Boris Johnson ‘sees no reason’ to cancel Trump UK state visit
Foreign secretary says invitation should stand despite US president’s row with London mayor
British foreign secretary Boris Johnson and prime minister Theresa May at the Nato summit in Brussels on May 25th. Photograph: Thierry Charlier/AFP/Getty Images
Boris Johnson has said he sees no reason to rescind the invitation to Donald Trump for a state visit, despite the US president’s attacks on the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, after Saturday’s terror attack.
The foreign secretary backed Mr Khan’s call for Londoners not to feel alarmed about the extra presence of police officers on the streets, after Mr Trump misrepresented this as a claim that there was no reason to be alarmed about terrorism in general.
But Mr Johnson said he could not see why an invitation for Mr Trump to be hosted by Queen Elizabeth later this year should be withdrawn and said he should not interpose himself in a row between the two politicians.
“The invitation has been issued and accepted and I see no reason to change that,” he said. “I don’t wish to enter into a row between those two individuals who I think are perfectly able to stick up for themselves.
“But Sadiq was perfectly right to reassure the public about the presence of armed officers on the street.”
Appearing on Channel 4 News on Monday evening, Mr Khan said Mr Trump was wrong about “many things” and that his state visit should not go ahead.
“I don’t think we should roll out the red carpet to the president of the USA in the circumstances where his policies go against everything we stand for,” he said.
“When you have a special relationship it is no different from when you have got a close mate. You stand with them in times of adversity but you call them out when they are wrong. There are many things about which Donald Trump is wrong.”
Mr Johnson made his comments in a combative interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, in which he repeatedly tried to turn his answers round on Jeremy Corbyn’s record on opposing terrorism legislation.
The presenter, Mishal Hussein, became so frustrated at one point that she asked him to “please stop talking”.
Mr Johnson was most evasive on the issue of police cuts, after Mr Khan warned on Tuesday that London Metropolitan Police was facing cuts of between 10 per cent and 40 per cent over the next four years, making it “harder to foil terrorist attacks on our city”.
Pressed repeatedly about whether the Conservatives would look at reversing cuts, Mr Johnson said: “The mayor of London will know over the eight preceding years when I was mayor, before he became mayor, we kept police numbers high at about 32,000 and crime came down very considerably in that period. And when you look at counter-terrorism we are putting more money into that.”
Challenged about whether that meant a Tory government would not look again at future cuts, he said: “No, no, I don’t know how you derive that conclusion. We are increasing the number of armed officers. The numbers of police officers in our capital has remained high.
“It is up to the mayor of London to if he chooses spend more on policing. That is what we did. We reorganised to keep numbers high.”
He segued into an attack on Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, and her position on security.
Mr Johnson will make a speech on Brexit later on Tuesday in the north of England, in which he expected to say Jeremy Corbyn will not have a “cat’s chance in Hades” of negotiating a good deal with the rest of the EU.
It is the first time he has been allowed to make a speech for the Conservatives during a campaign that has relentlessly focused on the leadership of Theresa May.
On Tuesday, the prime minister embarked on final a tour of marginal seats that the Tories are targeting, rather than focusing on constituencies they are defending.
She started in Lancaster and Fleetwood, a seat narrowly held by Labour’s Cat Smith, an ally of Mr Corbyn. The prime minister drank a cup of coffee and met activists at a bakery owned by a Tory supporter, Neil MacSymons.