US President Donald Trump cancelled a trip to London scheduled for next month to open a new embassy, saying he did not want to endorse what he understood was an Obama-era decision to move out of the old one. The cancellation is a further blow to relations between the allies.
More than a year into his presidency, Trump has yet to visit London, with many Britons vowing to protest against a man they see as crude, volatile and opposed to their values on a range of issues.
“(The) 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 $1.2bn,” Trump said in a tweet. “Bad deal. Wanted me to cut ribbon-NO!” Trump said.
The decision to acquire a new London embassy site on the south bank of the Thames was announced in 2008 under George W
Bush along with the plans to put the old Grosvenor Square site in upscale Mayfair up for sale.
A pillar of Britain’s foreign policy since World War II, the so-called “special relationship” with Washington has taken on added importance as Britain prepares to leave the European Union in 2019 and seeks new major trade deals.
Prime Minister Theresa May was the first foreign leader to visit Trump after his inauguration in January last year, and they were filmed emerging from the White House holding hands.
She later said Trump took her hand in a gentlemanly gesture as they walked down a ramp.
But British officials have been dismayed by some of Trump’s pronouncements, particularly a proposed ban on Muslims entering the US and most recently when Trump rebuked May on Twitter after she criticised him for retweeting British far-right videos.
During May’s US trip a year ago, she extended an invitation to Trump to make a formal state visit — which includes pomp, pageantry and a banquet with Queen Elizabeth.
May’s spokesman told reporters Trump was welcome in London and that the invitation to visit had been accepted, although no date agreed.
He said the opening of the embassy was a matter for the US government.
“The US is one of our oldest and most valued allies and our strong and deep partnership will endure,” the spokesman said.
Many British politicians have voiced their opposition to Trump being granted a state visit, and say the invite should be recalled.
“Many Londoners have made it clear that Donald Trump is not welcome here while he is pursuing such a divisive agenda,” London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who has often exchanged barbs with Trump on social media, tweeted. “It seems he’s finally got the message.”
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said opponents such as Khan were putting the relationship with the US, the biggest investor in Britain, at risk.
“We will not allow US-UK relations to be endangered by some puffed-up, pompous popinjay in City Hall,” Johnson tweeted.
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