Trump met by British pomp and protest

trump britain

US President Donald Trump has traded one hot spot for another having left a contentious NATO gathering in Brussels and moving on to Britain, where he's found a government in turmoil over Brexit and protests overshadowing his visit.

But all was serene during a lavish black tie ceremony at Blenheim Palace, a short helicopter ride from London, where British Prime Minister Theresa May hosted a welcome dinner for Trump and his wife Melania on Thursday night.

Hundreds of demonstrators were chanting outside the US ambassador's resident on London's outskirts where the Trumps are staying providing a preview of what is to come during his two-day visit to Britain.

It was an oasis of warm greetings in Blenheim, the birthplace of larger-than-life British leader Winston Churchill, who has been cited by Trump as a model of leadership.

Trump's staff have opted for to keep the president largely out of central London.

More than 60,000 people are signed up to demonstrate in London on Friday and plan to fly a large balloon portraying Trump as an orange, snarling baby over parliament.

Trump's Marine One helicopter departure from the ambassador's residence was met by jeers from demonstrators banging pots and pans, and another pack of protesters lined roads near the palace. Their signs read: "Dump Trump," "Lock Him Up," "There Will Be Hell Toupee." Police worked overtime, their days off cancelled.

Before leaving Brussels, Trump played down the protests but acknowledged that he expected tension in Britain.

"I'm going to a few hot spots," Trump said, looking ahead to Britain and his summit in Finland on Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"And I said, 'Putin may be the easiest of them all.' You never know. But I'm going to a pretty hot spot right now - right? - with a lot of resignations."

The outdoor arrival ceremony at Blenheim - Trump wore a tuxedo and first lady Melania Trump a butter-yellow, chiffon off-the-shoulder gown - was a grand affair marked by a military band in bearskin hats, hundreds of business leaders in black tie and gorgeous setting sunlight.

The mood was far less jovial in Belgium earlier in the day.

During his 28 hours there, Trump had disparaged longtime NATO allies, cast doubt on his commitment to the mutual-defence organisation and sent the 29-member pact into frenzied emergency session.

Then, in a head-snapping pivot at the end, he declared the alliance a "fine-tuned machine" that had acceded to his demands to speed up increases in military spending to relieve pressure on the US budget. But there was little evidence other leaders had bowed to his wishes on that front.

Trump claimed member nations had agreed to boost their defence budgets significantly and reaffirmed - after days of griping that the US was being taken advantage of by its allies - that the US remains faithful to the accord.

"The United States' commitment to NATO remains very strong," Trump told reporters at a surprise news conference following an emergency session of NATO members held to address his threats.

Neither Trump nor NATO offered specifics on what Trump said he had achieved. French President Emmanuel Macron quickly disputed Trump's claim that NATO allies had agreed to boost defence spending beyond their existing goal of two per cent of gross domestic product by 2024.

"There is a communique that was published yesterday; it's very detailed," Macron said.

"It confirms the goal of 2 percent by 2024. That's all."

© RAW 2018 Photo credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP