America’s ambassador to Britain has publicly defended the country’s new London embassy after Donald Trump blamed its cost for controversially cancelling a visit.
Woody Johnson said America’s new embassy did not cost US taxpayers "a cent" and insisted the move was needed because of the terrorist threat after 9/11.
Mr Trump had earlier tweeted he would not visit London next month as planned because the original embassy was sold for “peanuts” and it was a “bad deal”.
However Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, blamed leading Labour figures for putting off Mr Trump with their criticism and placing the special relationship “at risk”.
The fallout came after Mr Trump once again postponed a “working visit” to Britain, which was originally pencilled in for January but had since slipped to February.
It further pushes back the time when Mr Trump is expected to visit the UK for the first time. He has already visited France, China, Japan, South Korea and the Middle East.
There are questions now about whether the US president will be invited to the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on May 19.
Mr Trump tweeted:
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
The US embassy has moved from Grosvenor Square in the heart of Mayfair to Nine Elms near Battersea, south London.
The decision was actually taken by George W Bush, not Mr Obama. Mr Trump had been expected to do an event marking the opening of the new embassy in a visit pencilled in for February 26 and 27.
In a piece published in the Evening Standard, Mr Johnson, who was made US ambassador last year, pushes back on the president’s criticism.
“I agree with President Trump that Grosvenor Square, in the heart of London, was a perfect location for our embassy,” he said.
But he added: “Security concerns after September 11 meant we had to move to a location that could better protect American citizens and our British neighbours.”
Mr Johnson went on to say the embassy was “bigger” and “better” than its predecessor and came at no cost to Americans.
“It is the most secure, hi-tech and environmentally friendly embassy that the United States has ever built,” he wrote.
“Purchased and built from the sale of our London properties, the new embassy did not cost the US taxpayer a cent. Yet is one of the most advanced embassies we have ever built.”
Sadiq Khan, the London mayor who has clashed with Mr Trump, praised the announcement: "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.
"His visit next month would without doubt have been met by mass peaceful protests. This just reinforces what a mistake it was for Theresa May to rush and extend an invitation of a state visit in the first place.
"Let's hope that Donald Trump also revisits the pursuit of his divisive agenda." However Mr Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, hit back: “The US is the biggest single investor in the UK - yet Khan & [Jeremy] Corbyn seem determined to put this crucial relationship at risk.
“We will not allow US-UK relations to be endangered by some puffed up pompous popinjay in City Hall.”
Theresa May backed Mr Johnson, with a Downing Street source saying: “Boris expresses himself in his own inimitable way. We agree that any risk to the crucial US-UK relationship is not in our country’s best interests.”
Nigel Farage said the prospect of mass protests may well have been a factor in Mr Trump’s decision to cancel his visit.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Maybe, just maybe, Sadiq Khan, Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party planning mass protests, maybe those optics he didn’t like the look of.”
Mr Trump is still expected to make a formal state visit to Britain at some time during his first term after accepting an offer delivered by Mrs May last year.
It later emerged that the old US embassy was sold for £315m, well below £500m that experts claimed it should have cost – appearing to back up Mr Trump’s criticism.
The US embassy later issued a statement saying the decision was made in 2007 - appearing to contradict Mr Trump's claim that it was made by Mr Obama.
The statement noted that the total project cost around $1 billion, but added that “no tax payer dollars” were spent on the move.