Officially, the American and British governments are still planning a formal state visit to the United Kingdom by President Donald Trump for this fall.
But in private, Trump has told besieged Prime Minister Theresa May he wants to hold off until she can assure him he won’t be greeted by scornful masses in the London streets.
Trump “said he did not want to come if there were large-scale protests and his remarks in effect put the visit on hold for some time,” The Guardian reported on Sunday. On a campaign stop in Scotland last summer, Trump was greeted by creative trolling and protest signs which made waves on social media.
May’s government denies that there is any delay to plans for Trump’s visit, despite his remarks on a call sometime in the past several weeks.
The report comes scarcely a week after Trump reacted to terrorist attacks in England by going after London Mayor Sadiq Khan on Twitter, a decision widely criticized by international affairs observers. Trump’s first foreign trip, concluded in late May, prompted a number of reports that his policies and rhetoric are straining European alliances.
May was the first foreign leader to visit Trump after his inauguration. She formally invited the Trumps to return the courtesy shortly after returning to London.
Her role driving the divisive British efforts to quit the European Union have positioned her as a natural parallel to Trump, with each leader reliant on a loud but slender populist movement and confronted with fierce opposition from the other side of an evenly-split electorate. During last year’s campaign, Trump publicly celebrated the “Brexit” vote that ultimately elevated May to the role of Prime Minister.
The two leaders are also embattled domestically, albeit in very different ways. May’s party lost its grip on parliament this week in elections that will force her to either build a coalition government with a smaller party or call yet another nationwide vote. Trump’s ambitious and haphazard agenda has been undercut repeatedly both by his own public conduct and by ongoing investigations into how his presidential campaign may have benefited from Russian interference in last year’s election.
Trump’s sensitivity to public displays of disaffection for him is not new. He bristled publicly when masses marched in protest of his inauguration. The pool of reporters who travel with him often note a mix of sign-wielding groups either supporting or protesting him when his motorcade moves around the country during domestic trips.
After Trump withdrew from the landmark Paris climate deal, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson got his own taste of the world’s dissatisfaction during a trip to New Zealand. “I’ve never seen so many people flip the bird at an American motorcade,” one New York Times reporter who was with Tillerson for the trip said.