Trump cancels trip to Britain, slams Obama over embassy deal

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President Donald Trump has cancelled a trip to open the new US embassy in London. Picture: Evan Vucci/AP

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 what he
understood was an Obama-era decision to move out of the old one.

The cancellation is a further blow to relations between the
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) reason I canceled 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.

The decision to acquire a new London embassy site on the
south bank of the Thames was announced in 2008 under George W.
Bush along with the plans to put the old Grosvenor Square site
in upscale Mayfair up for sale.

A pillar of Britain’s foreign policy since World War Two,
the so-called “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.

A general view of the exterior of the new United States embassy building in London. Picture: Alastair Grant/AP

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.
She later said Trump took her hand in a gentlemanly gesture as
they walked down a ramp.

But British officials have been dismayed by some of Trump’s
pronouncements, particularly a proposed ban on Muslims entering
the United States and most recently when Trump rebuked May on
Twitter after she criticised him for retweeting British
far-right anti-Islam videos.

During May’s US trip a year ago, she extended an
invitation to Trump to make a formal state visit – which
includes pomp, pageantry and a banquet with Queen Elizabeth.

May’s spokesman told reporters Trump was welcome in London
and that the invitation to visit had been accepted, although no
date agreed. He said the opening of the embassy was a matter for
the US government.

“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.

The American flag was this month removed from Grosvenor
Square where the U.S. embassy has been based since 1938 with the
area known as “Little America” during World War Two, when the
square also housed the military headquarters of General Dwight
D. Eisenhower.

In Oct. 2008, the embassy was put up for sale and, the
following year, sold to Gulf investor Qatari Diar. The purchase
price was not disclosed. In 2009, it was given “listed” status
which limits changes that can be made to the building’s exterior
because of its historical significance.

A general view of the main lobby entrance with a large Department of State embossed seal, along with all the names of the ambassadors to the Court of St James at the new US embassy building near the River Thames in London. Picture: Alastair Grant/AP

Woody Johnson, Trump’s appointed US ambassador to Britain,
told reporters last month that moving to the new site at Nine
Elms reflected “the global outlook of the U.S. going forward in
the 21st century: rather looking out, than looking in”.

“This isn’t just a new office, though, it signifies a new
era of friendship between out two countries. President Trump
wants us to work more closely than ever with the UK,” said
Johnson, adding he hoped the president would attend the opening
ceremony.

There had long been security concerns about the Grosvenor
Square site, dating back to the late 1990s after attacks on U.S.
embassies in Africa.

Some local residents had opposed measures that they felt
would detract from one of London’s plushest neighbourhoods while
others feared not enough was being done to ensure they would not
be caught up in any attack.

The new embassy is a veritable fortress set back at least
100 feet (30 metres) from surrounding buildings – mostly
newly-erected high-rise residential blocks – and incorporating
living quarters for U.S. Marines permanently stationed inside.

The $1 billion construction was funded by the sale of other
properties in London.

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