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The Donald Trump-shaped hole in Queen Elizabeth II’s speech

LiveMint logoLiveMint 21-06-2017 Thomas Penny

London: US President Donald Trump’s proposed visit to the UK later this year was conspicuous by its absence from Queen Elizabeth II’s speech setting out the program for Prime Minister Theresa May’s government.

Despite Trump accepting an invitation for a state visit during the premier’s visit to Washington in January, the queen only said she and her husband Prince Philip “look forward to welcoming” the king and queen of Spain in July. State visits have traditionally been announced by the monarch in her speeches to Parliament.

There were protests after Trump was invited so soon after his inauguration, and May said on June 6 that the president was “wrong” to criticize London mayor Sadiq Khan over his response to the London Bridge terrorist attack that killed eight people. Trump used Twitter to accuse Khan of being “pathetic,” in contrast to May saying that the mayor, a member of the opposition Labour Party, was “doing a good job.”

Britain is trying to persuade Trump to sign a post-Brexit trade deal. While his predecessor Barack Obama said Britain would be “at the back of the queue” if it voted to leave the European Union, Trump initially promised a quick deal with the UK before appearing to prioritize an agreement with the bloc it is leaving.

Police planning

Former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe said in February that the visit would take place in June and the force was preparing for “lots of protests.” That was before May called the 8 June election that cost her Conservative Party its parliamentary majority and a fire in a London apartment block that killed dozens and led to anti-government protests on the streets.

The prospect of Trump being greeted with demonstrations was only one aspect of planning for the proposed visit by the head of state of a crucial ally to Britain. The speaker of the House of Commons also made it clear that he would not be allowed to address Parliament.

"I don’t think we should be rolling out the red carpet to the president of the USA in the circumstances where his policies go against everything we stand for."- London mayor Sadiq Khan

“I feel very strongly our opposition to racism and to sexism and our support for equality before the law and an independent judiciary are hugely important considerations in the House of Commons,” John Bercow said when explaining his decision in February.

Asked about the state visit earlier this month, the London mayor said: “I don’t think we should be rolling out the red carpet to the president of the USA in the circumstances where his policies go against everything we stand for.”

Khan said Britain’s relationship with the US should be like a close friendship: “You stand with them in times of adversity and call them out when they’re wrong and there are many things about which Donald Trump is wrong.”

The absence of Trump’s visit from the speech is a far cry from the way the invitation was announced in the early days of his presidency.

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“I have today been able to convey Her Majesty the Queen’s hope that President Trump and the First Lady would pay a state visit to the UK later this year and I’m delighted that the president has accepted that invitation,” May said in a press conference in the White House in January.

James Slack, May’s spokesman, told reporters after the speech on Wednesday that the lack of a reference to Trump’s visit doesn’t mean it won’t go ahead.

“The reason it’s not included today is because a firm date hasn’t been fixed,” he said. “But the invitation has been extended and accepted.” Bloomberg

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