UK trip axed as Trump says sale of embassy site a 'bad deal'

LONDON • United States President Donald Trump has cancelled a trip to London scheduled for next month to open a new embassy, blaming predecessor Barack Obama for selling off the old one for "peanuts" in a bad deal.

More than a year into his presidency, Mr Trump has yet to visit London, with many British voters promising mass protests against a US leader they see as crude, volatile and opposed to their values on a range of issues.

"(The) reason I cancelled 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 US$1.2 billion," Mr Trump said in a tweet late on Thursday.

"Bad deal. Wanted me to cut ribbon - NO!" he said.

The decision to acquire a new London embassy site on the south bank of the Thames was announced in 2008 under Mr George W. Bush along with the plans to put the Grosvenor Square site in Mayfair up for sale.

The American flag was this month removed from the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square - an area known as "Little America" during World War II, when the square also housed the military headquarters of General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The new embassy on the south bank is a veritable fortress set back at least 30m from surrounding buildings - mostly newly erected high-rise residential blocks - and incorporates living quarters for US Marines permanently stationed inside.

The US$1 billion (S$1.3 billion) construction, overlooking the River Thames, was funded by the sale of other properties in London.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 13, 2018, with the headline 'UK trip axed as Trump says sale of embassy site a 'bad deal''. Print Edition | Subscribe