The United Kingdom is rolling out the red carpet for US President Donald Trump on Monday as he arrived in Britain for a state visit already mired in controversy after his outspoken remarks on Brexit and support for Boris Johnson.
Trump’s Air Force One plane, carrying him and First Lady Melania landed at the Stansted Airport, near London this morning.
Queen Elizabeth II will welcome Trump and his wife Melania to Buckingham Palace, where they will be treated to a guard of honour, a private lunch and a glittering state banquet.
But beneath the pomp and ceremony, Britain is in turmoil with Prime Minister Theresa May due to step down within weeks over her handling of her country’s exit from the European Union.
In typical fashion, Trump already ripped up the diplomatic rule book before he even touched down by saying former foreign minister Boris Johnson would make an “excellent” choice to succeed May.
He also recommended May’s successor walk away from talks with Brussels, refuse to pay Britain’s agreed divorce bill and leave the EU with no deal.
The much vaunted UK-US “special relationship” was already under strain over different approaches to Iran, China and the Paris climate change accord.
Opposition politicians are boycotting the banquet over what London’s mayor Sadiq Khan called Trump’s “divisive behaviour” and large protests are expected across the capital.
But May and Trump are expected to emphasise the wider benefits of the old alliance when they hold talks at Downing Street on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, they will join other world leaders in the English port of Portsmouth to commemorate 75 years since the D-Day landings, which changed the course of World War II.
“Our relationship has underpinned our countries’ security and prosperity for many years, and will continue to do so for generations to come,” May said ahead of the visit.
May announced her resignation last month after failing to get her Brexit deal through parliament and twice delaying Britain’s EU departure.
She will formally quit as her Conservative party’s leader on Friday, but will stay on while they find someone to replace her.
Three years after the referendum vote for Brexit, Britain remains divided and anxious about its place in the world.
Trump recommended the new government “walk away” from talks with the EU if it cannot get a good deal, and refuse to pay the £39 billion (45 billion euros, $50 billion) divorce bill May agreed.
In an interview with the Sunday Times newspaper, the mercurial republican leader emphasised that there was “tremendous potential” for Britain to trade with his country after Brexit.
Trump also said he might meet with Johnson, one of 13 candidates vying to replace May, as well as pro-Brexit populist leader Nigel Farage during his UK visit.
“They want to meet. We’ll see what happens,” he told reporters before he left the United States.