Donald Trump to be shielded from angry protests by keeping him away from London during UK visit

President to only spend one night in capital, with government instead whisking him away to country residencies and stately homes

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Friday 06 July 2018 19:22
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Donald Trump will be shielded from angry mass protests against him during a visit to Britain, by a UK government schedule that keeps him largely out of London.

He will instead be whisked around country residences and stately homes for most of his trip, allowing Theresa May to avoid embarrassing him over the level of public opposition to his presidency.

Thousands of people are expected to attend demonstrations in London and other places to protest against his controversial approach to immigration, trade and foreign policy.

The final part of Mr Trump’s trip in Scotland will likely exacerbate anger, as it is believed he will spend a lot time playing golf, with British taxpayers covering the £5m cost of security.

Showcasing the UK’s military and its capabilities will form a key element of the trip for the UK, with the US defence secretary having recently questioned Britain’s ongoing commitment to maintaining world class forces.

The visit will take in a lavish black-tie dinner at Blenheim Palace, near Oxford, a working lunch with Ms May at Chequers, and a meeting with the Queen at Windsor Castle, but only a brief overnight stay in London.

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Asked whether the president’s schedule was designed to keep him away from possible protests, a Downing Street spokesperson said: “We’re looking forward to making sure the president has a chance to see and experience the UK beyond London and the southeast.”

She added that it is normal for prime ministers to make use of Chequers when foreign leaders are visiting, with former presidents Richard Nixon, George Bush Senior and Junior having all visited the 16th-century manor house in Buckinghamshire.

But the majority of the trip being outside London means it seems unlikely the president will come close enough to Westminster to see the “Trump baby” blimp protesters plan to fly over the Houses of Parliament, after receiving permission for the stunt from London mayor Sadiq Khan.

The Downing Street spokesperson added: “As with any protest, we are a free and open democracy and we believe in the right to peaceful protest.

“But I would also say that I think the majority of British people understand the importance of the UK-US alliance.

“The presidential visit is an important moment to recognise our close and special relationship and to have good and frank discussions on the key issues.”

Mr Trump arrives in the UK on board Air Force One next Thursday afternoon, straight from the Nato summit in Brussels where he is expected to confront European allies over levels of defence spending.

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The president and his wife Melania will then be guests of honour at a dinner for around 100 guests at Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, a personal hero of the president.

The trip to the 18th-century country house, built for the first Duke of Marlborough as a reward for his military victories, will begin with a military ceremony in the Great Court of the palace, where the bands of the Scots, Irish and Welsh Guards will play the “Liberty Fanfare”, “Amazing Grace” and the “National Emblem”.

Later in the trip Ms May and Mr Trump will also visit an unnamed defence site to view a demonstration of UK military capabilities, with a strong stress on integrated UK-US training.

The focus on defence comes after Mr Trump appeared to be impressed with the French military parade he saw on Bastille Day while being hosted by Emmanuel Macron earlier this year.

Since then the two leaders have apparently formed a close relationship and earlier this week a leaked letter from the US defence secretary Jim Mattis suggested France could be the “partner of choice” for the US in international affairs in the future.

The Downing Street spokesperson said: “In every aspect of our relationship, we are seeking to deepen our special relationship and defence is one of those, and security.

“Our armed forces have fought together for over a century and no two countries work closer together in defence cooperation, and that element of the visit is a reflection of that.”

The dinner at Blenheim will be attended by the prime minister, with guests including leaders of UK business sectors including financial services, travel, creative industries, food and drink, engineering, tech, infrastructure, pharmaceuticals and defence.

Downing Street said it is intended to “celebrate the strong business links between our two countries” at a time when the UK is hoping to strike a free trade deal with the US following Brexit.

The Countess of Wessex’s orchestra will perform a series of classic British and American music hits and on his departure, Mr Trump will be “piped out” by the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

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The president and his wife will then spend Thursday night at the US ambassador’s London residence Winfield House, in Regent’s Park.

The 1930s mansion is set within a large garden – second only to Buckingham Palace in the capital – with tight security to keep any protesters at bay.

But it is possible that the president may be able to hear not only noise from any demonstrations on the streets outside, but also the call to prayer from the central mosque next door.

As well as the visit to the military facility, Friday will see Mr Trump visit Chequers for a working lunch and bilateral talks on international issues, followed by a press conference.

He will rejoin Ms Trump, who is being hosted by Ms May’s husband Philip on a separate schedule that morning, for their visit to meet the Queen at Windsor.

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The president and first lady will fly on Friday evening to Scotland with details of their schedule north of the border yet to be confirmed, but it is understood that there will be limited government involvement in what was being described as a private element of the official visit.

Ms May is not believed to have any plans for travel to Scotland, where the president is expected to visit his luxury golf resort at Turnberry in Ayrshire.

Mr Trump is also thought to be planning a round of golf with an unnamed celebrity, possibly Prince Andrew according to some reports, and could also visit his smaller golf course at Menie Estate, north of Aberdeen.

Treasury secretary Liz Truss wrote to the Scottish government earlier this week to confirm that any policing costs associated with the visit on 13 July would be paid from London.

Ministers in Edinburgh were alarmed when the interim chief constable of Police Scotland, Iain Livingstone, estimated his force could need up to 5,000 officers at a potential cost of £5m to properly police his visit.

On Sunday, Mr Trump is expected to move on to Finland ahead of his keenly-awaited summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on 16 July.

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