A long-anticipated visit by U.S. President Donald Trump to the United Kingdom has been set for July 13. It will be a “working visit,” however, and not a more formal state occasion during which the president would have met Queen Elizabeth.
The announcement was made Thursday, separately by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and 10 Downing Street, the office of British Prime Minister Theresa May.
“It’s been a tortuous and very difficult process” to arrange a Trump trip to Britain, according to Andrew Marshall, the Atlantic Council’s vice president of communications. “This visit was born under a bad sign,” amid unhappiness over comments made by the president on social media, including criticism of London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
A planned visit to Britain by Trump was canceled earlier this year, during which he was to open the new U.S. embassy in London, a $1 billion cube-shaped building surrounded by sunken trenches and raised terraces that the president criticized as too expensive.
U.K. conservative groups, which support Trump, previously urged the president to avoid going to London because of a risk of “major protests, crime and disorder.” The organizations, in a letter, suggested instead that Trump visit his “ancestral home” of Scotland and if there were to be an official state visit, he should meet the queen at her castle in Balmoral.
The president’s mother was born in the Outer Hebrides archipelago on the Isle of Lewis. Trump, as a private businessman, visited Scotland frequently.
No location for the visit has yet been announced and speculation is widespread that it will occur outside London, perhaps at the prime minister’s country estate at Chequers, 65 kilometers from the capital.
Trade will be a major topic on the working visit’s agenda, with the British prime minister eager to move toward a new economic pact with the United States, one of its main trading partners.
It’s politically and economically important for May “in terms of what she’s staked her future on, which is a good, safe and prosperous future for the U.K. outside the European Union,” Marshall told VOA.
The U.S.-U.K. alliance is usually among the closest between any two nations, and U.S. leaders traditionally make visits to England early in their presidencies.
Officials on both sides of the Atlantic will be looking to resolidify that relationship with the Trump visit.
“At the moment, the U.K. is maybe standing a little aside from that role. We’ve just seen President [Emmanuel] Macron of France come here and absolutely wow Washington. Many noses will be out of joint in Downing Street and elsewhere about that. There’s a friendly rivalry with the French,” Marshall, a former foreign editor of The Independent newspaper in London, told VOA.
So far, though, with Trump and May “that chemistry is not there,” according to Marshall, who contrasts the president’s “forthright, direct and outspoken” personality with the prime minister — “a contained figure who looks sometimes like she’s walked out of a Jane Austen novel.”