US President Donald Trump has met Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace on the first day of a state visit to the United Kingdom, hours after lashing out on Twitter at the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.
Trump was treated to full state honours upon his arrival at the royal residence, inspecting a guard of honour formed by Grenadier Guards wearing traditional “bearskin” hats. Gun salutes rang out from nearby Green Park and at the Tower of London as the president was greeted by the queen on the grand lawn of the palace.
Trump, who withdrew the United States from the landmark Paris climate agreement last year, was also welcomed by Prince Charles, a passionate environmentalist, and his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, while members of the Trump family looked on.
Minutes before landing in the capital, Trump took to Twitter to launch a personal attack on London Mayor Khan, branding him “a stone cold loser who should focus on crime in London, not me”.
The president said Khan reminded him of liberal New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, “only half his height”. De Blasio later chimed in to say he was a great fan – or “stan” in Twitter-speak – of the London mayor.
The mayor of London, where thousands of protesters are expected to line the streets on Tuesday in a demonstration spearheaded by a giant blimp portraying the president as a baby in a diaper, had previously compared Trump’s use of divisive language with “the fascists of the 20th century”.
Writing in the UK’s Observer newspaper on Sunday, Khan said Britain “should not be rolling out the red carpet” for Trump, where a poll showed only 21 percent of the population had a positive opinion of him while 67 percent held a negative view. Khan labelled the president “one of the most egregious examples of a global threat”.
In an interview published on Saturday, the president had told The Sun tabloid newspaper: “I think I am really – I hope – I am really loved in the UK. I certainly love the UK.”
The infamous Trump baby blimp could be headed for a place in history after this week’s protests, with the Museum of London expressing an interest in acquiring the six-metre rubber inflatable on Monday morning.
….Kahn reminds me very much of our very dumb and incompetent Mayor of NYC, de Blasio, who has also done a terrible job – only half his height. In any event, I look forward to being a great friend to the United Kingdom, and am looking very much forward to my visit. Landing now!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 3, 2019
State visits are usually occasions designed to honour a nation rather than an individual, but Trump’s arrival comes at a time of political chaos in the UK and his personal impact is likely to be unavoidable. He regularly breaks diplomatic norms, such as staying out of domestic politics.
Politics and Brexit
He will meet May on Tuesday amid a heated international dispute surrounding Washington’s trade war with China and a controversial UK decision to award key 5G infrastructure contracts to Beijing tech giant Huawei.
The president also heralded his trip by weighing in on the Brexit debacle, suggesting on Sunday that far-right eurosceptic Nigel Farage, who campaigned in the US for Trump’s 2016 election, should be a part of European Union withdrawal negotiations.
He also said the UK should refuse to pay its 39 billion pound ($49bn) EU divorce bill if there is no Brexit deal with Brussels.
“If they don’t get what they want, I would walk away,” Trump told the Sunday Times. “If you don’t get a fair deal, you walk away.”
US Ambassador to the UK Woody Johnson this weekend also said the National Health Service, much beloved in Britain, should be included in trade negotiations over a potential post-Brexit trade deal with the US.
On Monday afternoon, Trump, who has repeatedly denied climate change science, will travel to the home of green activist Prince Charles for a private meeting. In a 1996 radio interview, Trump made a series of lewd comments about Prince Charles’ former wife, Princess Diana.
On Monday night, Trump will be the guest of honour at a state banquet in Buckingham Palace, an event being boycotted by opposition party leaders. Due to refurbishment work at the 775-room palace, the president will not be a houseguest at the royal home, instead, he will stay at the residence of the US ambassador, a mansion at the edge of Regent’s Park.