WASHINGTON — President Trump said he’s canceling a planned trip to London because he doesn’t want to cut the ribbon at the new U.S. embassy there that he described as as “bad deal.”
Trump’s on-again, off-again visit to the United Kingdom had been in the planning stages but hadn’t been officially announced. The latest cancellation is sure to increase tensions with a vital ally that has broken with Trump recently over his anti-Muslim rhetoric. Some neighborhoods in London declared themselves off-limits to the president.
Trump confirmed his decision on Twitter late Thursday night after British newspapers reported that fears of mass protests had scuttled the trip. But Trump gave a different reason, blaming former President Obama.
“Reason I canceled my trip to London is that I am not a big fan of the Obama Administration having sold perhaps the best located and finest embassy in London for ‘peanuts,’ only to build a new one in an off location for 1.2 billion dollars,” Trump said in a tweet late Thursday. “Bad deal. Wanted me to cut ribbon-NO!”
However, Trump’s tweet misrepresented the history of the U.S. Embassy move. According to the State Department, it was the administration of President George W. Bush — not Obama — that decided to build a new embassy in 2006 and chose the new location in 2008.
The billion-dollar price tag is typical of an embassy construction of that size, and officials said it was financed entirely by the sale of other U.S. property in England — not new taxpayer money.
The diplomatic compound moved to Nine Elms, a formerly industrial area of southwest London.
Trump’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, Woody Johnson, described the new embassy last month as a “signal to the world” that the “special relationship” between the two nations “is stronger and is going to grow and get better.”
White House officials could not be immediately be reached to clarify the reasoning behind the decision.
There was also no immediate reaction from British Prime Minister Theresa May’s office. The trip was intended to be a working one. A separate, official full state visit for which not date has been set is still apparently on.
Trump will visit the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland later this month.
Kim Hjelmgaard and Jane Onyanga-Omara contributed from London.