Trump Calls Off Planned Trip to London

President

Donald Trump’s

decision to cancel a planned trip to the U.K., long intended to be his first official visit to the country, became the latest indication of strains in ties between the U.S. and Britain.

Mr. Trump confirmed in a post on his Twitter account late Thursday night that the visit wouldn’t take place, hours after British newspapers attributed the move to the U.S. leader’s desire to avoid protests.

iframe.twitter-tweet
width: 100% !important;

He had been set to attend the official opening of the new U.S. Embassy in London, but said he didn’t want to endorse a bad deal made by the Obama administration to sell the old embassy for “peanuts.”

The decision to move the U.S. embassy was made in 2008, during the administration of President

George W. Bush.

The frosty relations between the U.K and the U.S. are uncomfortable for Prime Minister

Theresa May.

Her government has sought to court support from Mr. Trump—one of the few world leaders who supported Brexit—as it negotiates its exit from the European Union, while also distancing herself from his controversial statements. Most recently, Mrs. May criticized Mr. Trump in late November when he retweeted messages from a British far-right group.

Mrs. May was the first leader to visit Mr. Trump in Washington after his inauguration and invited him to a state visit, which usually involves a stay at Buckingham Palace and a banquet with the queen. That visit hasn’t happened yet, and politicians and members of the public have called for the British leader to rescind her invitation.

The trip canceled by Mr. Trump had been designed as a working visit, not a state visit.

A wax model of Donald Trump outside the new U.S. embassy in London.
Photo:

Leon Neal/Getty Images

Last year, as thousands of people protested Mr. Trump outside Parliament, lawmakers debated whether to deny Mr. Trump the state visit. A petition to stop him visiting has garnered more than 1.8 million signatures.

A British official said Friday that the U.K. hadn’t been aware of a scheduled date for the president’s visit and that the issue was a matter between the U.S. Embassy and the administration.

“We were never informed of a date for the visit—it’s not something we ever set out,” the official said. The official said the invitation for a state visit is still open, and the U.S.’s ambassador to the U.K.,

Woody Johnson,

said last year he hoped Mr. Trump would visit in early 2018.

But the mayor of London,

Sadiq Khan,

wrote Friday on his Twitter account that Mr. Trump isn’t welcome. “Many Londoners have made it clear that Donald Trump is not welcome here while he is pursuing such a divisive agenda,” Mr. Khan wrote. “It seems he’s finally got that message.”

With U.S. Embassy Move in London, Hide and Seek Tradition Winds Down

Every weekday around 7:30 a.m., people arrive at the U.S. Embassy in London and engage in a local tradition in American foreign affairs. They hide their stuff in bushes and trash cans. Read More.

A spokesman for Mrs. May said Friday that Mr. Trump is welcome in the U.K. and that he had accepted an invitation for a state visit. “The U.S. is one of our oldest and most valued allies and our strong and deep partnership will endure,” the spokesman said.

British Foreign Secretary

Boris Johnson,

however, criticized the opposition Labour Party and Mr. Khan for trying to put the relationship between the U.K. and the U.S. at risk. “We will not allow U.S.-U.K. relations to be endangered by some puffed up popinjay in City Hall,” Mr. Johnson wrote on his Twitter account.

Mr. Trump, in his Twitter post late Thursday, gave a different explanation than what had been reported in the U.K., saying that he was angry that the U.S. Embassy had moved from its Grosvenor Square location.

“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. Bad deal. Wanted me to cut ribbon-NO!” Mr. Trump wrote shortly before midnight in Washington.

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REGENT’S

PARK

LONDON

Old U.S.

Embassy

Tower of

London

HYDE PARK

Buckingham

Palace

River Thames

New

Embassy

1 mile

1 km

The U.S. considered many options when deciding how to upgrade the U.S. Embassy in a historic square in the Mayfair neighborhood to meet new security standards, but ultimately decided to move, and selected the current Nine Elms site out of 50 properties.

The embassy was constructed with proceeds from the sale of other U.S. government property in the U.K., including the former property in Grosvenor Square. The U.S. sold the old embassy to the property arm of Qatar’s sovereign-wealth fund for an undisclosed sum in 2009. British media estimated the sale to be about £500 million, or more than $800 million, based on exchange rates at the time.

A spokesman for the U.S. embassy in London said Friday that the old embassy had aged beyond its ability to be improved to the required standards without extensive investment in infrastructure.

“We are strongly committed in the special relationship between our two countries and we are confident the new embassy will provide the necessary platform to continue our cooperation,” the spokesman said.

The U.K. in 2009 granted English Heritage status to the 1950s building, an early work of the architect

Eero Saarinen.

Protected buildings are subject to restrictions on renovations and refurbishments, which can lower their sale prices.

Earlier Thursday, Mr. Trump sparked a new international outcry after referring to African countries and others by using a vulgarity.

Write to Louise Radnofsky at louise.radnofsky@wsj.com, Felicia Schwartz at Felicia.Schwartz@wsj.com and Jenny Gross at jenny.gross@wsj.com

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