‘They like me a lot in the UK’, says Donald Trump; polls indicate otherwise
Trump shrugged off the plans for mass protests, which will include a giant baby-shaped blimp in his likeness
London — US President Donald Trump headed for a protest-laden trip to Britain on Thursday, accusing his beleaguered host of failing to deliver on voters’ intentions when they decided to quit the EU.
Ignoring all diplomatic niceties, the convention-shredding Trump set up the four-day visit with a rebuke of Prime Minister Theresa May as she battles to stop her government falling apart over Brexit.
Shrugging off the plans for mass protests, which will include a giant baby-shaped blimp bearing Trump’s features, he said in Brussels: "They like me a lot in the UK. I think they agree with me on immigration. I think that’s why Brexit happened," he said, noting that Britain was "a pretty hot spot right now with a lot of resignations".
"The people voted to break [Britain’s ties with the EU]," Trump told a press conference. "So I would imagine that’s what they will do, but maybe they will take a little bit of a different route. I don’t know [if] that is what they voted for. I’d like to see them be able to work it out so it could go quickly."
The trip, which will include talks with May, tea with Queen Elizabeth II, and a private weekend in Scotland, is set to be greeted by a mass demonstration in London on Friday.
Some 77% of Britons have an unfavourable view of Trump, according to a poll by YouGov with 1,648 respondents. The poll, conducted this week, said 63% found Trump racist, and 74% said he was sexist.
Some 77% of Britons have an unfavourable view of Trump, according to a poll by YouGov with 1,648 respondents. The poll, conducted this week, said 63% found Trump racist, and 74% said he was sexist
Despite a series of diplomatic spats between Britain and Trump, the British government is hoping for a quick trade deal with the US after it leaves the EU. "There is no stronger alliance than that of our special relationship with the US and there will be no alliance more important in the years ahead," May said ahead of the visit.
Woody Johnson, US ambassador to the UK, has said a deal will be "a major priority" for Trump, calling Brexit "a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change direction".
Trump was flying to the UK after a fraught Nato summit in Brussels where he piled pressure on allies to double their defence spending.
Trump is due to leave Britain on Sunday for talks in Helsinki the following day with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose government stands accused by May’s of unleashing a lethal nerve agent in the city of Salisbury.
Britain "is in somewhat turmoil", Trump said before departing Washington, remarking that dealing with Putin might surprisingly be the easiest part of the European trip. That turmoil includes the resignations of May’s Brexit and foreign ministers over her plan to retain close ties with the EU after leaving the bloc in March.
Ambassador Johnson sought to play down Trump’s comments. "We’re extremely confident in the ability of the UK to plough through this issue with Brexit and move on," he told BBC radio.
The US president’s brash style and hardline "America First" policies have caused consternation across Britain’s political spectrum and society. He was severely criticised last November, including by May, after sharing three inflammatory anti-Muslim videos posted by far-right group Britain First.
Opposition lawmakers, backed by an online petition signed by nearly 1.9-million people, called on May to cancel the state visit offered when she met Trump in Washington after his inauguration in January last year. May will seek to put the diplomatic tensions behind her when she hosts Trump later on Thursday for a black-tie dinner with business leaders at Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Second World War prime minister Winston Churchill.
He is due to stay overnight with Johnson at the ambassador’s Winfield House residence in London’s Regent’s Park where a protest is planned at which demonstrators will play recordings of migrant children held in US detention centres.
On Friday, May and Trump will hold talks on Brexit, relations with Russia and trade ties at the prime minister’s Chequers country residence, followed by a press conference. Trump then heads to Windsor Castle later on Friday for tea with the queen. He then travels north to Scotland where he and his wife Melania will spend the weekend privately. His late mother hailed from Scotland, and he owns two luxury golf courses there.