President Trump promised Britain a “substantial trade deal” after its exit from the European Union, making the pledge Tuesday on the second day of a state visit marked by majestic pomp and major protest.
Trump told outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May that the U.S. wanted expanded trade with a post-Brexit U.K. and suggested she “stick around” to see it through. However, May has already announced her intention to step down because of her inability to get an E.U. withdrawal agreement approved by Parliament, a failure for which Trump has mocked her on previous occasions.
As the two leaders met over breakfast with business leaders Tuesday morning, protesters gathered in London’s government district to show their opposition to Trump and his denial of climate change, his immigration policies and the move by conservative U.S. states to restrict abortion rights. The famous balloon depicting the president as a snarling baby in diapers, which made global headlines during Trump’s less formal visit last year, was raised again over Parliament Square.
“It’s still a powerful image, and it’s still holding a mirror up to the biggest bully in the world,” said Matt Bonner, the blimp’s designer. “In terms of it being offensive, Donald Trump is a notoriously offensive person. This is kind of all about giving him a taste of his own medicine.”
Demonstrators braved spells of rain to throng Trafalgar Square and surrounding areas, some in costume as women in “The Handmaid’s Tale,” others toting placards that proclaimed “Liar” and “Dump Trump,” beneath a huge model figure of Trump tweeting while sitting on the toilet. The number of protesters, though in the tens of thousands, looked to be smaller than the estimated 250,000 who turned out last July. London police deployed about 3,000 officers to keep order.
There were also protests planned in several other British cities, including Edinburgh, Oxford, Sheffield and Birmingham.
Trump’s day of work meetings Tuesday came after the pomp and circumstance of the previous night’s state banquet, hosted by Queen Elizabeth II, at Buckingham Palace. As is customary at such events, the two heads of state toasted the friendship of their nations. But Trump also took time earlier Monday to snipe at London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who has called Trump the “poster boy of the far right,” and to complain about CNN.
Those two contrasting tableaux – the juvenile insulting of Khan and the royal splendor of the state banquet – dominated the front pages of Britain’s press. “Tea and antipathy,” said the Guardian. “Pomp and protest,” declared the Daily Mirror tabloid. The BBC and Sky News have provided wall-to-wall coverage, concentrating on the pageantry, the politics and the posturing in equal measure.
On Tuesday evening, Trump will host a dinner at the U.S. ambassador’s residence that will be attended by Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla. On Wednesday, Trump and May will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.