Donald Trump to almost entirely avoid London during UK visit

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Meetings with Theresa May and the Queen to be held away from protests in capital

Donald Trump will almost entirely avoid London during his four-day visit to the UK next week, Downing Street has said, unveiling an itinerary that is likely to prompt accusations he is trying to avoid planned protests against him.

While the US president is conducting his meetings, the first lady, Melania Trump, will have an agenda of her own, in the company of her opposite number, Philip May.

Trump, who is to meet Theresa May and the Queen among others before spending two days in Scotland, will only spend the night in London on Thursday, the day of his arrival, staying at the US ambassadors official residence in Regents Park, Winfield House.

Before that he will attend a gala dinner at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, and the following day he will hold talks with the prime minister at her Chequers country retreat in Buckinghamshire. Both are places where protesters can be kept out of sight and earshot.

Later on the Friday he will meet the Queen at Windsor Castle before heading to Scotland for the weekend.

Details about what Trump will do in Scotland will be released next week, but No 10 has described the leg as a private element of the official visit. There is widespread speculation he will spend part of it playing golf.

The US ambassador to the UK, Woody Johnson, rejected the suggestion Trump was trying to keep away from any dissent.

No, the president is not avoiding anything, he told a press briefing. The president is merely trying to get as impactful a trip as he can get in a 24-hour period. Trump will be using London as a base during his visit, Johnson said.

Activists have promised to stage protests against Trump throughout his visit, with an event planned in London next Friday expected to be the biggest.

While he is in the capital, a giant Trump baby balloon, caricaturing him as a nappy-wearing infant, will be flown in the sky over Westminster after the Greater London Authority (GLA) granted the creators permission.

Asked whether Trump had heard of the baby balloon, Johnson said: Yes, I think were all aware of these things. While the president was focused on his objectives, he appreciates free speech, both in this country and in our country, Johnson added.

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Mays spokeswoman, who confirmed Trump would fly into the UK for the working visit direct from a Nato summit in Brussels, also denied that the president was avoiding Downing Street to stay away from protests.

Prime ministers frequently make use of Chequers for meetings with foreign leaders, she said. It offers a more informal setting for important bilateral discussions. Were looking forward to making sure the president has a chance to see and experience the UK beyond London and the south-east.

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.

Regarding the Trump baby balloon, the spokeswoman said it was up to the GLA to explain why they had approved it. From our perspective, the presidential visit is an important moment to recognise our close and special relationship and to have open and frank discussions on the key issues, she said.

Melania Trump will accompany her husband for some events, for example at Blenheim Palace and to meet the Queen, but she will also have a separate itinerary, hosted by Mays husband.

May invited Trump for a formal state visit after she met him in Washington shortly after his inauguration. However, such a visit, which is different to this working visit, has been delayed indefinitely, reportedly because the president did not want to be met by protests.

The black-tie dinner at Blenheim Palace, the country estate where Winston Churchill was born, will nonetheless see considerable ceremony, including the bands of Scots, Irish and Welsh Guards welcoming Trump, and an orchestra serenading diners with classic British and American hits.

About 100 guests will include some ministers and business leaders from sectors including financial services, travel, food and drink, and engineering.

On the Friday morning, Trump and May will visit an as-yet unnamed defence site connected to joint UK-US military training.

This will be followed by the main talks with May at Chequers and a working lunch. Afterwards in what could be the most politically tricky part of the visit for Trump the pair will hold a joint press conference.

Asked whether May was looking forward to hosting the US president, her spokeswoman replied: Yes.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jul/06/donald-trump-to-avoid-london-during-uk-visit

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