LONDON: Britain will roll out the red carpet for US President Donald Trump on Monday as he arrives in Britain for a state visit already overshadowed by his outspoken remarks on Brexit. Queen Elizabeth II will welcome Trump and his wife Melania to Buckingham Palace, where they will be treated to a guard of honour, a private lunch and later, a glittering state banquet.
But beneath the pomp and ceremony, Britain is in turmoil with Prime Minister Theresa May due to step down within weeks over her handling of her country’s exit from the European Union. True to form, Trump ripped up the diplomatic rule book before he even touched down by saying former foreign minister Boris Johnson would make an “excellent” choice to succeed May.
He also recommended May’s successor to walk away from talks with Brussels, refuse to pay Britain’s agreed divorce bill and leave the EU with no deal. The much vaunted UK-US “special relationship” was already under strain over different approaches to Iran, China and the Paris climate change accord.
Opposition politicians are boycotting the banquet over what London’s mayor Sadiq Khan called Trump’s “divisive behaviour” and large protests are expected across the capital. But May and Trump are expected to emphasise the wider benefits of the old alliance when they hold talks at Downing Street on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, they will join other world leaders in the English port of Portsmouth to commemorate 75 years since the D-Day landings, which changed the course of World War II. “Our relationship has underpinned our countries’ security and prosperity for many years, and will continue to do so for generations to come,” May said ahead of the visit.
May announced her resignation last month after failing to get her Brexit deal through parliament and twice delaying Britain’s EU departure. She will formally quit as her Conservative party’s leader on Friday, but will stay on while they find someone to replace her. Three years after the referendum vote for Brexit, Britain remains divided and anxious about its place in the world.