By Susy Hodges
President Trump and his wife, Melania were being treated to to a full display of British royal pageantry on Monday that included lunch and then in the evening a lavish state banquet with Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace, tea with the heir to the throne, Prince Charles, and a tour of London's Westminster Abbey.
But beyond the pomp and ceremony, the unpredictable U.S. President had already ruffled feathers in Britain before his trip, with his remarks on the nation’s turbulent domestic politics in media interviews. Trump told the Sun newspaper that he was backing the Conservative Party leadership contender Boris Johnson to be the next UK Prime Minister. More than a dozen candidates are vying to replace Teresa May who is stepping down as Prime Minister on June the 7th after failing to get her Brexit deal through parliament.
In a separate newspaper interview, Trump said that the Brexit party leader Nigel Farage - who is an arch critic of May – should be involved in the government’s negotiations to leave the EU.
Britain is hoping Trump’s visit will cement the so-called special relationship between the 2 countries and lay the platform for a post-Brexit trade deal.
Although Trump has spoken of his admiration for May, there is expected to be differences of opinion during their talks on Tuesday. The British Prime Minister will raise the issue of climate change with a government spokesman saying on Monday the UK was disappointed by the U.S decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Change Agreement.
The two allies also don’t see eye to eye on the issue of cooperation with the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei. The U.S. has blacklisted the Chinese firm for security reasons while the UK has said it may allow Huawei to supply what it calls “non-core” components for its 5G network.
Britain has long seen the United States as its closest ally but protests against Trump’s state visit were being planned in several UK cities including London, Manchester, Belfast and Birmingham.