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article imageTrump stokes Britain's Brexit turmoil at start of visit

By Jerome CARTILLIER, Joe JACKSON (AFP)     Jul 12, 2018 in World

Donald Trump began a protest-laden trip to Britain Thursday by questioning whether Prime Minister Theresa May will deliver on UK voters' intentions when they decided to quit the European Union.

The convention-shredding US president ignored diplomatic niceties ahead of touching down for the four-day visit -- his first to Britain since taking power -- by rebuking his beleaguered host as she battles to stop her government falling apart over Brexit.

"The people voted to break it up (Britain's ties with the EU)," Trump said in Brussels following a NATO summit there just before flying to London.

"So I would imagine that's what they will do, but maybe they will take a little bit of a different route. I don't know (if) that is what they voted for," he added.

Asked about Trump's remarks while also in Brussels, May said: "What we are doing is delivering on the vote of the British people... that's what our proposal does."

The president and First Lady Melania Trump landed at Stansted Airport from where they were whisked by helicopter to Winfield House, the American diplomatic residence.

At a welcoming garden party, the Beatles track "We can work it out" played in the background.

- Unfavourable view -

Trump is set to largely avoid mass protests planned for his controversial trip, which includes talks with May, tea with Queen Elizabeth II and a private weekend in Scotland.

Before arriving he shrugged off the organised demonstrations, which on Friday will include a giant baby-shaped balloon bearing Trump's features and have required police to be mobilised from across the country.

"They like me a lot in the UK," he added in Brussels.

But some 77 percent of Britons have an unfavourable view of Trump, according to a poll by YouGov with 1,648 respondents.

Amnesty International on Thursday unveiled a 15-metre banner on Vauxhall bridge opposite the US Embassy branding him a "Human Rights Nightmare".

Map of Britain detailing Donald Trump's visit
Map of Britain detailing Donald Trump's visit

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who signed off on the so-called "Trump Baby" blimp, defended the decision Thursday, arguing the protests were not anti-American.

"But having a special relationship means that we expect the highest standards from each other, and it also means speaking out when we think the values we hold dear are under threat," he said.

Despite a series of diplomatic spats between Britain and Trump, May is hoping for a quick trade deal with the US after it leaves the EU.

"There is no stronger alliance than that of our special relationship with the US and there will be no alliance more important in the years ahead," May said ahead of the visit.

But Brexit champion Nigel Farage, conducting interviews outside the ambassador's residence after Trump's arrival, predicted there would be "confrontation" on the visit.

"The Americans can't believe, quite frankly, what a mess we're making of Brexit," he told the BBC.

- Dinner at Churchill's birthplace -

Trump arrived in Britain after a fraught NATO summit in Brussels where he piled pressure on allies to double their defence spending.

Donald Trump will have talks with Theresa May during his visit
Donald Trump will have talks with Theresa May during his visit

He is due to leave on Sunday for talks in Helsinki the following day with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose government May has accused of unleashing a lethal nerve agent in the city of Salisbury.

Russia has strongly denied the charge.

Britain "is in somewhat turmoil", Trump said before departing Washington, remarking that dealing with Putin might surprisingly be the easiest part of the European trip.

That turmoil includes the resignations of May's Brexit and foreign ministers over her plan to retain close ties with the EU after leaving the bloc in March.

May will host Trump later Thursday for a black-tie dinner with business leaders at Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of World War II prime minister Winston Churchill.

Donald Trump owns two luxury golf courses in Scotland  including Turnberry
Donald Trump owns two luxury golf courses in Scotland, including Turnberry

He is due to stay overnight back at Winfield House, where demonstrators plan to play recordings of migrant children held in US detention centres.

On Friday, May and Trump will hold talks, expected to focus on Brexit and Russia, at the prime minister's Chequers country residence followed by a press conference.

Trump next heads to Windsor Castle for tea with the queen, as protesters stage a mass demonstration in London.

He then travels north to Scotland where he will spend the weekend privately, joined by son Eric Trump. Trump's late mother hailed from Scotland, and he owns two luxury golf courses there.

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