Theresa May snubbed by Donald Trump as she seeks to protect US-UK ties

US President Donald Trump and the first lady Melania Trump visit Westminster Abbey.
US President Donald Trump and the first lady Melania Trump visit Westminster Abbey.
0
Have your say

A turbulent state visit by Donald Trump has begun with a snub for Theresa May after it emerged the Prime Minister and the US president will not hold one-to-one talks during his three-day-visit to the UK.

Mrs May, who leaves office in a matter of weeks, used her parting gift to the US president to make an appeal on behalf of the countries’ ‘special relationship’, giving Mr Trump a copy of Winston Churchill’s final draft of the Atlantic Charter – one of the foundational documents of the transatlantic alliance.

But the gesture was undermined after the schedule for the visit failed to include time for private talks, prompting Mrs May’s critics to claim she had been snubbed.

Instead, Mr Trump could meet with Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage this afternoon after endorsing the former foreign secretary as Mrs May’s successor and calling for the Brexit Party leader to join the UK’s Brexit negotiating team.

Downing Street denied reports that a one-to-one meeting had been removed from the schedule. Asked whether the president didn’t want to meet with the Prime Minister, Mrs May’s spokesman said: “I’m sure the answer to that is no.”

The spokesman said there would be “moments” for the two leaders to hold private talks such as during a tour of the Churchill War Rooms that will take place today.

However, the Prime Minister and Mr Trump’s visit will be guided by historians and their spouses may also attend.

Mr Trump began his visit with a further breach of diplomatic protocol, using Twitter to hurl insults at London Mayor Sadiq Khan when the wheels of Air Force One had barely touched the tarmac at Stansted Airport.

Mr Khan had compared the president’s rhetoric against immigrants and political opponents to that of “the fascists of the 20th century”.

The US president responded by calling Mr Khan a “stone cold loser” and drawing attention to his height.

A spokesman for Mr Khan said the “childish insults should be beneath the president of the United States”.

The breaches of protocol come amid serious disagreement between London and Washington over UK plans to allow Chinese telecoms giant Huawei to bid for contracts in the delivery of a new 5G network.

Mrs May will host Mr Trump for talks at Downing Street today along with US and UK delegations, following a round-table meeting with businesses where she will call for swift progress towards a post-Brexit trade deal.

Last night the president was the guest of honour at a state banquet at Buckingham Palace that was boycotted by opposition leaders.

There were sparse crowds to greet Mr Trump outside Buckingham Palace and along the Mall, with few demonstrators and even fewer supporters.

A major protest is planned at Trafalgar Square today, which will be addressed by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

On Twitter, Mr Corbyn wrote the protest against Mr Trump was “an opportunity to stand in solidarity with those he’s attacked in America, around the world and in our own country, including, just this morning, Sadiq Khan”.

The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford, who will also address the protest, said the UK had “gained nothing positive from the Trump presidency to date”.

“Theresa May is the architect of Donald Trump’s State visit, but now finds herself snubbed from a one-on-one meeting with the US president,” Mr Blackford said.

“We were told the UK government would use meetings with the US administration to press home our concerns on the Trump administration’s position on issues such as climate change and immigration, but the Prime Minister isn’t even meeting with the man she herself invited.”

At today’s round table, which will be attended by executives from defence contractors BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin and investment bank Goldman Sachs, Mrs May will say a trade deal will make the US-UK relationship “greater still”.

“With a bilateral free trade agreement, with broader economic co-operation and by continuing to work together to underpin, shape and influence the global economy and its rules and institutions – keeping markets free, fair and open, and keeping our industries competitive,” Mrs May will say.

“There are opportunities to seize and there are challenges we need to work together to tackle. Today, let us look at how we do both.”

Yesterday Mr Trump and his wife Melania were extended a full royal welcome, greeted by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall at the steps of the president’s Marine One helicopter, which landed on the lawn at Buckingham Palace.

Watching from a palace balcony overlooking the garden was Mr Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband, the president’s adviser Jared Kushner.

Later he was met by the Queen and escorted by Prince Charles on the traditional inspection of the Grenadier Guards.

The Duke of Sussex was among those to join the Trumps inside the palace for a private lunch.

As Mr Trump later viewed an exhibition of American artefacts and other items from the Royal Collection, Prince Harry entered the palace’s picture gallery alongside Ivanka Trump, but remained mostly at the far end of the room for the duration. The president appeared not to recognise one object in the exhibit before being reminded by the First Lady the statue of a horse was his gift to the Queen during a visit to the UK last year.

The Queen gifted Mr and Mrs Trump with a first edition of The Second World War by Winston Churchill, a three-piece Duofold pen set and a specially commissioned silver box with a handcrafted enamel lid.

The Trumps then went for tea at Clarence House with Charles and Camilla, before being met by the Duke of York on a visit to Westminster Abbey where the president laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In a gesture that carries a significant political message, the Prime Minister will give Mr Trump a framed draft of the agreement between former US president Franklin Roosevelt and Churchill when they met in Newfoundland in early August 1941.

The Atlantic Charter set out their goals for a post-war world and was one of the first steps towards the formation of the United Nations.

Ahead of bilateral talks, Mrs May and the president will view a rare copy of the American Declaration of Independence held at the West Sussex Record Office.

The Sussex declaration is one of only two copies of the historic document written on parchment, with the other held by the US National Archives.