Trump arrives for three-day visit to London as protesters prepare to rally
At first official dinner May tells Trump Brexit offers opportunity to deepen UK-US relations
US president Donald Trump and Melania Trump leave the US ambassador’s residence for Blenheim Palace for dinner. Photograph: AFP/Getty
Donald Trump has arrived in Britain for a three-day visit as protesters planned to bring central London to a halt with a demonstration against his policies on Friday. The US president and his wife Melania touched down in Air Force One at an airfield near Stansted Airport on Thursday afternoon and immediately boarded a White Hawk helicopter to travel to the American ambassador’s residence in London’s Regent’s Park.
At a black-tie dinner on Thursday night at Blenheim Palace, British prime minister Theresa May welcomed Mr Trump and suggested that Brexit offered an opportunity to deepen links between Britain and the US.
“It’s an opportunity to reach a free-trade agreement that creates jobs and growth here in the UK and right across the United States. It’s also an opportunity to tear down the bureaucratic barriers that frustrate business leaders on both sides of the Atlantic. And it’s an opportunity to shape the future of the world through co-operation in advanced technology, such as artificial intelligence,” she said.
Earlier, the president appeared to question the prime minister’s approach to negotiating Britain’s exit from the EU, telling reporters in Brussels that British voters may not be getting what they asked for in the 2016 referendum.
“I would say Brexit is Brexit. The people voted to break it up so I imagine that is what they would do, but maybe they’re taking a different route so I don’t know if that’s what they voted for. I’m not sure that’s what they voted for,” he said.
“I’ve been reading a lot about Brexit over the last couple of days, and it seems to be turning a little bit differently, where they’re getting at least partially involved back with the European Union. I’d like to see them be able to work it out so it could go quickly, whatever they work out.”
Mr Trump will join Ms May on Friday for a counter-terrorism demonstration by British and American special forces before he has talks with the prime minister and her new foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, at Chequers, the prime minister’s official country residence.
On Friday afternoon, the president will travel to Windsor to have tea with Queen Elizabeth and from there he will fly to Scotland to spend the weekend playing golf at his Turnberry resort.
Tens of thousands of people are expected to take part in Friday’s demonstration in London, and protesters on Thursday draped a banner on Vauxhall Bridge describing the president as “a human rights nightmare”. Speaking in Brussels, Mr Trump dismissed the protests, claiming that he was popular in the UK – in which he appeared to include Ireland.
“I believe that the people in the UK, Scotland, Ireland, as you know I have property in Ireland, I have property all over, I think that those people they like me a lot and they agree with me on immigration,” he said.
At Blenheim Palace on Thursday night, Ms May pointed out that Britain was the biggest source of foreign direct investment in the US and she stressed the enduring strength of the relationship between the two countries.
“Time and again, the common threads that hold us together – our shared history, our shared values, our shared language and culture – conspire to inspire mutual respect, and to make the United States and the United Kingdom not just the closest of allies, but the dearest of friends,” she said.
“Today, that friendship manifests itself in many ways. As was the case in Churchill’s time, and in many years before and since, it’s there in our joint efforts to protect our shared security – whether through targeting Daesh [so-called Islamic state] terrorists or standing up to Russian aggression.”