened Thursday’s meeting to discuss reforming immigration policy, and one of the politicians inside the Oval Office suggested that a deal could be reached if Mr Trump agreed to restore protection for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries. “Why are we having all these people from s——- countries come here?” the president responded, according to two people who spoke to The Washington Post. The paper said he was referring to African countries and Haiti. He then reportedly suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries like Norway, whose prime minister he met on Wednesday. The White House did not deny his remark, which triggered widespread outrage, but issued a statement saying Mr Trump supports immigration policies that welcome “those who can contribute to our society.” His remarks reportedly left the assembled politicians “taken aback”, the paper said, with Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator for South Carolina, and Richard Durbin, Democratic senator for Illinois, among those in the room.
Trump claims to have developed positive relationship with Kim Jong-un
Mr Trump also claimed that he has developed a positive relationship with North Korea’s leader. “I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong-un,” Mr Trump told The Wall Street Journal, despite there being no formal contact between US and North Korean officials in decades. “I have relationships with people. I think you people are surprised.” Asked if he has spoken with Mr Kim, Mr Trump replied: “I don’t want to comment on it. I’m not saying I have or haven’t. I just don’t want to comment.” The president has called the nation’s leader a “maniac,” a “bad dude,” mocked him as “short and fat,” and referred to him repeatedly as “rocket man.” Mr Kim in response has warned he would “tame the mentally deranged US dotard with fire”. Mr Trump told the paper, however, that his Twitter insults were simply part of his game plan. “You’ll see that a lot with me,” he said about combative tweets. “And then all of the sudden somebody’s my best friend. I could give you 20 examples. You could give me 30. I’m a very flexible person.” The president said he approved of North Korea’s participation in next month’s Olympic Games, and acknowledged that Pyongyang may be trying to separate Washington and Seoul. “If I were them, I would try,” he said. “The difference is I’m president, other people aren’t. And I know more about wedges than any human being that’s lived.”