President Trump is headed to Paris next month, the White House announced Wednesday, to celebrate Bastille Day at the invitation of France's young new president Emmanuel Macron.
It's a surprising move. Trump and Macron have not given much hint of a close relationship. In fact, their relationship might be better described as antagonistic, with diverse issues such as climate change, French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, and the firmness of their handshakes appearing to divide the two world leaders.
But the greatest shock about the visit to France may have been not in Paris or Washington, but in London — where some wondered what exactly it meant for the so-called special relationship if the U.S. president would head to the French capital but not Britain's.
Trump is still supposed to go to Britain for an official state visit, of course — a reciprocal gesture for Prime Minister Theresa May's speedy decision to become Trump's first visitor to the White House in late January. However, despite months of discussion, no trip has yet materialized. Some reports in the British press even suggested that the trip was canceled for now, though the White House later denied this. Last week, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the visit was still being arranged.
As news of Trump's visit to Paris appeared Wednesday, some Brits expressed their frustration that Trump appeared likely to visit their neighbors across the channel first as their visit stalled.
“The Special Relationship….. c’est fini,” wrote columnist and television personality Piers Morgan in the Daily Mail, adding that the fault lay not with Trump but with “idiotic self-serving politicians and left-wing celebrities.” On Twitter, broadcaster Julia Hartley-Brewer suggested that British critics of Trump were hypocrites for not doing the same to Macron.
Heads exploding across the UK as everyone who criticised Theresa May for inviting Trump now have to explain why it's ok for Macron to do it. https://t.co/MV9ZNTtLcl
— Julia Hartley-Brewer (@JuliaHB1) June 28, 2017
Generally, such sentiment appears strongest among right-wing and pro-Brexit Brits, but even some outsiders suggested the France trip could be a loss for Britain. Erik Brattberg, the Swedish-born director of the Europe Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, wrote on Twitter that it was a “brilliant move” by Macron and that May “must feel snubbed” if the trip goes ahead.
However, if Trump's trepidation about visiting London is the threat of protests and his uneasy relationship with the city's liberal Muslim mayor, Sadiq Khan, a trip to Paris may not seem any safer. A recent poll from Pew Global Research found that while just 22 percent of Brits had confidence in Trump, an even lower 14 percent in France felt the same. Trump has also made a number of comments about Paris that proved controversial in the capital city — but the city has hit back too, with its Socialist Mayor Anne Hidalgo telling reporters last year that “Mr. Trump is so stupid, my God.”
And as protest-heavy as London can sometimes seem, Parisians are hardly inexperienced on that front either.
There's another important factor to consider though. Trump was already scheduled to be in Europe from July 5-8, when he will visit Poland and Germany. Bastille Day is July 14, which would leave a significant gap during which a trip to London may be possible. But with May in a difficult place politically after a disastrous decision to call an early election cost her a parliamentary election, you have to wonder if a visit from the ever-controversial U.S. president is really so appealing right now.
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