After starting a major diplomatic row on Thursday, President Donald Trump quickly took to Twitter to wade back into another one, claiming that he’d canceled his expected visit to the U.K. next month because he was unhappy that the U.S. Embassy in London was moving its location.
“Reason I canceled my trip to London is that I am not a big fan of the Obama Administration 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 dollars,” Trump tweeted. “Bad deal. Wanted me to cut ribbon – NO!”
Reason I canceled my trip to London is that I am not a big fan of the Obama Administration 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 dollars. Bad deal. Wanted me to cut ribbon-NO!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2018
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is expected to fill in for the president in his absence.
There are several false parts of this statement to unpack. While the final sale of the Chancery Building — located in London’s prestigious Mayfair neighborhood — was approved under the Obama administration, the decision to move the embassy to Battersea, south of the river Thames, was taken in 2008 when President George W. Bush was in office. One of the main reasons for the change was that the Chancery Building, which is more than half a century old, was overcrowded and difficult to protect.
The new embassy is much larger with an array of security features — including a moat. According to The Guardian, the U.S. State Department managed to cover the $1.2 billion cost by selling off other buildings it owns in London, meaning the total cost of the new embassy for the US taxpayer was $0 — hardly a “bad deal.”
The real reason Trump likely canceled his visit to the U.K. has nothing to do with the new building, and everything to do with the fact that the president is wildly unpopular in the country and any state visit, however brief, would likely see massive protests.
British Prime Minister Theresa May initially suggested when the pair met last January that Trump plan a state visit in mid-2017. However, the idea was quickly and fiercely opposed by scores of British citizens. A petition calling for Trump’s visit to be canceled quickly gained nearly 2 million signatures and petitioners promised to hold “the biggest protest ever” if the proposed visit went through.
The trip was eventually downgraded to a less formal “working visit,” which meant Trump would visit the U.K. but would not be a guest of the Queen. However, after Trump re-tweeted the far-right group Britain First — causing a diplomatic spat with May — the idea became less popular even within the prime minister’s own cabinet.
“I am personally deeply uncomfortable about it,” then-Justice Minister Sam Gyimah said. “I am deeply uncomfortable because he is deliberately divisive and this will be divisive at a time when we are trying to unite our country.”
As of Thursday, it appears the working visit has been cancelled, if the president’s tweet is correct.
Many Londoners have made it clear that Donald Trump is not welcome here while he is pursuing such a divisive agenda. It seems he’s finally got that message. pic.twitter.com/YD0ZHuWtr3
— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) January 12, 2018
“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,” he wrote in a statement. “His visit next month would without doubt have been met by mass peaceful protests.”