Trump lashes out at London mayor as he arrives for UK state visit

2019-06-03 13:17
US President Donald Trump (R) and US First Lady Melania Trump (L) disembark Air Force One at Stansted Airport, north of London. (Mandel Ngan, AFP)

US President Donald Trump (R) and US First Lady Melania Trump (L) disembark Air Force One at Stansted Airport, north of London. (Mandel Ngan, AFP)

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Minutes before landing in the capital of the United Kingdom, where he is due to be treated to full state honours as a guest of royalty, US President Donald Trump lashed out at the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, branding him "a stone cold loser who should focus on crime in London, not me".

The president, who is expected to enjoy a day of Britain's pomp and pageantry on Monday, the first day of a three-day state visit, said Khan reminded him of liberal New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, "only half his height".

The mayor of London, where thousands of protesters are expected to line the streets on Tuesday in a demonstration spearheaded by a giant blimp portraying the president as a baby in a diaper, had previously compared Trump's use of divisive language to "the fascists of the 20th century".

Writing in the UK's Observer newspaper on Sunday, Khan said Britain "should not be rolling out the red carpet" for Trump, where a poll showed only 21% of the population had a positive opinion of him with 67% holding a negative view. Khan labelled the president "one of the most egregious examples of a global threat".

In an interview published on Saturday, the president had told The Sun tabloid newspaper: "I think I am really - I hope - I am really loved in the UK. I certainly love the UK."

State visits are usually occasions designed to honour a nation rather than an individual, but Trump's arrival comes at a time of political chaos in the UK and his personal impact is likely to be unavoidable. He regularly breaks diplomatic norms, such as staying out of domestic politics.

Politics and Brexit

In an interview published this weekend, he publicly endorsed Boris Johnson in the race to succeed Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May.

He will meet her on Tuesday amid a heated international dispute surrounding Washington's trade war with China, and a controversial UK decision to award key 5G infrastructure contracts to Beijing tech giant Huawei.

The president also heralded his trip by weighing into the Brexit debacle, suggesting on Sunday that far-right eurosceptic Nigel Farage, who campaigned in the US for Trump's 2016 election, should be a part of European Union withdrawal negotiations.

He also said the UK should refuse to pay its 39 billion pound ($49bn) European Union divorce bill if there is no Brexit deal with Brussels. 

"If they don't get what they want, I would walk away," Trump told the Sunday Times. "If you don’t get a fair deal, you walk away."

US Ambassador to the UK Woody Johnson this weekend also said the National Health Service, much beloved in Britain, should be included in trade negotiations over a potential post-Brexit trade deal with the US.

Gun salutes in Green Park and at the Tower of London will greet President Trump on Monday, and he will inspect troops at Buckingham Palace before a private lunch with the queen. On Monday afternoon, Trump, who pulled the US out of the Paris climate change agreement, will meet Prince Charles, a passionate environmentalist.

In a 1996 radio interview, Trump made a series of lewd comments about Prince Charles' former wife, Princess Diana.

On Monday night, President Trump will be the guest of honour at a state banquet at Buckingham Palace, though the event is being boycotted by opposition party leaders. Due to refurbishment work at the palace, the president will not be a houseguest at the royal home, but will stay at the residence of the US ambassador, a mansion on the edge of Regent's Park. 

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