LONDON - “Is he coming, really? Oh, bloody hell!” was the response of one diner at an upscale restaurant near the Houses of Parliament in London Monday night, after hearing news that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump will visit Britain later this month.
The reaction was as expected in a country where more than a half-million people, offended by Trump’s remarks about Muslims, signed a petition six months ago to ban him from entering Britain. That petition led to a debate in parliament in January, but there was no vote to legally bar him because British law would only allow such an action if ordered by the home secretary.
Trump angered many in Britain when he pledged to ban Muslims temporarily from the United States last year, following a terrorist attack in California. Prime Minister David Cameron at the time called the remarks “divisive, stupid and wrong.”
Sadiq Khan, who became London’s first Muslim mayor last month, called Trump’s views on Islam “ignorant.” Trump responded by challenging Khan to take an IQ test.
Pundits early Tuesday noted almost everything surrounding the billionaire-turned-politician’s visit will be characteristically controversial. Trump is scheduled to arrive on June 24, an especially sensitive time in British politics because it is one day after British voters will have cast ballots in a landmark referendum that will decide whether their country remains in the European Union.
Trump has spoken in favor of Britain’s exit, or Brexit, from the EU, but has tempered his stance by saying it is a matter for British voters to decide.
British analysts say they expect that Trump, if elected, will temper his style, adapt to the office of the president, and behave more diplomatically than he is perceived to be doing as a presidential candidate.
Some analysts say many people in Britain are coming to terms with the possibility that he may become president of the United States. Few believe the historically strong relationship between Washington and London would suffer.
“I think the relationship will be better than people suppose,” Philip Collins, a speech writer for former Prime Minister Tony Blair, told VOA. If American voters elect Trump in November, he said, “Britain would respond in the way that Britain tends to, which is to say ‘what a peculiar choice they have made but, hey, it’s their choice.’”
The prime minister’s office did not indicate there are any plans for Cameron to meet with Trump.
The purpose of Trump’s visit is to attend the reopening ceremony of his Turnberry golf resort in Scotland after a $300 million refurbishment.
Trump is expected to receive a warm welcome from some Scottish politicians who could include those who supported a ban against him, notes Keith Boyfield, a London economist. “How far will the Scots be pleased to see him if he’s going to be writing checks to provide jobs in areas of high unemployment?”
“Perhaps you’ll see some of those Scottish politicians having selective memories about what they’ve said in the past,” he said.