US president Donald Trump has met the Queen on the first day of his state visit to the UK, after arriving on Air Force One at Stansted airport on Monday morning.
He laid a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier at Westminster Abbey, with heavy security keeping demonstrators and passers-by at a large distance from the president.
Trump is reported to have been looking forward to the pomp and ceremony of his visit, with tea with Price Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall and a Buckingham Palace banquet scheduled today.
But serious issues will be on the table, and tensions over security, trade and his controversial remarks about Brexit and “stone cold loser” Sadiq Khan loom large over the visit.
He is expected to use his meeting with UK prime minister Theresa May on Tuesday to ratchet up the pressure on Britain to cut ties with the Chinese tech giant Huawei over US spying fears.
He may warn security collaboration between the two countries could be at risk if Britain allows Huawei to help roll out Britain’s 5G phone network, echoing threats by US secretary of state Mike Pompeo last month.
— London Stansted Airport (@STN_Airport) June 3, 2019
Trump may also look to discuss a potential post-Brexit trade deal, telling reporters there was an “opportunity for a very big trade deal at some point” before he landed in the UK.
May herself is under pressure to take Trump to task over his failure to confront climate change. 250 academics signed a joint letter today to the prime minister, warning Trump was undermining global efforts to save lives by reducing emissions.
The US president had already sparked controversy by wading into British politics again before he even stepped off the plane.
Shortly before landing in the UK he launched an extraordinary attack on Sadiq Khan, tweeting that the London mayor was a “stone cold loser” who had done a “terrible job” and should focus on crime.
His intervention has already opened up divisions in the ruling Conservative party as it searches for a new prime minister, with leadership hopeful Matt Hancock challenging his comments but foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt blaming Khan for the long-running feud.
.@SadiqKhan, who by all accounts has done a terrible job as Mayor of London, has been foolishly “nasty” to the visiting President of the United States, by far the most important ally of the United Kingdom. He is a stone cold loser who should focus on crime in London, not me......
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 3, 2019
Trump also told the Sunday Times Britain should send Brexit party leader Nigel Farage to conduct its talks with the EU, and to “walk away” without a deal if the UK failed to negotiate what it wanted.
Trump breached normal diplomatic conventions again by praising former London mayor, foreign secretary and Tory leadership hopeful Boris Johnson.
On his last visit the US president caused widespread anger by attacking Theresa May’s negotiations with the EU, and praising hard Brexit-supporting Johnson, who he has not ruled out meeting during the visit.
He is expected to face significant public protests in Britain as well as a royal welcome. A giant blimp showing Trump as an angry baby in a nappy will feature, with organisers calling for a “carnival of resistance” to the divisive US leader.
Trump will attend a state banquet tonight, which Britain’s Labour opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has refused to attend in protest at Trump’s “racist and misogynist rhetoric” and position on climate change.
The president will then have breakfast with business chiefs, talks with May, a news conference and dinner at the residence of the US ambassador on Tuesday.