Following tense NATO talks in Brussels, Donald Trump has arrived in Brexit-roiled Britain for his first visit as the US president. Thousands are planning to receive him with an oversize balloon with undersize hands.
On Thursday, Air Force One landed at London Stansted Airport, and US President Donald Trump descended its stairs to begin his four-day visit to Britain. The day's plans included a gala dinner with UK and US officials at Blenheim Palace, the ancestral home of former Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
"They like me a lot in the UK," Trump told a news conference in Brussels, where he had spent the early part of the week shaking up NATO's annual summit, shortly before lifting off for London on Thursday. "I think they agree with me on immigration. I think that's why Brexit happened."
DW's Birgit Maas was on the scene at the US Embassy in London, Trump's first stop in town.
On his first visit to the UK since taking office, Trump will meet with Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday and then have tea with Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle before flying off to Scotland to, as he so often does back home in the United States, spend the weekend at one of his private golf courses.
'His repugnant attitude'
Trump is expected to be transferred by helicopter from location to location to avoid protests.
The centerpiece of the rallies has been an oversize balloon depicting the president as an angry baby with small hands, a mobile phone and a diaper.
"The president of the United States of America will regretfully have the red carpet rolled out for him by this Conservative government," Ian Blackford, the Scottish National Party's leader in the Westminster parliament, had told lawmakers on Wednesday.
"But, from the public, the welcome will be far from warm," he added, saying there would be protests across the country against Trump's "abysmal record on human rights, his repugnant attitude towards women and his disgusting treatment of minorities."
Amnesty International unfurled a banner with an image of Trump and the words "Human Rights Nightmare" on Vauxhall Bridge in central London:
Speaking in the House of Commons on Thursday, the Liverpool Labour MP Dan Carden called for Parliament to ensure that protesters were given sufficient space to express their views, saying police in London had denied demonstrators a proper stage from which to address the rallies.
"People are protesting the visit of President Trump, demonstrating their opposition to his bigotry and racism — comparing migrants to poisonous snakes, Mexicans to murderers and rapists — and state-sanctioned child abuse, and that is their right to do so," Carden said, addressing Nick Hurd, Britain's minister of state for policing and fire services. "But the protest tomorrow in central London, where the Metropolitan Police have taken the decision not to allow a platform for speakers, that is an absolute disgrace, and the minister must intervene immediately to put this right. And a failure to do so would leave a permanent stain on our democratic rights and freedom of speech."
A YouGov poll released on Wednesday found that 77 percent of respondents had an unfavorable opinion of Trump and just 50 percent thought his visit should have gone ahead.
The dislike for Trump in the UK became most apparent during the 2016 presidential campaign, when, as a candidate, he proposed temporarily banning Muslims from entering the United States. That prompted nearly half a million people to sign a petition calling for him to be banned from the UK. The proposal was debated in Parliament, where Trump was heavily criticized. There was no vote and no ban was imposed.
As president, Trump angered May and many others in the UK by retweeting unverified anti-Islamic videos from Britain First, a group whose leaders have been convicted of hate crimes.
In January, the US president canceled a planned visit to London to open the new US Embassy, calling it a bad deal in a poor location.
Just before departing for Europe earlier this week, Trump ruffled feathers again by saying the UK was in "turmoil," referring to the resignation of two prominent Cabinet ministers who were protesting May's Brexit policy.
The US Embassy has warned American citizens to keep a low profile during the visit in case protests turn violent.
A high metal fence has been erected around the US ambassador's central London residence, where Trump will spend Thursday night.
Trump's trip is part of a working visit and not a state one. The state visit invitation was given to him personally by May just days after his inauguration before being postponed indefinitely.
A working visit means that Trump will not be hosted by the queen and will not stay at Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle. However, he will take tea with the queen.
One key UK ally Trump will not meet is Nigel Farage; the former UKIP leader alleges that this was one of the British government's red lines for Trump's trip.
Trump's plans to stay in Scotland for the weekend at one of his two golf courses formed part of the social media campaign in opposition to his visit:
'Future-proof trade partnership'
May is hoping that Trump's trip will create closer ties and help forge a future free trade deal for once Britain leaves the EU.
"Our trade and investment relationship is unrivaled — we are the largest investors in each other's economies and every day a million British people go to work for US companies in the UK and a million Americans go to work for UK companies in the US," May said.
"This week we have an opportunity to deepen this unique trading relationship and begin discussions about how we will forge a strengthened, ambitious and future-proof trade partnership."
The leaders are also expected to discuss Russia, Brexit and the Middle East.
mkg,jm/rc (AP, Reuters)