x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 February 2018

Trump cancels UK visit over ‘bad deal’ embassy move

Many argue anti-Trump protests planned for his trip played a role in his decision not to visit

President Donald Trump will not be attending the opening of the new US embassy. AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
President Donald Trump will not be attending the opening of the new US embassy. AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

President Donald Trump has cancelled a planned trip to London where he had been expected to open the new $1 billion US embassy.

Writing on Twitter, Mr Trump said: “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!”

However, many argue anti-Trump protests planned for his trip played a role in his decision not to visit.

UK Foreign secretary Boris Johnson sent a tweet in support of the visit, accusing opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour London Mayor Sadiq Khan of threatening the transatlantic relationship.

Some MPs questioned whether Mr Trump would be welcome after he re-tweeted videos from a far-right British group and criticized London Mayor Sadiq Khan following a terror attack last year.

"It appears that President Trump got the message from the many Londoners who love and admire America and Americans but find his policies and actions the polar opposite of our city's values of inclusion, diversity and tolerance," Mr Khan said. "His visit next month would without doubt have been met by mass peaceful protests."

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband responded on Twitter to Mr Trump’s late-night tweet, saying, “Nope it’s because nobody wanted you to come. And you got the message”.

A spokesman for the UK prime minister said Mr Trump is “welcome” to visit the UK and that Mr Trump has accepted an invitation to come to Britain but that no date has been set. They added that the opening of US embassy is a matter for the United States

Mr Trump said his decision was due to his concerns about the embassy's move from Mayfair to a less fashionable area of London. The move, which ended a 200-year US association with London's Grosvenor Square, was part of American efforts to secure diplomatic staff in compounds — a push tied to terror concerns after Al Qaeda bombings at two US embassies in East Africa a decade ago.

The move was announced in 2008, before President Barack Obama was elected. At the time, US Ambassador Robert Tuttle said the decision to move to the five-acre site on the south side of the River Thames came after a "long and careful process."

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US secretary of state Rex Tillerson will be present to mark the opening of the new embassy in place of Mr Trump.

Nigel Farage, the first UK political figure to meet Mr Trump after his election, said on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that it was disappointing that Mr Trump had called off his visit. The former Ukip leader calls the president a friend.

A general view of the new United States Embassy building in London, Friday, Jan. 12, 2018. President Donald Trump says he canceled upcoming trip to London because he doesn't like the choice of a new embassy. Some British lawmakers have questioned whether Trump would be welcome in London after some of his earlier comments. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
The new United States Embassy building is located in Nine Elms. AP Photo/Alastair Grant

“He’s been to countries all over the world and yet he’s not been to the one with which he’s closest,” he said. “I would say it’s disappointing. But maybe, just maybe, Sadiq Khan, Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party planning mass protests, those optics, he didn’t like the look of.”

While the date of a Trump visit had never been confirmed, speculation suggested the president would formally open the embassy at a ceremony in February. In December, Ambassador Woody Johnson said he was looking forward to welcoming the president when he visited.

The new Nine Elms site, near Battersea in London, is due to open on 16 January.

Mr Trump's tweet came hours after he allegedly asked why the US should allow more immigrants from "s***hole countries" in.