LONDON — President Trump will meet Queen Elizabeth II during his visit to Britain next month, and many Brits are not amused.
Speaking to Kay Burley of Sky News, the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom confirmed the meeting. “Yes, he has to see the head of state. Putting his foot on the ground of British soil, it's job one — very, very important, very symbolic,” Robert Wood Johnson said when asked whether Trump's visit would involve seeing the queen.
“Meeting Her Majesty is the most important thing, because she's the head of state, and from there on, it'll be what the president wants to do,” he said during the interview.
While plans are still being finalized, Trump's July visit falls on Friday the 13th — a date considered unlucky by some. It will be Trump's first visit to Britain since being elected president in 2016.
On social media, news of the meeting did not go down well. “This is the man that rips young children from parents and locks them in cages!” tweeted one user, referring to a practice of separating families of illegal immigrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. “I find it hard to believe the Queen would meet with Trump,” wrote another. Facing domestic and international outrage, Trump issued an executive order Wednesday that ends family separation, instead keeping families together in federal custody while awaiting prosecution for illegal border crossings.
More than 1.8 million people signed a petition earlier this year in a bid to stop Trump from making a state visit to the United Kingdom. The president's visit has most recently been described as a “working visit” after being downgraded from a state visit by Prime Minister Theresa May last year. Until now, much debate has surrounded the visit and the question of whether a meeting with the monarch would go ahead. Working visits are typically more low-key and have less pomp and pageantry.
The ambassador's confirmation of the meeting with the queen comes after days of intense global condemnation of Trump. As details and photos emerged of children confined to cages and crying for their parents after being separated at the border, many Brits took to Twitter to call for Trump's invitation to be revoked. Pressure mounted on May to condemn what many called Trump's cruel family-separation policy, which she characterized as “deeply disturbing” in Parliament on Wednesday.
“The pictures of children being held in what appear to be cages are deeply disturbing. This is wrong,” May said.
The prime minister went on to verify that Trump would still be coming as planned and that she would be discussing “shared interests” with the president. “When we disagree with what they're doing, we say so,” she said in response to a Labour lawmaker's question about Trump's visit.
Trump has long been a controversial figure in Britain and has called into question the state of U.S.-British relations on numerous occasions.
From retweeting videos from the far-right hate group Britain First on Twitter last year, to criticizing the “off location” of the new U.S. Embassy in London, Trump is perceived as having weakened the “special relationship” between the two countries. In the last year, Trump has canceled his first planned trip to Britain (although Brits think they scared him away), blasted the wrong Theresa May on Twitter (who can forget the tale of Theresa May Scrivener?), maintained a long-running feud with London Mayor Sadiq Khan and demanded that the prime minister focus on “destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism” in the United Kingdom after a string of terrorist attacks.
Britain's longest-serving monarch, who is now 92 years old, has met with almost all serving U.S. presidents during her reign. From Vladimir Putin to Robert Mugabe, the queen has hosted many foreign leaders over the years. It is rumored that the meeting with Trump will take place at Windsor Castle, where Prince Harry married Meghan Markle during a lavish ceremony in May. The castle's website states that it will be completely closed on July 13, 2018, fueling speculation.
Mass protests across Britain are expected. More than 52,000 people confirmed on a Facebook event page that they will be marching on London's Trafalgar Square “as part of a carnival of resistance” to the planned visit.
A spokeswoman for the Royal Collection Press Office said there has not yet been a formal announcement about a meeting between Trump and the queen and so declined to comment further.