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Q&A: Trump’s claims over US Embassy in London

World News | Published:

How certain was the President’s trip to the UK and which administration sold the embassy building in London?

US president Donald Trump will not be opening the new US Embassy in London, calling the move a “bad deal” and the location “off”.

On Friday morning he tweeted: “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!”

Here is an assessment of each of the president’s claims.

Newspapers on Trump inauguration
Theresa May offered Donald Trump a state visit when she met him after his inauguration (Lauren Hurley/PA)

:: Was a UK trip definitely going ahead?

Mrs May controversially extended the offer of a state visit when she became the first world leader to meet Mr Trump in the White House following his inauguration last year.

Since then, however, the president has indicated he does not want to take up the invitation if he is going to face mass demonstrations.

British government sources said they had never officially been informed of a date, but there was speculation Mr Trump would formally open the embassy at a ceremony in February.

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In December, the American Ambassador Woody Johnson expressed his desire for the president to be present at the opening ceremony, but stressed a date had not yet been fixed for his visit.

The White House said in the same month it would announce details “soon” of Mr Trump’s proposed visit.

George W Bush
The Bush administration took the decision to sell the old embassy though the sale took place during the Obama government (PA)

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:: Was the Obama administration responsible for selling off the embassy?

The decision was taken by the Bush Government in 2008 – the year Barack Obama was elected.

Then-president George W Bush cited security as the main reason for the sale, while US officials said it would have taken several years and hundreds of millions of dollars to bring the Grade II-listed London Chancery Building up to scratch.

The actual sale of the building took place under the Obama Government in 2009 to a Qatari government investment fund, which plans to turn it into a hotel.

:: Was it sold for “peanuts”?

The building was leased to the US embassy from the Grosvenor Estate under a peppercorn long-term lease. It was then sold in 2009 to a Qatari government investment fund, which plans to turn it into a hotel. The price has not been revealed.

:: Is the new location “off”?

While it does not hold the history of the Mayfair site, which was home in some form to the Americans for two centuries, a multibillion-pound redevelopment is currently transforming the area surrounding the new building.

Panoramic views of the Thames can be enjoyed through gold-starred floor-to-ceiling windows, while a glimpse of Westminster provides a reassuring nod that the capital’s political heart is just minutes away.

It is situated within the Nine Elms development – a £15 billion regeneration project set to transform one of the last industrial stretches on the river’s South Bank.

Developers hope the area will become a thriving business hub, with Penguin Random House UK and Apple set to open offices south of the river, as well as the arrival of thousands of new homes, 25,000 new jobs, green spaces and visitor attractions.

London Underground’s Northern Line will also be extended, with two stations providing fast links to the city due to open in 2020.

New US Embassy in London
US Ambassador to the UK, Woody Johnson, was last month hopeful that Mr Trump would visit to open the new embassy (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

:: How much did the development cost?

The US Embassy said the overall cost of the project was approximately one billion US dollars, while the president said it was slightly higher at 1.2 billion.

It was funded entirely from sale of US government property in London, the embassy said. It did not give a more precise figure.

:: Did they want him to cut the ribbon?

In December, Ambassador Woody Johnson expressed his desire to have Mr Trump formally open the new building.

He was optimistic about the space, and told reporters he thought the president would be “very impressed” by it.

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