Donald Trump to largely avoid London during UK visit
US president to be kept away from protesters who are expected to gather in capital next week
A six metre high inflatable balloon which depicts US president Donald Trump as a baby. It will be flown above Parliament Square in Westminster when he visits the UK next Friday. Photograph: Andrew Aitchison/P
Donald Trump will be kept well outside London for the bulk of his first visit to the UK as US president, avoiding protesters who are expected to gather in the capital.
Instead the president will be whisked off for a tour of some of England’s most impressive historic buildings before departing for Scotland for a relaxing weekend, part of which is expected to be spent on the golf course.
The visit takes in a lavish black-tie dinner at Blenheim Palace, a working lunch with prime minister Theresa May at her country residence Chequers and a meeting with Queen Elizabeth at Windsor Castle, but only a brief overnight stay in London.
It seems unlikely that the president will come close enough to Westminster to see a “Trump baby” blimp which protesters plan to fly over the Houses of Parliament, after receiving permission for the stunt from London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
Asked whether the president’s schedule was designed to keep him away from possible protests, a Downing Street spokeswoman said: “Prime ministers frequently make use of Chequers for meetings with foreign leaders. It offers a more informal setting for important bilateral discussions.”
“We’re looking forward to making sure the president has a chance to see and experience the UK beyond London and the South-East,” said the Number 10 spokeswoman.
“As with any protest, we are a free and open democracy and we believe in the right to peaceful protest. But I would also say that I think the majority of British people understand the importance of the UK-US alliance.
“The presidential visit is an important moment to recognise our close and special relationship and to have good and frank discussions on the key issues.”
The president and his wife Melania will then be guests of honour at a dinner for about 100 guests in Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire.
The monumental 18th-century country house, built for the first Duke of Marlborough as a reward for his military victories, was the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, a personal hero of the president.
The event will begin with a military ceremony in the Great Court of the Palace, where the bands of the Scots, Irish and Welsh Guards will play the Liberty Fanfare, Amazing Grace, and the National Emblem.
Gguests at the dinner will include leaders of UK business sectors including financial services, travel, creative industries, food and drink, engineering, tech, infrastructure, pharmaceuticals and defence.
Downing Street said the dinner was intended to “celebrate the strong business links between our two countries” at a time when the UK is hoping to strike a free trade deal with the US following Brexit.
The president and his wife will spend Friday night at the US Ambassador’s London residence Winfield House, in Regent’s Park.
The 1930s mansion is set within a large garden - second only to Buckingham Palace in the capital - with tight security to keep any protesters at bay.
But it is possible that the president may be able to hear not only noise from any demonstrations on the streets outside, but also the call to prayer from the Central Mosque next door and the growls of lions and tigers at nearby London Zoo.
On Saturday, Mrs May and Mr Trump will visit an unnamed defence site to view a demonstration of UK military capabilities, with a strong stress on integrated UK-US military training.
They will move on to Chequers for a working lunch and bilateral talks on a range of international issues, followed by a press conference.
Mr Trump will then rejoin Melania, who is being hosted by Mrs May’s husband Philip on a separate schedule that morning, for their visit to meet the queen at Windsor.
The president and first lady will fly on Friday evening to Scotland.
Further details on their schedule north of the border are not yet available, but it is understood that there will be limited government involvement in what was being described as a private element of the official visit.
Mrs May is not believed to have any plans for travel to Scotland.
On Sunday, Mr Trump is expected to move on to Finland ahead of his keenly-awaited summit with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on July 16th.