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U.K. Outcry at Trump’s Tweets Reopens Fight Over State Visit

Opposition politicians demanded that the idea of a state visit should be dropped, with some critics arguing that it would place Queen Elizabeth II, as host, in an invidious position.

One opposition Labour lawmaker, Stephen Doughty, argued that by sharing the videos, Mr. Trump showed himself to be “racist, incompetent or unthinking — or all three,” while another, Dennis Skinner, referred to “this fascist president.”

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan — who was involved in a separate dispute with President Trump after a terrorist attack in London — suggested on Twitter that the president should not be invited on any official visit to Britain, not just one with full pomp and ceremony.

Nor was the anger confined to opposition lawmakers. Sajid Javid, a Muslim member of Mrs. May’s Conservative cabinet, tweeted a strong condemnation on Wednesday of Mr. Trump’s decision to share the videos:

On Thursday the home secretary, Amber Rudd, appeared to agree with one Conservative lawmaker, Peter Bone, who suggested that President Trump should delete his Twitter account, saying “many will share his view.” But while condemning the president’s actions, Ms. Rudd sought to calm the dispute.

“President Donald Trump was wrong to retweet videos posted by the far-right group Britain First,” Ms. Rudd said in Parliament, while appealing to lawmakers to remember the “wider picture,” and in particular Britain’s close security and intelligence cooperation with the United States.

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President Trump shared three anti-Muslim videos to his nearly 44 million followers on Wednesday. Credit Tom Brenner/The New York Times

Pressed for a reaction to the Britain First retweets, Mrs. May’s spokesman said on Wednesday that it was “wrong for the president to have done this,” only for Mr. Trump to respond by addressing Mrs. May directly on Twitter, telling her, “don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We are doing just fine!”

The president initially used an incorrect Twitter handle for Mrs. May, later correcting his mistake.

On Thursday, Mrs. May’s spokesman insisted that Britain had a “very long, very deep and very important special relationship with the United States,” and that nothing had changed regarding the state visit, for which a date would be announced in due course.

That invitation to Mr. Trump was unusual in that it was extended soon after his inauguration: A state visit is an honor that is normally offered much later in a presidency. More than 1.8 million people signed a petition against a visit, and opponents promised protests if one were to take place.

Even before the latest uproar, there was speculation that the state visit was being pushed into the long grass. Instead, it was said, Mr. Trump was likely to make a brief, less formal visit in the New Year, perhaps to coincide with the opening of the new American Embassy building in London. Even this may now be threatened.

The rift is particularly problematic for Mrs. May because, with Britain scheduled to quit the European Union in 2019, she is hoping to strike an early trade deal with Washington to compensate for a likely reduction in British access to markets in continental Europe.

The position Mrs. May finds herself in with Mr. Trump, while uncomfortable, is not unfamiliar. Though Britons pride themselves on their close ties to the United States, former Prime Minister Tony Blair discovered that tying his fortunes too closely to those of a conservative American president could be costly. His relationship with George W. Bush, and his decision to support the invasion of Iraq, effectively wrecked Mr. Blair’s political reputation in Britain.

Mrs. May has found in Mr. Trump an awkward counterpart, placing her government much closer to the European Union’s positions than to the United States’ on a range of foreign policy questions, particularly on climate change and relations with Iran.

In contrast, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, has managed to keep a distance from the United States on policy issues while also hosting Mr. Trump on a successful visit to Paris.

Mrs. May’s allies were hoping that she could at least gain some domestic support for standing up to Mr. Trump without doing lasting damage to relations between London and Washington.

Instead, an opposition Labour lawmaker, Paul Flynn, argued that Mr. Trump “should be arrested for inciting racial hatred” if he came to Britain, and even one of the president’s most loyal British allies deserted him.

Nigel Farage, the former leader of the populist right-wing U.K. Independence Party, said the episode showed “poor judgment,” which was compounded by the White House’s failure to apologize.

“Do you know what?” Mr. Farage said on LBC radio. “Put your hands up, say ‘I got this wrong,’ and, frankly, try to move on.”

Source: NYT > World

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