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Diplomacy

New US embassy in London, snubbed by Donald Trump as a ‘bad deal’, opens its doors to the public

Trump’s plans to visit Britain have met resistance from some politicians and activists who disagree with his policies on a number of fronts

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2018, 8:25pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2018, 8:25pm

The new US embassy in London, denigrated last week by US President Donald Trump as too expensive and poorly located, opened its doors to the public on Tuesday for the first time.

The gleaming embassy, in the formerly industrial Nine Elms neighbourhood in south London, replaces the embassy in Grosvenor Square that had for decades been associated with the US presence in the United Kingdom. That building has been sold to a Qatari government investment fund planning to turn it into a luxury hotel.

US officials say it would have cost hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade security at the older building and bring it up to modern safety standards.

Trump tweeted last week that he would not come to London to open the embassy because the new embassy represented a poor investment.

The president’s tweet read: “Reason I cancelled 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!”

I am not a big fan of the Obama Administration having sold perhaps the best located and finest embassy in London
Donald Trump

Though Trump blamed predecessor Barack Obama for the expensive new embassy, the project was in fact announced in October 2008 during the presidency of George W. Bush.

Trump’s plans to visit Britain have met resistance from some politicians and activists who disagree with his policies on a number of fronts, including his actions on immigration and climate change. Substantial protests were expected.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who Trump has repeatedly criticised, said Trump seems to have “got the message” that many Londoners find his policies to be intolerant and wrong.

Trump is still invited for a state visit – to be hosted by Queen Elizabeth – but no date has been set. The invitation was extended by the British government nearly a year ago during Trump’s first days in office.

US officials say the new embassy cost US$1 billion (£1.38 billion) and was paid for entirely with money raised by the sale of other US government properties in London.

The new building, with its distinctive cube shape, is nearly twice as large as the Grosvenor Square facility. It is the single most expensive embassy building ever built by the United States.

Robert Johnson, appointed by Trump as US ambassador to Britain, called the new energy-efficient embassy a “bargain” during a pre-opening tour for journalists last month. He said the embassy, which does not have a perimeter fence, is both welcoming and secure.

There were no ceremonies to mark the official opening of the facility on Tuesday.