LONDON – President Donald Trump has praised the “eternal friendship” between the UK and US as he joined a state banquet at Buckingham Palace.
The Queen said the countries were celebrating an alliance which had ensured the “safety and prosperity of both our peoples for decades”.
The president is in the UK for a three-day state visit, which includes the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
Earlier in the day, Mr Trump criticised the mayor of London.
He tweeted that Sadiq Khan – who had said the UK should “not roll out the red carpet” for Mr Trump – was a “stone cold loser”.
But in his speech at the banquet, Mr Trump praised the courage of the British people during World War Two and called the Queen a “great, great woman”.
“In that dark hour, the people of this nation showed the world what it means to be British,” he said, adding that their bravery ensured that the destiny of the country “remained in your own hands”.
Mr Trump ended his speech with a toast to “the eternal friendship of our people, the vitality of our nations and to the long-cherished and truly remarkable reign of Her Majesty the Queen”.
The Queen praised the two countries’ role in creating an assembly of international institutions that would ensure “the horrors of conflict would never be repeated”.
On Twitter before the banquet, Mr Trump praised the welcome from the Royal Family as “fantastic” and said the relationship with the UK is “very strong”.
He also said a post-Brexit trade deal could happen once the UK removed the “shackles”, adding: “Already starting to talk!”
Large-scale protests are planned in several UK cities during the three-day visit, including in London, where a “national demonstration” will start at Trafalgar Square at 11:00 on Tuesday
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – who boycotted the state dinner – is due to attend and speak at the London demonstration, a party spokesman has confirmed.
Earlier, Mr Corbyn tweeted: “Tomorrow’s protest against Donald Trump’s state visit is an opportunity to stand in solidarity with those he’s attacked in America, around the world and in our own country – including, just this morning, Sadiq Khan.”
Mr Trump’s tweet about Mr Khan accused him of doing a “terrible job” as mayor, adding: “[He] has been foolishly “nasty” to the visiting president of the United States, by far the most important ally of the United Kingdom. He is a stone cold loser who should focus on crime in London, not me.”
A spokesman for Mr Khan said “childish insults” should be beneath the US president, adding: “Sadiq is representing the progressive values of London and our country, warning that Donald Trump is the most egregious example of a growing far-right threat around the globe.”
House of Commons Speaker John Bercow and Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable also boycotted the state banquet.
The Duchess of Sussex did not attend following the birth of her son Archie, who is less than a month old. On Sunday, Mr Trump denied calling the duchess “nasty”, despite him using the word on tape.
But the guests included the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as well as prominent Americans living in Britain.
As he stepped onto UK soil at Stansted Airport, Mr Trump was greeted by US Ambassador to the UK Woody Johnson and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Tory leadership candidate Mr Hunt, who has spoken about the importance of the UK’s relationship with the US, said Mr Trump mentioned to him “some of his very strong views about the mayor of London”.
Crowds were gathered outside Buckingham Palace as the president and first lady landed by helicopter shortly after midday.
The Queen presented Mr Trump with a first edition of Sir Winston Churchill’s book The Second World War, from 1959, with gilt decorations and hand-sewn bindings in the colours of the US flag. He was also given a three-piece Duofold pen set decorated with an EIIR emblem, in a design made exclusively for the monarch.
Mrs Trump received a specially commissioned silver box with a handcrafted enamel lid, decorated in royal blue with roses, thistles and shamrocks to represent the ceiling of Buckingham Palace’s music room.
After the private lunch, the Queen showed the couple American artefacts and other items from the Royal Collection. In a nod to the US leader’s Scottish heritage, he was shown a bolt of Harris tweed.
Mr and Mrs Trump met the Duke of York at Westminster Abbey, where they laid a wreath at the grave of the unknown warrior.
The president signed the distinguished visitor’s book in his customary black marker pen, describing the 13th Century church as a “special place”.
Their next stop was Clarence House, where they joined Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall for tea. -BBC