LONDON: US President Donald Trump cancelled a trip to London scheduled for next month to open a new embassy, saying he did not want to endorse a bad deal agreed by the Obama administration to sell the old one for “peanuts”.
The trip’s cancellation is a further blow to relations between the close allies. More than a year into his presidency, Trump has yet to visit London, with many Britons vowing to protest against a man they see as crude, volatile and opposed to their values on a range of issues.
The decision to move the US Embassy from its current Grosvenor Square location in the upmarket Mayfair area of London and to a site on the south bank of the Thames was agreed in 2008 under the presidency of George W. Bush.
However, Trump blamed former president Barack Obama for the sale.
“(The) 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,” Trump said in a tweet late on Thursday. “Bad deal. Wanted me to cut ribbon-NO!” Trump said.
A pillar of Britain’s foreign policy since World War Two, the “special relationship” with Washington has taken on added importance as Britain prepares to leave the European Union in 2019 and seeks new major trade deals.
Prime Minister Theresa May was the first foreign leader to visit Trump after his inauguration in January last year, and they were filmed emerging from the White House holding hands.
May’s spokesman told reporters Trump was welcome in London and that the invitation to visit had been accepted, although no date agreed.
“The US is one of our oldest and most valued allies and our strong and deep partnership will endure,” the spokesman said.
‘He’s got the message’
Many British politicians have voiced their opposition to Trump being granted a state visit, and say the invite should be recalled.
“Many Londoners have made it clear that Donald Trump is not welcome here while he is pursuing such a divisive agenda,” London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who has often exchanged barbs with Trump on social media, tweeted. “It seems he’s finally got the message.”
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said opponents such as Khan were putting the relationship with the United States, the biggest investor in Britain, at risk. “We will not allow US-UK relations to be endangered by some puffed-up, pompous popinjay in City Hall,” Johnson tweeted.
Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2018