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After UK-US spats, Trump flies in to turmoil in Britain
July 12 2018 12:47 PM
Donald Trump
Donald Trump

AFP/London

Donald Trump arrives in Britain on Thursday for his first visit as US president, flying into a whirlwind of protests against him and political turmoil over Brexit.

The four-day trip, which will include talks with Prime Minister Theresa May, tea with Queen Elizabeth II and a private weekend in Scotland, is set to be greeted by a mass protest on Friday.

Some 77 percent of Britons have an unfavourable view of Trump, according to a poll by YouGov with 1,648 respondents.

The poll conducted this week said 63 percent found Trump racist, and 74 percent said he was sexist.

Despite a series of diplomatic spats between Britain and Trump, the British government is hoping for a quick trade deal with the US after it leaves the European Union.

‘There is no stronger alliance than that of our special relationship with the US and there will be no alliance more important in the years ahead,’ May said ahead of the visit.

US ambassador to the UK, Woody Johnson, has said a deal will be ‘a major priority’ for Trump, calling Brexit ‘a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change direction’.

Trump flies in after the NATO summit in Brussels where he has piled pressure on allies to double their defence spending.

His criticism focused on Germany, which he accused of being ‘captive’ to Russia because of its gas imports from there.

Trump is due to leave Britain on Sunday for talks in Helsinki the following day with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

- 'Trump Baby' -

Britain ‘is in somewhat turmoil’, Trump said before departing Washington, remarking that dealing with Putin might surprisingly be the easiest part of the European trip.

‘The UK certainly has a lot of things going on,’ he said, referring to the resignations of Britain's Brexit and foreign ministers over the government's plan for ties with the European Union after it leaves the bloc in March.

Ambassador Johnson sought to explain Trump's comments.

‘There's always turmoil in every country but no, no, I think the UK is proceeding as it always does,’ he told BBC radio.

‘We're extremely confident in the ability of the UK to plough through this issue with Brexit and move on,’ he said.

On the planned protests, the ambassador said that Trump appreciated free speech and dismissed as ‘irrelevant’ a giant balloon of Trump depicted as a crying baby in nappies which will fly next to the British parliament on Friday.

The crowdfunded initiative is dubbed ‘Trump Baby’.

- Dinner at Churchill's birthplace -

The US president's brash style and hardline ‘America First’ policies have caused consternation across Britain's political spectrum and society.

He was severely criticised last November, including by May, after sharing three inflammatory anti-Muslim videos posted by far-right group Britain First.

His criticism of Britain's anti-terror policies after a series of attacks in 2017 also did not go down well.

Opposition lawmakers, backed by an online petition signed by nearly 1.9 million people, called on May to cancel the state visit offered when she met Trump in Washington after his inauguration in January last year.

May will seek to put the diplomatic tensions behind her when she hosts Trump on Thursday for a black-tie dinner with business leaders at Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of World War II prime minister Winston Churchill.

He is due to stay overnight with Johnson at the ambassador's Winfield House residence in London's Regent's Park where a protest is planned at which demonstrators will play recordings of migrant children held in US detention centres.

On Friday, May and Trump will hold talks on Brexit, relations with Russia and trade ties at the prime minister's Chequers country residence followed by a press conference.

Trump then heads to Windsor Castle later Friday for tea with Queen Elizabeth II.

He then travels north to Scotland where he and his wife Melania will spend the weekend privately. His late mother hailed from Scotland, where he owns two luxury golf courses.

On arrival, Trump will not be met by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon -- a fierce critic -- and instead by the British government's Scotland minister David Mundell.

There will be small-scale protests all along Trump's itinerary and a mass demonstration called ‘Together Against Trump’ by left-wing campaign groups in London on Friday.

‘We are going to organise a massive national demonstration against his politics of sexism, racism, war, hate and climate denial,’ organisers said.



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