Trump Coming to U.K. in July But Will Protesters Get a Look-In?

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(Bloomberg) -- British opponents of Donald Trump looking forward to shouting at the U.S. president in person this summer could be disappointed. Signs point to him being kept as far away as possible from the masses when he comes.

His visit on July 13 is not the full state visit initially promised by Prime Minister Theresa May more than a year ago. Early reports suggest his big moments may be held outside of London in anticipation of protests.

What is certain, is that his presence in the capital would test the metropolitan police’s ability to control crowds while allowing space for free speech. For May, it will be a chance to redress the balance in their relationship after she was ridiculed for holding his hand during a visit to the White House in January 2017.

Ever since May delivered an invitation from Queen Elizabeth II, the mere prospect of a visit from Trump has caused consternation for groups campaigning for women’s rights, environmental protection and anti-racism. A smorgasbord of left-wing causes have been itching for the chance to vent their anger. An online petition to stop the visit has more than 1.8 million signatures.

So far the only details of the itinerary are “bilateral talks” with the prime minister during a trip Trump’s spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders described as a “working visit.” John Bercow, speaker of the House of Commons, has already said he would not be welcome to address Parliament, so that’s off the agenda.

The prospect of a trip has been stop-start ever since Trump’s inauguration.

The president said in January that he had “cancelled” a visit to London to formally open the new U.S. embassy because he thought the building was “a bad deal.” The then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson later explained the president was avoiding a visit to Britain to allow May to concentrate on Brexit.

Trump’s criticism of London Mayor Sadiq Khan last year over his response to terrorist attacks, alongside his retweeting of propaganda by a fringe far-right U.K. political group stoked anger at the president. Trump even directly criticized May for condemning his retweets of Britain First, saying she should mind her own business.

But throughout the process May’s office has insisted that relations between the two leaders are good, especially since they worked together to bomb Syria earlier this month. “We’ve seen in recent weeks how close and special the relationship is between the U.K. and the U.S.,” May’s spokesman James Slack told reporters on Wednesday when asked if May was worried that French President Emmanuel Macron had supplanted her in Trump’s affections.

Sanders said the announcement of the visit was “pretty exciting news around here, which we’re all happy about.”

The only people happier might be the protesters. The hashtag #ShowYourRumpToTrump has been revived on social media, after first appearing when a visit was mooted last year.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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