Trump’s Long-Delayed Trip To Great Britain Now Scheduled For July
President Trump's on-again, off-again visit to Great Britain appears to be on again.
After more than a year of delays during which it was but on the back burner or otherwise delayed, it looks like President Trump’s visit to the United Kingdom is back on again:
WASHINGTON — The White House announced on Thursday that President Trump will make his first visit to Britain on July 13, a trip the White House had repeatedly put off amid friction between the American president and one of the United States’ closest allies.
Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain was the first foreign leader to visit the White House after Mr. Trump took office, and said then that she had conveyed an invitation from Queen Elizabeth II for Mr. Trump to make a formal state visit to Britain, which the president accepted.
But in the year since, the visit has become more like an on-again, off-again date, with a politically tricky back story to match. The July trip will be a working visit with Mrs. May, according to Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, a downgrade from the kind of ceremonial state visit that was initially offered.
Mr. Trump had been scheduled to visit London earlier this year to open the new American Embassy but abruptly canceled the trip with a message on Twitter in January in which he blamed the cost and location of the building. Both British and American officials speculated at the time that the president had scrapped the visit because of the risk of public protests that had threatened to embarrass both Mr. Trump and Mrs. May, who was doing her best to distance herself from him after statements Mr. Trump had made that some Britons considered deeply divisive.
Last year, as White House officials worked to find a suitable date for the trip, Mr. Trump cooled to the idea amid a backlash in Britain to comments he made after a terrorist attack in London in June. A few hours after a van mowed down pedestrians on London Bridge and attackers inside went on a stabbing rampage in the streets, Mr. Trump scolded Sadiq Khan, the city’s mayor, on Twitter.
“At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!'” Mr. Trump wrote. Mr. Khan had used the phrase to calm Londoners about the presence of heavily armed security forces deployed throughout the city after the attack.
Tentative plans to include the United Kingdom in a trip Mr. Trump was making to Europe the next month were scrapped, and the visit was instead penciled in for the fall.
Then in September, Mr. Trump seized on a bombing in Londonto promote his travel ban on predominantly Muslim countries, and suggested that the assailants had been known to Scotland Yard, angering Mrs. May.
Two months later, Mr. Trump’s retweets of a far-right group’s anti-Muslim videos stirred criticism from across the political spectrum in Britain, and prompted Mrs. May to criticize him publicly.
Assuming it actually goes forward, the visit would come after more than a year of drama about the visit and controversy across the pond. Back in April of last year, when the possibility of an imminent Trump State Visit to Great Britain that would include a visit with Queen Elizabeth II was still being discussed, there were reports that Trump was reportedly demanding that he be taken for his visit with the Queen in the golden carriage occasionally used by world leaders for such purposes.
While some world leaders had exercised this option for their first meeting with the Queen, most American Presidents have not. President Obama, for example, opted for the far more modern and much less ostentatious option of the Presidential limousine and motorcade and the same has been true of other recent visits by American Presidents. Last June, it was reported that Trump was considering canceling the visit, which was still in the planning stages at the time, due to reports of plans to greet him with massive protests. By July, it was being reported that the visit was off due to fact that Trump was upset about the resoundingly bad coverage he gets from the British press on both sides of the political aisle. Most recently, it was announced that Trump had canceled a planned visit to London in May of this year to open the new U.S. Embassy, which had been in the planning stages since George W. Bush’s Administration due to the fact that it was determined that the long-standing location of the embassy would have been prohibitively expensive to upgrade and secure in light of the new security requirements put in place after the September 11th attacks. Trump claimed at the time that he had canceled the visit because the Obama Administration had made a bad real estate deal when it purchased the land where the new embassy was located. As it turned out, of course, there was absolutely no factual basis for such a claim.
In any case, the President’s failure to visit the United Kingdom so far has bee a break from what had been a long tradition for new American Presidents since World War Two. Other than Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Gerald Ford, every President since Harry Trump has visited the United Kingdom at least once during their time in office. In most cases, that visit took place within their first two years in office. In the case of Presidents Nixon and Carter, the U.K. was either the first foreign country they visited or among the first. In Trump’s case, the first visit was to Saudi Arabia of all places, where he was lauded by the authoritarian il-Saud family for several days in what was an obvious attempt to appeal to the President’s ego-centrism. (Source) As it is, Trump’s failure to visit the United Kingdom this year broke a precedent that been in place since Reagan was President. At the very least, this is a sign of how strained the relationship between the United States and one of its closest and most important allies.
In all likelihood, the average Briton probably isn’t all that disappointed or insulted that Trump has overlooked them over the past year. Public opinion polls in the country show that the majority of the public has a negative view of the American President, and that’s likely to mean that there will be protests over Trump visits that will be heavily covered by the international media even as Trump tries to convey an image as an international leader.
In addition to the public, Trump is unlikely to find many friends in the British Parliament. When the idea of a Trump visit was first announced, Members of the House of Commons from several parties spoke out against the idea of giving him honors in light of past statements about Great Britan and his position on issues such as immigration generally and Muslims in particular. The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, stated that as far as he was concerned Trump would not receive an invitation to address the body as Presidents Reagan and Obama had done in the past. Meanwhile, it’s been made clear that the British public isn’t at all eager for a Trump visit, with some Britons planning a truly British welcome for the President should he come for a visit. If he’s trying to delay the trip because of those planned protests, then perhaps he’s the one who is the low-energy coward that he’s criticized many his opponents of being.
So Trump may well visit the United Kingdom this year, but it’s not likely to be one he’s going to appreciate very much.