■ John­son la­bels Lon­don mayor a ‘puffed-up pompous popin­jay’

Irish Examiner - - Front Page - Arj Singh

UK for­eign af­fairs min­is­ter Boris John­son has lashed out at Lon­don mayor Sadiq Khan af­ter Don­ald Trump can­celled his visit to Bri­tain.

Don­ald Trump’ s can­cel­la­tion of a visit to Bri­tain has left the UK gov­ern­ment and City Hall at log­ger­heads as Boris John­son ac­cused Lon­don mayor SadiqKh an of en­dan­ger­ing the so-called “spe­cial re­la­tion­ship”.

There was ini­tially con­fu­sion as D own­ing St was un­able to say whether the for­eign sec­re­tary was speak­ing for the gov­ern­ment when he said Mr Khan and Jeremy Cor­byn were putting the “cru­cial re­la­tion­ship at risk”.

Mr Khan had said the US pres­i­dent had “got the mes­sage” from Lon­don­ers and would have been met by “mass peace­ful protests” if he went ahead with plans to open the new Amer­i­can em­bassy in the cap­i­tal.

A Num­ber 10 source said: “Boris ex­presses him­self in his own inim­itable way, but we agree that any risk to the cru­cial US-UK re­la­tion­ship is not in our coun­try’s best in­ter­ests.”

Mr Trump said he thought the em­bassy’s move from Grosvenor Square in the pres­ti­gious May­fair district of cen­tral Lon­don to an “off lo­ca­tion” at Nine Elms, south of the Thames, was a “bad deal”.

De­spite the pres­i­dent pub­licly blam­ing pre­de­ces­sor Barack Obama, the US an­nounced plans to move to the new site in Oc­to­ber 2008 when Ge­orge W Bush was in the White House.

Mr Trump tweeted: “Rea­son I can­celled my trip to Lon­don is that I am not a big fan of the Obama Ad­min­isThe tra­tion hav­ing sold per­haps the best lo­cated and finest em­bassy in Lon­don for “peanuts,” only to build a new one in an off lo­ca­tion for $1.2 bil­lion.

“Bad deal. Wanted me to cut rib­bon-NO!”

But last night, the US em­bassy in Lon­don said its move to a new lo­ca­tion has been com­pleted within bud­get.

A spokesman for the US em­bassy said: “The US chancery in Grosvenor Square had aged be­yond its abil­ity to be im­proved to cur­rent se­cu­rity and life safety stan­dards without ex­ten­sive in­vest­ment in in­fras­truc­ture would re­quire ap­pro­pri­ated dol­lars.

“In 2007, the Depart­ment de­vel­oped a plan to finance a new em­bassy project through a prop­erty swap for ex­ist­ing US gov­ern­ment prop­erty in Lon­don.

“This so­lu­tion al­lowed con­struc­tion of a new chancery that meets all se­cu­rity stan­dards, yet used no tax­payer dol­lars to fund the project.”

The spokesman said the bud­get was ap­prox­i­mately $1bn (€820m) and in­cludes the site pur­chase, de­sign, and con­struc­tion costs.

Re­act­ing to the an­nounce­ment, Mr Khan, who clashed with the US pres­i­dent af­ter Mr Trump at­tacked his han­dling of the Lon­don Bridge ter­ror at­tack, said: “It ap­pears that Pres­i­dent Trump got the mes­sage from the many Lon­don­ers who love and ad­mire Amer­ica and Amer­i­cans but find his poli­cies and ac­tions the po­lar op­po­site of our city’s val­ues of in­clu­sion, di­ver­sity and tol­er­ance.”

Then Mr John­son tweeted: “The US is the big­gest sin­gle in­vestor in the UK — yet Khan & Cor­byn seem de­ter­mined to put this cru­cial re­la­tion­ship at risk. We will not al­low US-UK re­la­tions to be en­dan­gered by some puffedthat up pompous popin­jay in City Hall.”

Be­fore the for­eign sec­re­tary’s post, a Down­ing St spokesman was asked if Mr Khan had dam­aged the so­called “spe­cial re­la­tion­ship”.

He replied: “No, the US and the UK are nat­u­ral re­silient strong part­ners and al­lies and we do more to­gether than any two coun­tries in the world.”

But the spokesman said Ms May would tell Mr Trump he is wel­come in Lon­don. Asked about the PM’s views on south Lon­don af­ter the pres­i­dent de­scribed the em­bassy’s new site as an “off lo­ca­tion”, the spokesman said: “I think Vaux­hall is a vi­brant and im­por­tant part of Lon­don and home to many busi­nesses. Ob­vi­ously Ap­ple are mov­ing their head­quar­ters there.”

The spokesman added: “A state visit (in­vi­ta­tion) has been ex­tended and ac­cepted and we will con­firm the de­tails in due course.

“No date was con­firmed for any visit, the one you are re­fer­ring to now. The open­ing of the US em­bassy is a mat­ter for the US.”

Mr Trump’ s an­nounce­ment fol­lowed spec­u­la­tion that he would for­mally open the em­bassy at a cer­e­mony in Fe­bru­ary.

new build­ing will open for busi­ness on Jan­uary 16.

Ms May con­tro­ver­sially ex­tended the of­fer of a state visit, of­fi­cially on be­half of the Queen, when she be­came the first world leader to meet Mr Trump in the White House fol­low­ing his in­au­gu­ra­tion last year.

Since then, how­ever, the pres­i­dent has in­di­cated he does not want to take up the in­vi­ta­tion if he is go­ing to face mass demon­stra­tions and it had been ex­pected he could make a low-key work­ing visit rather than a trip which in­volved all the trap­pings of a state oc­ca­sion.

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