WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump won’t be paying a visit to London to open the United States’ billion-dollar embassy, he tweeted Thursday.
The trip, which would have been Trump’s first to Britain as president, had not been officially announced but was expected next month.
In the tweet, Trump blames his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, for the decision to sell the existing embassy, which he describes as “the best located and finest” in the city, for “peanuts.”
“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!” the full tweet reads.
The decision to move the embassy from Grosvenor Square to Nine Elms was made in 2008 under President George W. Bush, not Obama. It would have been impossible to retrofit the aging concrete building with the security measures needed, officials said at the time.
“We looked at all our options, including renovation of our current building on Grosvenor Square,” then-Ambassador Robert Tuttle said.
“In the end, we realized that the goal of a modern, secure and environmentally sustainable embassy could best be met by constructing a new facility.”
Ground was broken at the new site, in Nine Elms, in November 2013.
The existing complex in Grosvenor Square has been sold to Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, which will convert it into a hotel.
British officials said they were initially told to plan for a visit from Trump to London at the end of February. But word came from Washington in recent days that the trip was likely off.
The officials in London declined to say why, and said the decision was made by the Americans. But large protests are expected to accompany any presidential visit to the British capital, where Trump is deeply unpopular.
A British official said on Thursday the invitation to Trump for a state visit, first extended by British Prime Minister Theresa May during her visit to the United States early in Trump’s presidency, still stands: “The invitation for a State Visit has been extended and accepted,” the official said.
The official drew a distinction between the State visit, which would include a visit with Queen Elizabeth II and royal trappings like a horse parade, and a working visit, which would include a meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May and other diplomatic formalities like opening the embassy.