Donald Trump will largely avoid London as he tries to shun mass protests during his controversial trip to the UK, the British government has confirmed.
The US President’s four-day tour will instead include a military parade at Winston Churchill’s birthplace of Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, talks with Theresa May at her Chequers country home, and tea with the Queen at Windsor Castle.
Trump will spend just a few hours in the capital, when he overnights at the US Ambassador’s residence in Regent’s Park.
But he will not visit Downing Street, Buckingham Palace or the Houses of Parliament, all of which are expected to feature the biggest protests ever seen during a visit by an American President.
US Ambassador to London Woody Johnson denied that Trump was running away from the protests.
“The President is not avoiding anything. The President is merely trying to get as impactful a trip as he can get within a 24 hour period,” Johnson said.
“This is a short trip its packed with things he has to do. We [the US Embassy] are in central London, so he will be spending a lot of time in central London.”
Johnson confirmed that Trump would also use his Marine One helicopter to get around most of the UK rather than travel in a motorcade.
“He will use various modes of transportation..to get to these sites will require being in the air,” he said.
At each of his major stops, maximum distance will be put between the President and the protestors, but thousands of people are expected to make as much noise as possible to make their presence felt.
The ‘working visit’ lacks the status of a full state visit, but organisers of the event on both sides of the Atlantic have tried to meet Trump’s demands for ceremonial pomp, a military theme and rounds of golf in Scotland.
However, the Stop Trump coalition is still planning a Carnival of Resistance across the entire country, and demonstrations – against Trump’s sexism, racism and treatment of migrants – are planned not just in central London but also some of the stops on his now public itinerary.
With some Britons expected to take days off work to attend the protest, the main demo in London next Friday will start outside the BBC’s headquarters and end at Trafalgar Square. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has given the go-ahead for a giant “Trump baby” inflatable balloon to be tethered above Parliament Square.
Asked about the protest balloon, Ambassador Johnson said: “We are all aware of these things but the President is keenly focused on what his objectives are.
“He appreciates free speech both in this country and our country, it’s one of the things that binds us together, the freedoms we share.
“But I know he’s going to be very focused on the special relationship and making sure that’s improved and that our security and prosperity are enhanced on this trip.”
Amid security worries, intense secrecy has shrouded the President’s plans for months, but Downing Street finally announced details of the event on Friday.
Trump will arrive on Thursday July 12, when he will come directly from the NATO summit in Brussels.
The Prime Minister will then host the President and the First Lady for a black-tie business dinner at Blenheim Palace, the ancestral home of the Spencer Churchill family. The event will begin with a military ceremony performed by the bands of the Scots, Irish and Welsh Guards. The bands will play the Liberty Fanfare, Amazing Grace, and the National Emblem.
Other guests at the dinner include business chiefs representing firms with US-UK trade links in financial services, the travel industry, creative industries, the food and drink sector, engineering, tech, infrastructure, pharmaceuticals and defence.
During dinner, the Countess of Wessex’s Orchestra will perform a series of classic British and American hits. The Royal Regiment of Scotland will pipe the President out at the end.
The President and Melania Trump will then overnight at Winfield House, the US ambassador’s residence in the middle of Regent’s Park. At both Blenheim and Winfield House, large protests are planned.
The next morning, the President and the Prime Minister will visit a defence site, yet to be made public, to witness “a demonstration of the UK’s cutting-edge military capabilities and integrated UK-US military training”.
The pair will then travel to Chequers for bilateral talks on a range of foreign policy issues, over a working lunch. Trump and May will then hold a joint press conference, the only point on the visit when media will have direct access to the President.
The President and the First Lady will then travel to Windsor Castle to meet The Queen, a key moment of the entire trip.
On Friday evening, they will travel to Scotland, where they will spend the weekend. It is understood that the British government will play no part in the Scottish leg of the trip as it is a ‘private element’ of the official visit.
Trump may visit his Trump Turnberry resort and play golf with an as yet unnamed fellow golfer. Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy played a round with the President at his Florida retreat last year but was criticised afterwards.
Asked by HuffPost about the possibility of the President playing golf - just before he meets Vladimir Putin for their first ever summit - Ambassador Johnson refused to rule out the idea.
But he stressed that the main focus during the Scottish leg of the trip was preparation for the meeting with Putin in Helsinki, Finland on Monday July 16.
“Whether the President plays golf I’m not sure. He’s going to spend a lot of time preparing for Helsinki,” he said. “His schedule hasn’t been finalised.”
The entire four-day trip appears designed to keep protestors at bay. Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire is more than 60 miles from London and is set in 2,000 acres of grounds. Theresa May’s official country residence of Chequers is in Buckinghamshire and well protected from any communal or public gathering spots.
Windsor Castle is heavily protected, although Trump will be able to hear any protests in the streets the other side of its thick stone walls. The President’s limo, dubbed ‘the Beast’, will be used for parts of the trip but he is expected to travel largely via his Marine One helicopter.
The Scottish leg of the trip will see big demonstrations in Glasgow on Friday and Edinburgh on Saturday.
Ambassador Johnson also stressed that Trump was keen to sign a UK-US trade deal as soon as practicable after Britain quits the EU.
“Britain has a once in a lifetime opportunity to change direction. I’m very confident which ever way this goes that Britain will make a success of Brexit,” he said.
“The President has been clear right from the beginning of his term. He’s said he’d love to do a bilateral trade deal.
“And he’s ready to step up on that the minute we get the go-ahead to do it and he’ll get it done fast because I know it’s a major priority for him.
“We are not advocating hard or soft [Brexit]. Whether it’s hard or soft we know Great Britain is going to do very well.”