22:51 GMT +321 September 2019
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    U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump meet Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May and her husband Philip at Downing Street, as part of Trump's state visit in London, Britain, June 4, 2019.

    'Historic Partners': Anti-Trump Protests Fail as President Pledges Deals Galore

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    Donald Trump's State Visit to the UK (49)
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    The second day of US President Donald Trump's state visit to the UK has nearly concluded, and as with the first, it seems to have transpired without a single major hitch - although there have arguably been minor ones along the way.

    For instance, Conservative leadership frontrunner Boris Johnson widely rumoured in advance to have been meeting with Trump today, was forced to decline the invitation as he had to prepare for a campaign event. Instead, they had a 20 minute phone call, described as "friendly and productive".

    After heading to Buckingham Palace for breakfast at around 9am, Trump went to St. James' Palace for a meeting with business leaders, before arriving at Downing Street for talks with Prime Minister Theresa May and other ministers. 

    Some commentators were quick to condemn Trump's failure to shake the premier's hand upon his arrival — leading some, perhaps not entirely seriously, to talk of 'Handshakegate' — although it was later confirmed the pair had shaken hands at the St. James' Palace event earlier. A working lunch later, the two leaders convened a joint press conference.

    Historic Partners

    May kicked off proceedings by hailing Trump's presence in the UK, and tomorrow's official commemoration of D-Day in Portsmouth, claiming the alliance between the UK and US was just as strong today as it was 75 then.

    "British and Americans have been historic partners…They have shared values, and those values will endure for the next 75 years and beyond, which is why I'm so pleased to welcome President Trump to the UK. For the last two years, he and I have been the guardians of this enduring friendship…and we agreed today that as the UK leaves the European Union we will pursue an ambitious free trade agreement, which works for both countries right across our economies. There will be no limit to the possibility of us doing trade deals around the world once we leave the EU," she said.

    ​Trump echoed many of the Prime Minister's comments, and said the only thing he would ask of her is "we make sure we can trade and don't have any restrictions", and it would ruin "a tremendous opportunity to double, triple or quadruple trade". He contrasted the UK's apparently positive sentiments on this issue with the EU's own policies — he said the bloc "treats the US horribly" with "barriers beyond belief", and "that's going to change". 

    However, there were instances of disharmony between the pair. For instance, Trump said immigration had been "very negative" for Europe.

    "I know Europe very well and it's been tough. We've seen terror attacks. It's changing the culture and is very negative for Europe and Germany — I have a great relationship with Angela Merkel, but it's hurt Germany and other parts of Europe. It's not politically-correct to say that, but I'll say it and say it loud. Look at what's happening to different countries that never had problems — it's a very sad situation. It's not good for Europe and it's not good for our country. We have very bad immigration laws there, I don't even call them laws, you just walk across the border and then you're tied in a lawsuit for five years," he raged.

    ​May would strongly reject these comments, saying the UK had a "proud history" of welcoming people "fleeing persecution" or who wanted to contribute "to our economy and society".

    "Over the years, immigration has been good for the UK. What is important is we have control of our borders and a set of rules to determine who comes into our country," she said.

    Despite this set-to, Trump restated his deep and cohering admiration for May, calling her "a terrific woman and doing a terrific job" who he would "much rather have as my friend than my enemy" and will "do very well" when she leaves office. He also claimed The Sun interview, in which he allegedly criticised the outgoing leader, misquoted him.

    "The story was generally fine but they didn't put in the tremendous things I had to say about the Prime Minister, which is why I record my discussions with reporters. They didn't put it in, but that's all right — I said to Theresa I wanted to apologise, but she said ‘don't worry, it's just the press'…I would describe the UK-US relationship the highest level of special, and I think Boris Johnson will make a great Prime Minister," he said.

    When asked whether he could do a trade deal with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Trump's facial expressions were almost answer enough.

    "I don't know Corbyn, I don't know him…he wanted to meet me, today or tomorrow, but I didn't want to meet him. He's a negative force, a negative guy, he criticises me when he doesn't know me, I don't like people who are critical," the President raged.

    One of the final queries related to the question of protests against the President's visit — in response, he said there were "thousands of people" on the streets cheering his arrival to Buckingham Palace yesterday, and they have returned today.

    "I didn't see any protesters yesterday…I did see some today, but it was a very small group. All the media reports of protests are fake news," he concluded.

    Fragile Coalition

    When Trump arrived in Downing Street, a great many protesters very much were gathering in Trafalgar Square, preparing to march to Parliament Square along Whitehall, passing Downing Street along the way. While far from the record-breaking turnout widely predicted by the mainstream media, a wide variety of groups were represented — students, Quakers, socialists, communists, anarchists, LGBT activists, pacifists, anti-fascists and more all wielded placards bearing slogans ranging from catchy to illegible.

    Anti-Trump Protesters Gather in London
    © Sputnik / Demond Cureton
    Anti-Trump Protesters Gather in London
    Next to the Canadian High Commission a group dressed in chicken outfits danced to various fowl-sounding songs, protesting the prospect of chlorinated chicken being permitted for sale in the UK under a US trade deal, while one stall attempted to hand out cups of milk to passers-by — none seemed interested though, and the stench the white liquid was already emitting due to the capital's muggy climate may have had something to do with it. Far more successful was one enterprising fellow carting round a shopping trolley full of rolls of toilet paper adorned with the President's face — a bargain at £5 for three.

    After some time waiting for the signal to leave, the collectives' respective chants began to mingle together into an indecipherable morass, and arguments broke out between opposing clans — perhaps over who was more radical. Still, when the announcement to go forth and protest issued from a make-shift podium at noon, the crowd began to trudge in unison to Parliament Square — there, Bob Marley songs quietly but incongruously issued from a mobile stage in front of Westminster Abbey, while the stalls of various political groups ringed perimeter of the square in preparation for the arrival of thousands of potential new recruits.

    However, the hordes never arrived, the sudden onset of extremely heavy rain seemingly dampening the crowd's collective revolutionary fervour and sending the majority scurrying back towards the pubs and transport links of Trafalgar Square. Few escapees seem particularly surprised though — after all, this is London in the summer, and this is what happens.

    In the event, only a few hundred would be present for a speech by Corbyn, who, whether Trump's claims are accurate or not, boycotted the previous evening's state banquet. Speaking from the mobile stage, Marley's dulcet tones extinguished, he expressed disappointment London Mayor Sadiq Khan has been "attacked in the way that he has", and accused Trump of spreading "hatred" and "racism".

    "I am absolutely not refusing to meet anybody. I want to be able to have dialogue to bring about the better and more peaceful world we all want to live in. I'm proud our city has a Muslim mayor, that we can chase down Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, any form of racism within our society because racism divides. When you've created that sense of hate, when you've destroyed people's self esteem by those forms of racism…you haven't built a house, you haven't built a school, you haven't trained a nurse, you haven't defended our natural world. All you've done is created a greater sense of hate and hatred that goes with it," he rambled.

    While his words received scattered applause from the audience, his warnings were apparently lost on many attendees, more focused as they were on engaging in verbal sparring with pro-Trump counter-protesters who'd arrived in the square.

    Building Bridges

    The only item left on Trump's official itinerary for 4th June is hosting a dinner at the residence of the US ambassador in Regents Park, North West London — leaving him ample free time to meet with a number of individuals, including several Conservative leadership candidates.

    Having been snubbed by Boris Johnson, the POTUS may be meeting with Michael Gove — although when asked for his opinion on Gove during the presser, Trump claimed to have not met him previously, a somewhat amazing oversight given the prominent Brexiteer was first to secure a UK interview with the President after his election. The pair sat down for a chat in Trump's "glitzy golden man cave", and Gove praised his intelligence and plans for the US — it was later revealed Rupert Murdoch, the controversial media owner whose newspapers are likely to back Gove for the party leadership, sat in on at least part of the interview.

    He will also meet Nigel Farage, seen arriving at the US ambassador's residence at around 4pm — the summit is sure to be a blast for both, given they enjoy a warm relationship indeed and have crossed paths many times — in an exclusive interview with The Times 2nd June,Trump said it was "a mistake" for the government not to involve the Brexit Party leader in negotiations with the EU.

    "I like Nigel a lot. He has a lot to offer. He is a very smart person. They won't bring him in. Think how well they would do if they did. They just haven't figured that out yet," the President said.

    ​Over the course of the meet, Trump may confirm whether suggestions Farage made to Fox News the previous evening were accurate.

    "There's a growing respect for the President in this country. The argument sovereignty matters, the argument nations need to be free to be proud…he's here at a good time. The great thing here is, what a huge success! It couldn't have gone better…I bet you President Trump is going to bed tonight thinking ‘wow, what a day I've just had'. It's been a superb day," he said.

    Given in the event of a no deal Brexit the state of relations between London and Washington could be the difference between success and oblivion, and the UK will at least in the short-term depend heavily on the political, financial and military support of its "best friend", many Britons are surely hoping Farage is right, and Trump's deaf ear to the dismal and deterred demonstrations that have marked his visit will endure. 

    Topic:
    Donald Trump's State Visit to the UK (49)

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