U.S. President Donald Trump announced Friday he will no longer attend the opening of the new U.S. embassy in London, a move welcomed by critics in Britain who had planned mass protests. He wrote on Twitter that he was abandoning the trip, initially scheduled for next month, because he did not like the location and price tag of the new building.
"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 wrote. "Bad deal. Wanted me to cut ribbon - NO!"
There had been speculation that the trip would be merged with a planned state visit to Britain offered to Trump by Prime Minister Theresa May, which has met with strong public and political opposition.
A spokesman for her Downing Street office said Friday said that the state visit plans have not changed, although no date has yet been set.Opposition to Trump's visit was initially focused on his travel ban on Muslim-majority countries, and most recently his re-tweet of anti-Muslim videos posted by a far-right organization, Britain First.
"Many Londoners have made it clear that Donald Trump is not welcome here while he is pursuing such a divisive agenda. It seems he's finally got that message," tweeted Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. He said there would have been "mass peaceful protests", adding: "This reinforces what a mistake it was for Theresa May to rush and extend an invitation of a state visit in the first place."
The decision to move from the former prestigious location in Mayfair, central London, was taken by the administration of former Republican president George W. Bush in October 2008, partly for security reasons in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks. In December, Ambassador Woody Johnson said he was looking forward to welcoming the president when he visited, adding: "I think he will be very impressed with this building and the people who occupy it." He said the new embassy was a "signal to the world that this special relationship that we have is stronger and is going to grow and get better."