Trump’s UK visit still on, newspaper claims, as May’s problems mount

The Sunday Times says that the American president will visit London in late February next year

FILE - This is a Friday, Jan. 27, 2017 file photo of US President Donald Trump as he shakes hands with British Prime Minister Theresa May in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. British Prime Minister Theresa May  insisted on Thursday Nov. 30, 2017 th that she is not afraid to criticize a key ally, saying U.S. President Donald Trump's retweets of a "hateful" far-right group were "the wrong thing to do." But May's government dug in its heels over mounting calls to cancel Trump's planned state visit to the U.K. Trump's retweeting of anti-Muslim videos from far-right fringe group Britain First has been widely condemned in Britain. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
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Despite a week in which British-American relations slipped to a low that they had never previously reached in public – Donald Trump’s actions in retweeting the postings of a far-right political group which have been linked to the assassination of an MP saw him labelled ‘stupid’ and a ‘fascist’ in the House of Commons – it would appear that the US president will be visiting the UK early in the new year.

According to The Sunday Times, a working visit for the president has been “pencilled in” for February 26-27, 2018, when he is expected to open the new American embassy in Vauxhall, south London. The newspaper says that the date has been “in the diary” for the last ten days, although it is highly unlikely that officials associated with planning the visit will not have taken on board the events of this week.

After sharing with his near 44 million Twitter followers three anti-Islamic videos which had been posted by Jayda Fransen of the extremist group Britain First, a spokesman for the British prime minister Theresa May said that the president had been wrong to do so. This prompted an extraordinary and unprecedented public slap-down of Mrs May, as Mr Trump told her on Twitter to essentially mind her own business and sort out Britain’s problems with ‘Radical Islam’.

The ping-pong anti-diplomacy continued when Mrs May, on a visit to Jordan, personally described the messages her American ally had spread as being “hateful” and stood firm on her belief that it was not the right thing for the president to have shared.

Yet still the president will come, The Sunday Times says. The original state visit which had first been offered to Mr Trump in January during a rushed visit by Mrs May is still on the blocks, unlikely to take place in the near future amid the near unanimity of disgust in the United Kingdom at the general behaviour of the 45th president – and this specific incident.

There will be no meeting with the Queen, which would have been a key component of a state visit, sparing Queen Elizabeth II’s blushes and annoyance at having to make nice with a man so reviled by her subjects. And London’s Metropolitan Police force will no doubt breath a sigh of relief if the visit doesn’t involve the processions that are usually associated with such visits, due to the sheer number of people who could have turned out to protest.

Meanwhile, the same newspaper reports another headache for the under-fire prime minister, as the entire board of a cross-party organisation set up to help the government achieve more social mobility has quit in protest at her inability to deliver on any plans that would help the poor due to the focus of the administration on Brexit.

The chairman of the body, Alan Milburn, a former minister in Tony Blair's Labour government, said she was failing to deliver on her promises.

“The worst position in politics is to set out a proposition that you’re going to heal social divisions and then do nothing about it. Talking the talk is all very well, but you also need to walk the walk. I see precisely no chance of making progress. They are so concerned with Brexit that there is no bandwidth to focus on any of this stuff.”

And to top off another miserable Sunday morning reading the newspapers over the breakfast table, an opinion poll published in the Mail On Sunday newspaper put the opposition Labour party on 45 percent with Mrs May’s Conservatives on 37 percent, the biggest lead for Jeremy Corbyn’s party in four years.

“An 8 point lead would put the Labour party into overall majority territory if such vote share totals were reflected at the ballot box,” Survation, the opion pollster responsible for the survey, said.