US president expected to be in London during meeting of Nato heads of state and government
Donald Trump is expected to return to the UK for the second working visit of his presidency and what should be his first stay following Britain’s exit from the European Union.
The visit is designed to coincide with a Nato summit, due to be held in London in December, an event that will see Trump’s credentials as an Atlanticist back under scrutiny.
The Nato secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, confirmed that the summit would be held in the UK. It will be an important opportunity for Britain to demonstrate that outside the EU it remains committed to the Nato alliance, and the protection of mainland Europe.
Much of the summit is likely to be consumed by a collective response to America’s decision to pull out of the intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty, a decision supported by Nato members, but criticised by Russia.
Stoltenberg said: “I am pleased to announce that allies have agreed that the next meeting of Nato heads of state and government will take place in London in December 2019.
“The meeting in London will be an opportunity for allied heads of state and government to address the security challenges we face now and in the future, and to ensure that Nato continues to adapt in order to keep its population of almost 1 billion people safe.”
Nato said it was expected the meeting would be a summit of heads of state and government but it was up to individual nations to determine who to send.
Theresa May said she was “very pleased” the UK had been asked to host the leaders during the year of the alliance’s 70th anniversary.
“For 70 years Nato has been the cornerstone of our national security. But today’s challenges are very different from those we faced when the alliance established its first headquarters in London,” the prime minister said in a statement.
“The UK has played a central role throughout Nato’s history as it has adapted to deal with new and complex threats to our security.”
A firm supporter of Brexit, Trump is expected to praise the UK decision on the trip, and to attract protests and controversy. Downing Street is unlikely to be able to afford Trump a state visit, despite the offer made by May early in the Trump presidency. In practice his last visit in July, lasting four days and including a banquet at Winston Churchill’s ancestral home and a meeting with the Queen, was largely indistinguishable from a full state visit. The policing of the visit cost £14.2m.
The last Nato summit in the UK was held in Newport in September 2014. At that meeting member states committed themselves to a defence spending target of 2% of GDP, a goal that many member states have still not reached, to the fury of Trump. He accuses European states of freeloading at the expense of America.
He was reported to be willing to quit the Nato alliance last year, and to have been forced to rethink his plans by his previous defence secretary, Jim Mattis.
On his last visit, Trump alarmed his British hosts by criticising the way Theresa May was conducting the Brexit negotiations in an interview with the Sun.
On his last visit every effort was made to keep the president away from London due to security concerns, but he is expected to be in the capital for the summit. He has previously declined to visit the new US embassy in south London, declaring it was “off location” and calling the site “lousy” and “horrible”.
On Tuesday in Washington, he said in his State of the Union address that the US had been “treated very unfairly by friends of ours, members of Nato” over a period of years.
The summit was announced as Macedonia came a step closer to becoming the alliance’s 30th member when allies signed a key document at a ceremony in Brussels.
Nato said a precise venue and date in December was yet to be determined.