Trump trip proves a sticky wicket for British politi­cians

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY DO­MINIC HINDE

LON­DON | Pres­i­dent Trump hasn’t even con­firmed the ex­act dates for his state visit, but British politi­cians are al­ready fret­ting — if not in an out­right panic — over how to cope with the po­lit­i­cally dicey drop-by, not least be­cause of the protests that are likely to erupt once he ar­rives.

En­ter British Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May, who has come up with a plan: She wants to meet the pres­i­dent in the re­mote Scot­tish High­lands, where she could not only wel­come the leader of the free world with pomp and cir­cum­stance wor­thy of the vaunted “spe­cial re­la­tion­ship,” but also keep Mr. Trump away from out­bursts that might jeop­ar­dize a trade deal she des­per­ately needs be­cause of the U.K.’s di­vorce from the Euro­pean Union in two years.

Whether the siz­able anti-Trump con­tin­gent in Eng­land and Scot­land will let her thread that nee­dle is another ques­tion.

“Theresa May is ob­vi­ously wor­ried about the kind of re­ac­tion Pres­i­dent Trump will get in Lon­don,” said David Tor­rance, a Scot­tish po­lit­i­cal pun­dit and au­thor.

“Send­ing him up north to Scot­land looks like a great move on her part to keep the Brexit diplomacy run­ning smoothly — un­til you re­al­ize that the pres­i­dent is just as con­tro­ver­sial north of the bor­der.”

When she vis­ited the White House in Fe­bru­ary, Ms. May ex­tended the in­vi­ta­tion and promised Mr. Trump a lav­ish state visit with Queen El­iz­a­beth.

Mr. Trump was an early en­thu­si­ast for Brexit, and his stated pref­er­ence for one-on-one trade deals over mul­ti­lat­eral pacts such as the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment or a pro­posed deal with the Euro­pean Union was mu­sic to the ears of Bri­tons eager to break free from Brus­sels’ grasp.

With Brexit sched­uled for April 2019, Ms. May and oth­ers are eager to strike a trade deal with the U.S. be­fore the break­away takes ef­fect. Invit­ing Mr. Trump to Bri­tain and promis­ing him a state visit were in­tended to push along the trade ne­go­ti­a­tions.

British For­eign Sec­re­tary Boris John­son said Mr. Trump as­sured him dur­ing a White House visit in Jan­uary that Bri­tain was “first in line to do a great free trade deal with the United States.”

Mr. Trump’s visit, orig­i­nally slated for June, has been moved to the fall in the ex­pec­ta­tion of demon­stra­tions — which look to be huge.

“They don’t want what will be one of his first big for­eign trips to be over­shad­owed,” said a British of­fi­cial, cit­ing State Depart­ment han­dlers wary of Lon­don­ers stag­ing tele­vi­sion cam­era-ready protests against Mr. Trump, ac­cord­ing to doc­u­ments that the British press ob­tained last month.

The British har­bor mixed opin­ions of the U.S. pres­i­dent. After Mr. Trump’s elec­tion vic­tory, protesters took to the streets across the British Isles. In Fe­bru­ary, Par­lia­ment de­bated ban­ning Mr. Trump from Bri­tain after he is­sued an or­der tem­po­rar­ily bar­ring trav­el­ers from seven ma­jor­ity-Mus­lim coun­tries. Par­lia­ment opted not to ban the pres­i­dent even as a U.S. fed­eral court was block­ing Mr. Trump’s travel or­der.

The flam­boy­ant, out­spo­ken bil­lion­aire real es­tate devel­oper ap­pears to rub many but­toned-down, stiff-up­per­lip Bri­tons the wrong way with his com­ments re­garded as sex­ist and his pen­chant for con­spic­u­ous con­sump­tion.

The White House over the week­end de­nied an anony­mously sourced Lon­don Times story that said Mr. Trump was de­mand­ing a cer­e­mo­nial ride through Lon­don in one of Queen El­iz­a­beth’s gold­laced royal car­riages as an “es­sen­tial el­e­ment” of his Oc­to­ber state visit, the same mode of trans­porta­tion used by world lead­ers such as Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin on their vis­its. A White House spokes­woman called the ac­count “com­pletely false” and said plan­ning for the trip had not even be­gun.

Trump’s fans

Still, the Amer­i­can pres­i­dent has his sup­port­ers. Bri­tain’s most out­spo­ken ad­vo­cate for quit­ting the EU dur­ing the cam­paign, U.K. In­de­pen­dence Party leader Nigel Farage, is a staunch ad­mirer of Mr. Trump. The two men have bonded over their sur­prise vic­to­ries at polls that con­tra­dicted po­lit­i­cal pun­dits’ fore­casts, and Mr. Farage even cam­paigned with the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee last year.

Mr. Trump’s out­spo­ken skep­ti­cism of the EU and his re­jec­tion of unchecked im­mi­gra­tion find a strong echo in the rural and in­dus­trial heart­lands of Bri­tain as well.

Of­fi­cial anx­i­ety on both sides of the At­lantic is a British “storm in a teacup,” said Stu­art MacLen­nan, a Coven­try Univer­sity po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist who sup­ports Brexit.

“By all means, protest his views. I per­son­ally share very few, if any of them,” said Mr. MacLen­nan. “But protest­ing his pres­ence makes no sense. We in­vite far less pleas­ant lead­ers to the U.K. on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, and hardly any­one bats an eye­lid. I’ve al­ways taken the view that Bri­tain is bet­ter off work­ing with the world.”

Queen El­iz­a­beth has re­ceived sev­eral im­por­tant but con­tro­ver­sial his­tor­i­cal fig­ures, in­clud­ing Ja­panese Em­peror Hiro­hito, who reigned dur­ing World War II; Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Hu Jin­tao, who is thought to have played a role in the bru­tal sup­pres­sion of ac­tivists in Tianan­men Square in 1989; and Mr. Putin.

British of­fi­cials are de­bat­ing where in Scot­land to hold the meet­ings. The most likely venue is the queen’s Bal­moral Cas­tle in Aberdeen­shire, where high se­cu­rity is the norm when­ever the monarch is in res­i­dence.

The cas­tle is also a short drive from Mr. Trump’s lux­ury golf re­sort at Me­nie near the city of Aberdeen. Mr. Trump vis­ited the site many times be­fore he won the pres­i­dency and has called it “the great­est golf course in the world.”

Scot­land might be more re­mote than Lon­don, but its vot­ers are more left­wing and pro-Europe than the English. Rory Scothorne, 24, an au­thor and coor­ga­nizer of the Scot­land Against Trump coali­tion, said the pres­i­dent can ex­pect a true High­land wel­come if he touches down, come rain or shine.

“If the Con­ser­va­tive Party thinks they can hide their deal­ings with Trump away from the pub­lic eye, they won’t find a safe haven in Scot­land,” Mr. Scothorne said. “Wher­ever he shows up, we’ll show up too.”

By the time Mr. Trump touches down in Al­bion in Air Force One, his pre­de­ces­sor al­ready will have made head­lines in Scot­land. For­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, who is pop­u­lar among Scots, is due to visit Ed­in­burgh next month to give a fundrais­ing speech for the Hunter Foun­da­tion, an ed­u­ca­tion char­ity.

“Lots of peo­ple back in Scot­land will be re­ally look­ing for­ward to wel­com­ing Barack Obama and hear­ing what he has to say,” Scot­tish First Min­is­ter Ni­cola Stur­geon said in a state­ment.

She re­cently con­firmed that she would meet Mr. Trump if he vis­its, but her pro-Europe and pro-im­mi­gra­tion stances are in stark con­trast to the pres­i­dent’s views.

In Scot­land, Mr. Trump could take the op­por­tu­nity to visit his mother’s home vil­lage on Isle of Lewis. Mary Trump was born Mary MacLeod in a Scot­tish Gaelic-speak­ing fam­ily on the wind-swept is­land in the At­lantic and em­i­grated to the U.S. in the 1930s. She re­turned to Scot­land many times be­fore her death in 2000.

Isle of Lewis res­i­dent and lay preacher Der­ick Mackenzie, 53, has or­ga­nized a cam­paign called Lewis for Trump. He and his five chil­dren will be out to greet the pres­i­dent if he comes, said Mr. Mackenzie.

“It is par­tially be­cause of his fam­ily roots, be­ing from Lewis, but also be­cause I agree with his views on con­trolled im­mi­gra­tion,” said Mr. Mackenzie. “I like cer­tain as­pects of his char­ac­ter and the way he does things. I like his ap­proach — plain and sim­ple com­mon sense — which is very straight-talk­ing. I think you can credit his mother with that. It’s great to see some­one with lo­cal Lewis blood in the White House.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

LOOK­ING NORTH: British Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May wants to meet with Pres­i­dent Trump in the re­mote Scot­tish High­lands for pomp and cir­cum­stance and to keep away from protests.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

When British Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May vis­ited the White House in Fe­bru­ary, she ex­tended an in­vi­ta­tion for a lav­ish state visit. She is eager to strike a trade deal with the U.S.

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