U.S. President Donald Trump will make a state visit to the United Kingdom in June, Buckingham Palace announced on Tuesday, a trip Britain hopes will cement transatlantic relations but one that immediately prompted criticism and promises of protests.
Trump will be only the third U.S. president to have been accorded the honour of a state visit by Queen Elizabeth during her 67-year reign. But the trip, from June 3-5, is likely to be controversial given many Britons deeply dislike the man and reject his policies on issues such as immigration.
Almost 1.9 million Britons signed a petition in 2017 saying he should not be given a state visit – a pomp-laden affair involving a carriage trip through London and a banquet at Buckingham Palace. Protests involving tens of thousands of demonstrators overshadowed his non-state trip to Britain last July.
The Labour Party strongly criticised Prime Minister Theresa May for pressing ahead with the ceremonial stay, which she offered Trump when she became the first foreign leader to visit him after his inauguration in January 2017.
May, who is facing calls for her resignation from some MPs in her own Conservative Party over her handling of the country’s exit from the European Union, which is still stalled, will be hoping for strong backing for a post-Brexit U.S.-UK trade deal.
“The UK and United States have a deep and enduring partnership that is rooted in our common history and shared interests,” May said in a statement.
The state visit would be an opportunity to strengthen already close ties in areas such as trade, investment, security and defence, she said.
The White House said the trip would reaffirm “the steadfast and special relationship” between the allies.
During his trip last year, Trump shocked Britain’s political establishment by giving a withering assessment of May’s Brexit strategy. He said she had failed to follow his advice such as suing the EU but later said May was doing a fantastic job.
“This is a President who has systematically assaulted all the shared values that unite our two countries,” Emily Thornberry, Labour’s foreign affairs spokeswoman, said in a statement after the visit was announced.
“Unless Theresa May is finally going to stand up to him and object to that behaviour, she has no business wasting taxpayers’ money on all the pomp, ceremony and policing costs that will come with this visit.”
Few details of the trip were given, but it will include a meeting with May in Downing Street and also a ceremony in Portsmouth on the south English coast to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, France during World War Two. Trump will be accompanied by his wife, Melania.
Tea and protests
Last year, Trump was feted with a lavish dinner at Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of the British World War Two leader Winston Churchill, and he and Melania also had tea with the queen at Windsor Castle.
The president then breached royal protocol by publicly disclosing details of a conversation he had with the 93-year-old monarch about the complexities of Brexit.
Trump’s state visit has been a divisive issue for Britons since May issued the invitation, with 1.86 million people signing a petition calling for him to be prevented from making such a trip, leading to a debate in parliament in 2017.
More than 100 protests were planned across the country during his visit last year and police had to deploy 10,000 officers, an operation that cost nearly 18 million pounds.
The largest protest in London attracted some 250,000 people, according to organisers, bringing much of the capital to a standstill.
They promised a “Together Against Trump” protest in June.
“He is a symbol of the new far right, a politics of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, of war and conflict, and walls and fences that are growing around the world,” said Shaista Aziz, from the Stop Trump coalition.
The queen, the world’s longest-reigning monarch, has met every U.S leader since Harry S. Truman except for Lyndon Johnson. Only two U.S. presidents – Barack Obama in 2011 and George W. Bush in 2003 – have previously been invited for full state visits.
After leaving Britain, Trump will travel to France to meet French President Emmanuel Macron, the White House said.