London (AFP) – US President Donald Trump will meet British Prime Minister Theresa May and Queen Elizabeth II on a long-delayed trip to Britain next week during which he will also discuss the prospects for a UK-US free trade deal after Brexit.
“The president has been very clear… he’d love to do a bilateral deal. He’ll get it done fast because I know it’s a major priority for him,” US ambassador Woody Johnson said in a phone briefing.
Johnson said Brexit was “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change direction” for Britain, adding: “Britain will make a success of Brexit because the UK is loaded with talent.”
Johnson said officials were already working on a deal, adding: “The president is ready and able to do that as soon as possible”.
Despite a series of diplomatic spats with Washington since Trump’s election, the British government is keen to strike a trade deal with the United States but the visit is likely to feature major protests against the US leader.
“Trump’s visit is an important moment to recognise our close relationship,” a spokeswoman for May told reporters.
Johnson said: “His mission is really to strengthen the special relationship.”
Trump’s trip will also take him to British wartime leader Winston Churchill’s birthplace and Scotland, his late mother’s homeland where he owns two luxury golf courses.
Trump will arrive from the NATO summit in Brussels on Thursday and will attend a black-tie dinner at Blenheim Palace, a country house near Oxford where Churchill was born in 1874.
The dinner, where Trump will be accompanied by First Lady Melania Trump, will be preceded by a military ceremony and guests will include British and US business leaders.
The couple will then stay at Winfield House, the US ambassador’s residence on the edge of Regent’s Park in London.
– Trump ‘aware’ of protests –
Trump on Friday will visit an unnamed defence facility with May and the two will hold talks at Chequers, the 16th-century manor house outside London that serves as her official country retreat.
Asked whether Chequers had been chosen to avoid a major demonstration planned in London on the same day, May’s spokeswoman said this was not the case and the venue was better for “more informal meetings”.
Ambassador Johnson said: “The president is not avoiding anything. The president is simply trying to get as impactful a trip as he can get in a 24-hour period.”
Johnson said Trump was “aware” of the planned protest, which will also feature a six-metre (19-foot) high balloon showing the president wearing a nappy.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who has been criticised by Trump for his handling of the aftermath of terror attacks in Britain, gave the go-ahead on Thursday for the giant blimp to be flown near the British parliament.
The talks at Chequers, which officials said would include relations with Russia and bilateral trade, will be followed by a press conference in the same place.
Trump and his wife will then travel to Windsor Castle to meet Queen Elizabeth.
They will then go to Scotland later on Friday and spend the weekend there before leaving on Sunday for a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin the following day in Helsinki.
The couple are expected to stay at Trump’s luxury golf resort at Turnberry, where he stayed in June 2016 on his first foreign trip after becoming the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.