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President Trump Is Coming to Britain. Here’s What He Can Expect.

The queen has hosted more than 100 heads of state since she succeeded her father on the throne, in 1952. On the list are foreign royals like King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, former dictators like Nicolae Ceausescu of Romania and presidents like Michael D. Higgins, the first Irish head of state to travel on a state visit to London.

“We got Nicolas Sarkozy to the U.K. for a state visit less than a year after he became president of France, and that was unusual,” Mr. Westmacott said. “It wasn’t because the U.K. wanted anything in particular from him; it was rather that France is our closest, most important neighbor, and we would normally try and get a state visit for such an important figure into the diary as soon as possible.”

“State visits are quite personal,” he added, “and it’s often the case that the earlier you arrange one, the greater the impact it has.”

But only two American presidents have been to Britain on a state visit: George W. Bush, in 2003; and Barack Obama, in 2011. As part of a triumphant tour of Europe in 1961, President John F. Kennedy traveled to London, but was not granted the pomp of a state visit. Mr. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, had a private dinner with the queen.

“The reason why we don’t often get a full-blown state visit by a president of the United States, I think, is that it’s four days, and it’s often hard for the leader of the free world to spend that much time away in a single country,” Mr. Westmacott said.


A protest in London last year against the proposed state visit to Britain of President Trump. Credit Andy Rain/European Pressphoto Agency

Some Britons plan to protest in the streets

The announcement of Mr. Trump’s visit received mixed reactions from British politicians and the public. Britain’s foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, used Mr. Trump’s erratically capitalized tweet format to convey his excitement over welcoming the American president:

“Looking forward to seeing our closest ally and friend on the GREATest visit ever,” he wrote on Twitter.

Nigel Evans, a Conservative member of Parliament, also welcomed the visit, calling it “superb news” that will strengthen the relationship between Britain and the United States.

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan warned that the American president could face protests if he visited the capital.

Politicians and anti-Trump campaigners across Britain are mobilizing online to stage mass protests during Mr. Trump’s planned visit. A Facebook event for the protest has already amassed more than 100,000 supporters.

“When Donald Trump arrives on these shores, we and thousands of our supporters will very definitely be making our voices heard,” Kate Allen, Amnesty International U.K.’s director, said in an interview with BBC Radio Kent.

Some of Mr. Trump’s critics have said that the president canceled a previous working visit planned for earlier this year because of his concerns over protests. At the time, Mr. Trump said he canceled the trip — originally planned for the opening of the new United States Embassy — because he considered the building’s relocation a “bad deal” made under the Obama administration.


President Trump and Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain at the White House in 2017. She was the first foreign leader to make an official visit after his inauguration. Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

What’s in it for Britain?

Mrs. May was the first foreign leader to visit the White House after Mr. Trump took office. For the British prime minister, relations with Washington are particularly important given that Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union next year.

Mrs. May hopes to strike a free-trade deal with the United States once it has quit Europe’s tariff-free trading area.

Aside from commercial interests, Britons pride themselves on their “special relationship” with Washington, and British officials see their country as America’s closest security and intelligence partner.

But having promoted the idea of a state visit for Mr. Trump, Mrs. May has put that idea on ice in the face of widespread public and political opposition. Online petitions against the visit received hundreds of thousands of signatures and prompted a lively debate in Parliament, in which Mr. Trump’s character and his fitness as a state guest were discussed.

Mrs. May, meanwhile, has had to watch as the French president, Emmanuel Macron, has forged unexpectedly warm ties with Mr. Trump.

So Mr. Trump’s visit to Britain provides an opportunity for Mrs. May to prove that she retains a healthy and close-working relationship with the president, despite recent tensions.

Source: NYT > World

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