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UK blames protests as Trump cancels London trip


The British government blamed the threat of mass protests for President Donald Trump’s decision Friday to cancel a visit to London to open the new US embassy, and warned that criticism of the White House risked harming US-UK relations.

Trump said he was abandoning next month’s trip because he did not like the location and cost of the new embassy building.

But Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson suggested the decision was prompted by the opposition to Trump in Britain, and warned such critics “seem determined to put this crucial relationship at risk”.

Prime Minister Theresa May offered Trump a state visit to Britain one year ago, when she became the first foreign leader to visit the White House after his inauguration.

But the date has yet to be set in the face of deep hostility to the president in Britain, prompting speculation it could be turned into a lower profile trip focused around the opening of the new embassy.

Trump tweeted overnight that he would not attend the ceremony, initially scheduled for next month.

“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,” he wrote.

“Bad deal. Wanted me to cut ribbon – NO!”

– ‘Finally got that message’ –

His decision not to come was welcomed by critics outraged by the US travel ban on Muslim-majority countries, and more recently, Trump’s decision to re-tweet anti-Muslim videos posted by a British far-right organisation.

“Many Londoners have made it clear that Donald Trump is not welcome here while he is pursuing such a divisive agenda. It seems he’s finally got that message,” tweeted Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.

The mayor, a member of the main opposition Labour party, said there would have been “mass peaceful protests”, and that it had been a “mistake” to invite him.

There is likely some relief in the British government at Trump’s decision, which would have caused at the very least a major policing operation.

But Johnson accused Khan and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn of damaging US-UK relations with their vocal criticism.

“The US is the biggest single investor in the UK — yet Khan & Corbyn seem determined to put this crucial relationship at risk,” he tweeted.

“We will not allow US-UK relations to be endangered by some puffed up pompous popinjay in City Hall.”

– Strained UK-US ties –

A spokesman for May’s Downing Street office said the invitation for the state visit “has been extended and accepted. No date has been confirmed”.

“The US is one of our oldest and most valued allies and our strong and deep partnership will endure,” he said.

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