LONDON (AP) — President Donald Trump will get the red carpet treatment on his brief visit to Britain beginning Thursday: Military bands at a gala dinner, lunch with the prime minister at her country residence, then tea with the queen at Windsor Castle before flying off to one of his golf clubs in Scotland.
However, trip planners may go out of their way to shield Trump from viewing another aspect of the greeting: an oversized balloon depicting the president as an angry baby in a diaper that will be flown from Parliament Square during what are expected to be massive gatherings of protesters opposed to Trump’s presence.
Rarely has a foreign leader been so mocked on an official visit — London’s mayor, a Muslim who has challenged Trump’s world view — okayed the balloon, which is an apt symbol of Trump’s tempestuous relationship with Britain, traditionally the United States’ closest ally.
It is not simply the protesters, who are expected to dog Trump throughout his visit, including his weekend in Scotland, but his fraught relationship with political leaders accustomed to harmonious exchanges with U.S. leaders, a tradition of unity that goes back at least to the vital World War II partnership of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.
Trump may have ruffled feathers again when he said just before departing for Europe that the UK was in “turmoil,” suggesting it was “up to the people” to decide if Prime Minister Theresa May remains in power after a few days that saw her authority challenged by the resignation of two prominent Cabinet ministers protesting her Brexit policy.
He has clashed in the past with May — even though she is a fellow conservative who shares his view that defense spending should be hiked — and with her predecessor, David Cameron, who challenged Trump’s anti-Muslim campaign stance as “divisive, stupid and wrong.”
Labour Party legislator Paul Flynn, who has criticized Trump in Parliament, said Trump has outraged Britons and people around the world with his harsh treatment of immigrants.
“Give us your weary and your oppressed and we’ll divide you from your children,” he said of Trump’s policies. “It seems so un-American. We greatly respect America as a generous place built up by immigrants over the years. People see him as a cheap huckster who happens to have an office we respect as president of the United States.”
Trump’s “America First” policies, including the decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord and the nuclear deal with Iran, have brought him into conflict with Britain’s leaders over issues of real substance. Both of those accords were the result of years of painstaking diplomacy by European leaders.
Top it off with the introduction of trade policies that have targeted some European industries — even though European nations are longtime friends accustomed to easy trade with the United States — and it is not surprising Trump’s itinerary will keep him out of central London on Friday, when large protests are planned.