Why is Donald Trump’s tweet about visiting Britain headline news?

The US President cancels his visit to the UK. If only it were the other way round.


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Leading the news agenda today is Donald Trump cancelling his visit to the UK. He claims it’s because he doesn’t want to open the relocated US embassy because it’s a “bad deal”. The Mail reports that the prospect of mass protests, and the lack of pomp planned for the visit, also played a part in his decision.

So why is this news? First, because the US President said he’d visit Theresa May in the new year and this could look like a bit of a snub if a new date isn’t arranged, and second, because the idea of him visiting at all has been so controversial.

Not only was there a huge protest against Trump making an official visit to the UK in response to the Muslim travel ban last January, but MPs have even debated banning Trump from the UK and denounced him in a second debate as unworthy of the honour of a state visit.

Despite this, the Prime Minister and her government have stuck to their guns on the visit, which was scheduled for next month. And the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has lashed out at London mayor Sadiq Khan for saying Trump had “got the message” that Londoners won’t welcome him.

“The US is the biggest single investor in the UK – yet Khan & Corbyn seem determined to put this crucial relationship at risk,” Johnson tweeted. “We will not allow US-UK relations to be endangered by some puffed up pompous popinjay in City Hall.”

This all shows the UK’s desperation to have the US on its side, despite Trump’s values being completely out-of-step with the supporters Tories are haemorrhaging – socially liberal people, metropolitans, affluent ethnic minority voters. At the heart of that desperation is for a trade deal with the US, post-Brexit.

So yes, Trump’s decision is significant, but I can’t help wishing for the bigger – and more welcome – news if it were the other way round, and his hosts had called off the visit.

Anoosh Chakelian is the New Statesman’s Britain editor.