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The U.K. government is spending millions of pounds on security and policing during President Donald Trump’s visit to the country, where mass protests are expected to greet the controversial leader.
U.K. police are mobilizing their biggest operation since riots struck in 2011 for the arrival of Trump. Around 4,000 officers are reportedly being deployed to provide extra security in the locations that Trump is visiting with the total cost estimated to be at least £12 million ($15.8 million).
In addition, Trump’s security includes 150 U.S. special agents, several armored vehicles, nicknamed “Beasts,” for his motorcade and his armored helicopter, Marine One, according to British newspaper The Mirror, which also said there would be rooftop snipers and counter-terrorism police deployed to keep the president safe during the trip.
Trump will attend a business dinner at Blenheim Palace on Thursday evening before staying at the U.S. ambassador’s residence in London. He will then observe a demonstration of U.S.-U.K. military cooperation before having a working lunch with Prime Minister Theresa May at her country retreat, Chequers.
The highlight for Trump is said to be his meeting with Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle on Friday afternoon before he travels to Scotland to play golf. There’s a lot of locations to secure for the Trump visit and police have been drafted in from across the country in the security effort.
Security expert Will Geddes said police would have an overt and covert presence from both U.K. security personnel and visiting U.S. agents.
“There is a very overt (security) presence, which is very important because it’s on a world stage and everybody’s going to be watching but there is this covert, clandestine element which is more covert in terms of technology and manpower, in terms of observing and monitoring any kind of electronic chat, but also potentially disrupting any possibility for a technical attack of some form or another,” Geddes, managing director of the International Corporate Protection (ICP) group, told CNBC Thursday.
He said security personnel would try to keep Trump’s ground transportation to a minimum, “particularly when you have possible protests as we will do in the next couple of days. They’ll try and keep as much (travel) as they can in the air.”
The U.K. Home Office will fit the bill for the policing costs with central government giving money to the regional forces overseeing the policing — the Metropolitan Police in London and Thames Valley Police overseeing Blenheim Palace and the visit to Chequers.
Despite estimates of the policing costs being widely reported (and some figures giving a figure of as much as £30 million) the Home Office said the full costs of the policing for the bulk of Trump’s visit in England would only be known after it has finished.
Forces like the Met and Thames Valley will apply for a grant to cover their costs. A Home Office spokesperson told CNBC the Metropolitan Police or Thames Valley Police had yet to apply for this funding.
“Any police force in England and Wales facing significant additional costs as a result of unplanned or unexpected events may request additional funding through the Police Special Grant,” a Home Office spokesperson said.
Trump is expected to travel to Scotland to play golf at one of his courses in Ayrshire — a visit that alone could cost £5 million ($6.6 million) to police. Police Scotland will not foot the bill for the visit after ministers balked at the cost, prompting the Home Office to step in. It said this on an “exceptional basis.”
“The government has confirmed that while policing is a devolved matter in Scotland, on an exceptional basis, the Treasury (in Westminster) will provide ring-fenced funding of up to £5 million to cover costs incurred by Police Scotland.”
Security expert Geddes said the authorities are aware that the international media will be scrutinizing the visit at a time when Britain’s terrorism threat is at its second highest level “severe”– with an attack deemed “highly likely.”
“Certainly the authorities understand that they will be under the spotlight. There is an ongoing prevailing terrorism threat in the U.K. so … everybody is going to need to contribute and throw into the mix. And this is a big concern to a certain extent in terms of the depletion of regional forces who are needing to be seconded to assist in this visit.”
Those opposing Trump’s visit on principle are not happy about British taxpayers having to pay for the president’s visit.
Layla Moran, a member of Parliament (MP) for the Oxford and Abingdon constituency, covered by the Thames Valley Police, said the U.S. should pay for the policing costs incurred during Trump’s stay.
“I know that Thames Valley police will do a first rate, professional job of keeping everyone safe and policing the visit by President Trump and the associated protests,” Moran told her local newspaper, the Oxford Mail.
“But it’s really not on that local police budgets should suffer as a result, or that the government should have to use taxpayers’ money to police a visit that the vast majority of people don’t want in the first place.” She said “scores” of residents in her constituency had contacted her to oppose the visit.
It is believed that the bulk of Trump’s visits will take place outside of the capital London in order to avoid planned demonstrations against the visit.
The London Together Against Trump protest on Friday will culminate in a rally in Trafalgar Square and there are events elsewhere in the U.K. as part of a series of “Stop Trump” events. https://www.stoptrump.org.uk/events
Thames Valley Police Commissioner Anthony Stansfeld has complained ahead of the visit that any protests will “make things more difficult and expensive for the police,” the Oxford Mail reported.