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Tens of thousands expected to protest at Donald Trump UK visit

Tens of thousands of protesters are expected to take to the streets as Donald Trump meets with Theresa May on Friday to discuss a possible trade deal on a four-day working visit to the UK.

Trump was met with handshakes and smiles when he landed at Stansted in Airforce One at 1:51pm on Thursday, but voluble protests immediately kicked off in earnest, with banners questioning his human rights record unfurled on Vauxhall Bridge and protesters gathering to make a wall of noise outside the US ambassador’s residence.

Trump – who heralded his trip by announcing that “Brexit is Brexit” and questioning whether the British government was enacting the will of the people – will largely avoid the capital or other cities that could host significant protests. He will instead be kept mainly insulated from the public at various country estates or palaces and will travel mostly by air.

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Nonetheless, protesters will seek to draw his attention, with a giant Trump baby blimp to be flown over Westminster on Friday morning before an estimated 70,000 people take to the streets in angry protest. There will be rallies in Glasgow and Manchester as well as a women’s march in London and the flagship Stop Trump protest, ending in Trafalgar Square.

On Thursday night, Trump was due to attend a black-tie dinner at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, the birthplace of Winston Churchill, attended by business leaders as well as most senior members of the cabinet.

On Friday it is understood that he will join May for a counter-terrorism demonstration by UK and US special forces at Sandhurst, before the main business element of his trip: talks with May and the new foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, at the PM’s Chequers country retreat, including a working lunch.

Downing Street said that the talks would cover trade, Brexit, Russia and the Middle East.


‘I think they like me a lot in the UK’, says Donald Trump – video

Later on Friday Trump and his wife, Melania, who will spend some of her time on separate engagements with May’s husband, Philip, will have tea with the Queen at Windsor Castle before flying to Scotland, where they are expected to visit Trump’s golf resorts in Aberdeenshire and Ayrshire and stay at the 120-room Trump Turnberry hotel.

Further protests are planned in Glasgow and Edinburgh during the weekend, including a “carnival of resistance” including country fete-style games mocking the president.

Before he left an at times chaotic Nato summit in Brussels, Trump commented Brexit was heading on a different route to the one the British people expected, and the UK could end up with a closer relationship with the EU than had been predicted.

Speaking at a press conference as he prepared to leave the Nato summit for his first official visit to the UK, Trump did not explicitly call for a hard Brexit, insisting he was not interfering in the internal affairs of the UK, but his remarks are likely to disturb No 10 as it battles to shore up support for Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal.

“I would say Brexit is Brexit,” said Trump. “The people voted to break it up so I imagine that is what they would do, but maybe they’re taking a different route. I’m not sure that’s what they voted for.”

He added that it seemed as if the UK was “getting at least partially involved back with the European Union. I’d like to see them be able to work it out so it could go quickly.”

In response, May said: “What we are doing is delivering on the vote of the British people.”

Trump said he had been reading up closely on Brexit in recent days and he described the UK as “a pretty hot spot with many resignations”.

He had already described the UK as a country in turmoil, and held back from endorsing May’s leadership, instead praising the former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who resigned on Monday in protest at the Brexit deal that May presented to the cabinet at her Chequers retreat at the weekend.

Trump also said he had told EU leaders they had to be careful because immigration was “taking over Europe”, and this had been the reason for Brexit. He said he would be taking on the EU later this month by demanding a change to trade tariffs under the threat of imposing controls on German car exports to the US.

He insisted he was popular in the UK, citing his strong line on migration. “They like me a lot in the UK. I think they agree with me on immigration.”

A Guardian/ICM poll released on Wednesday showed 53% of respondents disagreed with the idea Trump was doing a good job, and 63% disagreed with the statement that they would like to see a politician like him as British prime minister.

Donald Trump’s itinerary graphic

Almost as the plane landed, a banner reading: “Donald Trump: human rights nightmare” was unfurled by Amnesty UK on Vauxhall Bridge, opposite the US embassy.

As Trump arrived at Winfield House, he was greeted by a large group of people while the Beatles’ song “We can work it out” played in the background. But protesters pledged to make his stay at the residence as uncomfortable as possible, by holding an “all-night noise protest” in Regent’s Park near the US embassy. A ring of steel fences and concrete bollards has been erected around the US ambassador’s residence.

US embassy workers said Trump had given a short speech, with one saying: “It was very complimentary to England and to the allies that we have, very positive.”

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