Donald Trump and and his wife Melania walk on the tarmac (left) at Stansted Airport, north of London, on Thursday, as Trump begins his first visit to the UK as US president. Protesters against Trump’s visit gather near an entrance to the US ambassador’s residence in Regent’s Park in London on Thursday.—AFP
Donald Trump and and his wife Melania walk on the tarmac (left) at Stansted Airport, north of London, on Thursday, as Trump begins his first visit to the UK as US president. Protesters against Trump’s visit gather near an entrance to the US ambassador’s residence in Regent’s Park in London on Thursday.—AFP

LONDON: US President Donald Trump arrived in “hot spot” Britain on Thursday after casting doubt on Prime Minister Theresa May’s plans for leaving the European Union and with protests planned across the country where he says the people like him a lot.

After a Nato summit where he provoked a crisis session to force allies to raise their defence spending, Trump landed in Britain having described the closest US ally in Europe as being in turmoil over Brexit.

May hopes Trump, who arrived at Stansted airport from Brussels, will help accelerate a future free trade deal, though his public comments on Brexit have cast a shadow over the visit.

The trip coincides with a tumultuous week for May after two senior ministers resigned in protest at her plans for trade with the EU after Britain leaves next March.

“I’m going to a pretty hot spot right now, right? With a lot of resignations,” Trump told a news conference at the Nato summit in Brussels. “The people voted to break it up, so I imagine that’s what they’ll do. But maybe they’re taking a little bit of a different route, so I don’t know if that’s what they voted for.”

Asked about Trump’s comments, May said: “We’re delivering on the vote of the British people to take back control of our money, our laws and our borders.”

Trump has long been a Brexit supporter and has expressed enthusiasm for a wide-ranging trade deal with Britain after Brexit, something heralded by eurosceptics as being one of the great benefits of exiting the bloc.

In a statement ahead of Trump’s arrival, she said the visit would focus on trade and strengthening defence and security ties, saying there was no stronger alliance than Britain’s “special relationship with the US”. “There will be no alliance more important in the years ahead,” she said.

Despite the welcome from May, many Britons are opposed to Trump’s visit. A YouGov poll on Wednesday showed 77 per cent had an unfavourable opinion of the president and just 50 per cent thought his visit should go ahead.

“I think they like me a lot in the UK,” Trump said in Brussels. “I think they agree with me on immigration. I’m very strong on immigration.” Nick Hurd, Britain’s Policing Minister, told parliament police expected more than 100 protests across the country. More than 60,000 people have signed up to demonstrate in London on Friday when protesters intend to fly a large balloon over parliament portraying Trump as an orange, snarling baby.

UK publishes Brexit plan

The British government on Thursday published its long-awaited Brexit blueprint aimed at restarting stalled talks with the European Union, only for it to be panned by eurosceptics, the City of London and the US president.

Prime Minister Theresa May said her plan to keep close economic ties with the EU once Britain leaves the bloc next March was “principled and pragmatic”. It would see Britain follow EU rules on goods to protect cross-border trade and avoid checks on the Irish frontier, while enabling it to control migration and sign new non-EU trade deals, including in services.

Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2018