LONDON | President Donald Trump has cancelled a trip to London to open the new $1 billion U.S. Embassy in the British capital, a move that avoided protests promised by political opponents.
Some U.K. lawmakers had said Trump was not welcome in Britain after he re-tweeted videos from a far-right British group and criticized London Mayor Sadiq Khan following a terror attack last year.
But Trump said his decision, announced in a late-night tweet, was due to concerns about the embassy’s move from the elite Mayfair district to a far less fashionable area of London south of the Thames River.
“Reason I canceled 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 1.2 billion dollars. Bad deal. Wanted me to cut ribbon-NO!” Trump tweeted.
The State Department, however, announced plans for relocating the London embassy in 2008, while George W. Bush was still president, because of concerns about security following the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
At the time, U.S. Ambassador Robert Tuttle said the decision to move to the five-acre site came after a “long and careful process.”
While the former embassy was on Grosvenor Square, in a tony area of designer boutiques and expensive restaurants, the new building is in a former industrial area south of the Thames that is being redeveloped into a new commercial and residential district.
The current ambassador, Robert “Woody” Johnson, said the change was necessary even though the U.S. had been linked to Grosvenor Square for more than 200 years.
“Security concerns after September 11 meant we had to move to a location that could better protect American citizens and our British neighbors,” he wrote in an article for London’s Evening Standard newspaper.
Johnson, a Trump appointee, also said the new embassy was entirely paid for by the sale of other London properties and “did not cost the U.S. taxpayer a cent.”