13 Jul 2018

Donald Trump 'fine' with protests as UK visit begins

7:13 am on 13 July 2018

US President Donald Trump has arrived in the UK, having said he is "fine" about any protests during his visit.

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump leave the US ambassador's residence in London, heading to Blenheim Palace for a dinner on the first day of a UK visit.

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump leave the US ambassador's residence in London, heading to Blenheim Palace for a dinner on the first day of a UK visit. Photo: AFP

Mr Trump and his wife Melania landed at Stansted on Air Force One at 1.50pm local time before a helicopter took them to the US ambassador's residence in London.

He is due to meet Theresa May, who is seeking a post-Brexit trade deal - days after he said the UK was in "turmoil".

Extra security is in place to police a number of protests but Mr Trump said he thought Britons "like me a lot".

Mr Trump, who will also spend time with the Queen during his two-day working visit, added: "I think they agree with me on immigration... You see what's going on throughout the world with immigration... I think that's why Brexit happened."

He said "Brexit is Brexit" and the British people "voted to break it up, so I imagine that's what they'll do but maybe they're taking a different route - I don't know if that is what they voted for".

Mr Trump has recently been under fire for his own immigration policy, which resulted in the separation of immigrant families.

Speaking at the Nato summit in Brussels before he arrived, Mr Trump said the UK was a "hot spot right now".

His visit comes as the government publishes its plans for the UK's relations with the EU after Brexit.

Earlier this week Mr Trump said it was "up to the people" whether Prime Minister Theresa May stayed on after two cabinet ministers resigned within hours over her Brexit policy.

Mr Trump travelled to the UK from the Nato summit, where he said member countries have agreed to increase their military spending.

He was met at Stansted Airport by dignitaries including International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and the US ambassador Woody Johnson.

Protesters against the visit of US President Donald Trump gather with placards at a barrier set up to block access to the US ambassador's residence Winfield House in Regents Park in London.

Protesters against the visit of US President Donald Trump gather with placards at a barrier set up to block access to the US ambassador's residence Winfield House in Regents Park in London. Photo: AFP

The president and his wife will attend a dinner, hosted by Mrs May, at Blenheim Palace - the ancestral home of former Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill - in the evening.

A large police presence has been building up outside the palace in Oxfordshire and BBC News correspondent Duncan Kennedy said about 500-600 protesters bearing placards were demonstrating before Mr Trump's arrival.

A group of protesters has also gathered outside a fenced-off area in Regent's Park, close to the entrance of Winfield House, where Mr Trump is staying and is due to shortly leave for the dinner.

Mrs May said the UK visit would be an opportunity to boost trade links and strengthen co-operation on security.

Along with trade and security ties, Downing Street said the other key areas to be discussed between the two leaders included Brexit and the Middle East.

Ahead of Mr Trump's visit, Mrs May said that when the UK leaves the European Union "there will be no alliance more important in the years ahead".

Mr Trump had joked earlier this week that his meeting with Vladimir Putin in the Finnish capital Helsinki on Monday "may be the easiest" part of his European trip.

Downing Street insisted Mrs May welcomed Mr Trump's decision to "engage" with the Russian leader.

But she also warned Mr Trump not to ignore the "malign behaviour" of Russia.

About 150 guests are understood to have agreed to attend the dinner at Blenheim Palace, including cabinet members and business leaders.

Only one person, the digital entrepreneur and philanthropist Baroness Martha Lane-Fox, has publicly refused the invitation.

Melania and Donald Trump disembark Air Force One at Stansted Airport, north of Londo.

Melania and Donald Trump disembark Air Force One at Stansted Airport, north of Londo. Photo: AFP

On Friday, Mrs May and Mr Trump will go to watch a joint counter-terrorism exercise by British and US special forces at a military base.

The pair will then travel to Chequers - the PM's country residence in Buckinghamshire - for talks with the foreign secretary.

The president and first lady will travel to Windsor on Friday afternoon to meet the Queen, before flying to Scotland to spend the weekend at Mr Trump's Turnberry golf resort. This part of the visit is being considered private.

The Police Federation has warned the visit will put "unquestionable pressure" on UK police forces as tens of thousands of people are expected to protest against the president in London on Thursday and Friday - and in Glasgow on Friday.

It has also complained that 300 officers working during the visit will have to sleep on camp beds in a gymnasium that has no hot water and restricted access to hot food.

The Police Commissioner for Lincolnshire later tweeted that "sadly" there were reports officers who put photographs of the "sorry conditions" on social media were being "sought out".

Smaller demonstrations are also expected to be held across the UK, including Devon, Dundee, Edinburgh, Belfast, Norwich, Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool.

Meanwhile, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has granted permission for a giant inflatable figure depicting Mr Trump as a baby to fly over Westminster for two hours on the second day of the president's visit.

But the balloon will not be allowed to fly over his Turnberry golf course, Police Scotland have said.

- BBC

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs