Trump’s UK state visit set to start on Monday despite challenges


With Britain’s prime minister heading for the door next month, builders renovating Buckingham Palace, a ban on addressing Parliament imposed by the speaker of the House of Commons, and British citizens more interested in whether the nation will ever leave the European Union, US President Donald Trump may wonder what kind of welcome awaits his state visit to the UK, which starts on Monday.

Prince Harry’s wife, US citizen Meghan Markle, is not expected to meet the president, having recently given birth, so the visit looks to have more than its fair share of challenges. Meghan, at the time an actress, described Trump in a 2016 interview with a US television station as “misogynistic” and “divisive” and is believed to have a low opinion of him, so some will see her anticipated absence as a snub.

In addition, thousands of anti-Trump protesters will follow him wherever he goes, just as they did when he visited the UK in 2018 for a normal official visit. On that occasion, protestors unveiled a six-meter-tall inflatable effigy of the US president as an angry, orange, nappy-wearing baby, something that is understood to have infuriated him.

Max Wakefield, one of those behind the balloon, inflated it again last week in a London park in preparation for Trump’s visit.

“Why pick on Trump? He is the most powerful bully in the world,” Wakefield told the Reuters news agency. “His power is built on division and about trashing the rights of some of the most vulnerable communities.”

Protests and security concerns prevented Trump from making a full state visit in the past, despite him having been invited to do so two and a half years ago. On one occasion, a visit was postponed when the British people reacted angrily to Trump’s criticism of London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, in the wake of a terror attack in the UK capital.

Many UK politicians are as unhappy as the protestors about the nation hosting the controversial US leader. Emily Thornberry, the opposition Labour Party’s shadow foreign secretary, said that he had “systematically assaulted all the shared values that unite our two countries”.

But, despite the negatives, Trump has much to look forward to.

Queen Elizabeth II will greet him and his family during a ceremonial welcome in the palace’s gardens that will be attended by Prince Charles and wife Camilla, the duchess of Cornwall.

And he will be front and center at historic celebrations to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

The queen has hosted a raft of US leaders during her 67-year reign, including Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan, but she has only afforded the honor of an official state visit to three: Trump, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.

Trump will also visit Downing Street for talks with Theresa May, who said in April, when the state visit was announced, that it would be an opportunity for the UK and the US “to strengthen our already close relationship”.

After being hastened to leave office by disaffected MPs from her own party, she may be hoping Trump resists any temptation to criticize her decisions or endorse prospective replacements.

The Guardian newspaper noted that Trump has been a “persistent critic” of May and “an enthusiastic supporter” of her nemesis, Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage.

The Trump family, which ABC News says will include the president’s adult children and their spouses, will return the royals’ hospitality by hosting a dinner at Winfield House, the London residence of the US ambassador, before leaving for France where D-Day commemorations will continue.

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