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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Donald Trump cancels February visit to UK

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Donald Trump has cancelled a planned visit to the UK in February, where he had been expected to open a new $1bn (£738m) US embassy in London.

The US president tweeted he was not a "big fan" of the new embassy - which is moving from Mayfair to south London.

He blamed Barack Obama's administration for a "bad deal" despite the fact the move was agreed under George W Bush.

The trip was not the controversial full state visit offered by Theresa May, for which no date has yet been set.

Downing Street declined to comment on Mr Trump's cancellation of the trip.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan - who has clashed with the president in the past - said the US president had "got the message" that many Londoners were staunchly opposed to his policies and actions.

BBC North America editor Jon Sopel said he suspected the possibility of protests in London would have also weighed in the calculation.

The US embassy move was confirmed in October 2008, when President George W Bush was still in the White House.

However, Mr Trump blamed former president Mr Obama's administration for selling "perhaps the best located and finest embassy in London for peanuts".

Mr Trump also criticised the location of the new building in Vauxhall, south London, as an "off location", adding: "Wanted me to cut ribbon-NO!"

The BBC's North America editor said February's planned visit could have included meetings with Mrs May at Chequers or Downing Street and lunch with the Queen.

However, no firm date for the visit had ever been agreed, nor had the White House "nailed down the details of the trip", the BBC's diplomatic correspondent James Landale added.

"There were lots of maybes, said one official, but nothing definite," he said.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony may instead be hosted by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Mr Trump accepted the Queen's invitation for an official state visit when the prime minister met him last year.

A petition calling for the invitation to be withdrawn was signed by more than 1.8m people, while the issue was also debated in parliament.

Reports in June suggested Mr Trump wanted to delay a potential visit amid concerns about large-scale protests.

However, the BBC understands Downing Street is considering options for the visit later in the year.

Speaking last month, US ambassador to the UK Woody Johnson told the BBC he "absolutely" expected Mr Trump to visit Britain in 2018.

During the Queen's Speech at the State Opening of Parliament last summer, there was no mention of a visit - although a Downing Street spokesman said an invitation had been "extended and accepted".

Mrs May was the first foreign leader to meet Mr Trump after his inauguration when she visited the Oval Office in January 2017.

Typically during state visits, the government, the visiting government and the royal household agree on a detailed schedule where the Queen acts as the official host.

The cancellation comes after recent disagreements between the US and UK.

Mr Trump clashed with Mayor of London Sadiq Khan in the aftermath of the London Bridge attack last year, when he questioned Mr Khan's statement that there was "no reason to be alarmed".

Mr Khan, who also questioned Mr Trump's proposed US travel ban, said the US president's visit would "without doubt have been met by mass peaceful protests".

Relations between London and Washington were also put under the spotlight last year after Mr Trump moved to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Mrs May said she disagreed with that US decision, which she deemed "unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region".

And in November, Mr Trump clashed with Mrs May after she said it was "wrong" for the US president to share videos posted by the far-right group Britain First.

Mrs May more recently discussed Brexit and events in the Middle East in a pre-Christmas phone call with Mr Trump.

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