‘WE DON’T want to see Donald Trump in Portsmouth – his visit will ruin D-Day 75 for the people of the city’.
That is the defiant view of the leader of Portsmouth City Council who said the US president’s trip in June will ‘overshadow’ Britain’s commemorative event.
Rebellious Gerald Vernon-Jackson has been left furious after Downing Street ‘went above the head’ of the city council to roll out the red carpet for the leader of the free world - despite Portsmouth’s express wishes not to.
Now the Liberal Democrat leader fears the invitation of the divisive billionaire-turned-politician will throw the commemorative event on Southsea Common into chaos, with protests on the streets.
His calls have been echoed by Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth South MP, who said it was unacceptable taxpayer cash would be spent on the visit.
Speaking to The News moments after a joint press statement by Downing Street and the White House revealed Mr Trump’s visit to the UK – and to Portsmouth – Councillor Vernon-Jackson said: ‘We don’t want to see Trump in Portsmouth.
‘His visit has changed things dramatically for D-Day 75 and has ruined things for the people of Portsmouth.
‘We made a conscious decision not to invite him. We thought about inviting all the heads of state of Allied nations but decided against it.
‘Now Downing Street have gone over our head.
‘It will bring protests to Portsmouth because of Trump. That will change things for the worse.’
As revealed today, the president will be flying to Britain on Monday, June 3, as part of his long-awaited state visit.
His trip will see him meeting with the Queen, staying in Buckingham Palace and later visiting prime minister Theresa May in Downing Street.
The president will then travel to Portsmouth on June 5 to witness the city’s D-Day 75 spectacle on Southsea Common, which will be honouring the survivors of the Normandy invasion in 1944.
Portsmouth City Council is having to pay for the commemoration despite pleas to the government from city leader.
The cost of security for Mr Trump, however, is expected to be paid by Whitehall.
However, Mr Morgan said he found it ‘deeply saddening’ Downing Street could find the cash to spend on Mr Trump’s state visit but not on supporting Portsmouth’s spectacle.
He said: ‘The importance of the D-Day 75 commemorations, set to take place this June, transcend the presence of any one individual.
‘His last visit cost £18m in additional policing costs and sucked vital resources from our nation’s communities, it caused widespread protests and was a catalyst for division across our country.
‘I find it deeply saddening the government can’t find money for our brave veterans, but it can find money to give Mr Trump a state ceremony.’
Cllr Vernon-Jackson feared the announcement of Mr Trump’s arrival to the ceremony would lead to tightened security and could threaten to spoil things for spectators.
He said: ‘The people of Portsmouth will now be excluded from the ceremony.
‘It would have been a public event for veterans and people of the city to enjoy. Now there will have to be security fences all around the Common and it will be an invitation-only event.’
The comments by Cllr Vernon-Jackson have enraged Portsmouth’s Tory leader, Councillor Donna Jones, who branded him ‘childish’.
She feared the Lib Dem chief’s stance on Mr Trump’s ceremonial visit to Portsmouth could offend America.
‘I am disappointed with the comments from the leader of the council, Gerald Vernon-Jackson, who massively insults the people of America with his ill-advised statement about the president’s planned trip,’ she said.
‘It is not for the people of Britain to “pick” or even endorse the person, Donald Trump, but for us to respect the office of the president of America.
‘As democratic nations and close allies of the USA, Gerald Vernon-Jackson risks causing significant harm nationally and internationally in his child-like style politics in rejecting the wishes of the British government of a visit from the president of America who is after all the leader of the free world.
‘If the prime minster of the United Kingdom was treated in such a way when visiting the USA, Britain would be offended.
‘This is childish and besmirches Portsmouth’s reputation.
‘For many of the veterans, having the President of America attend the event will bring international focus to this global commemoration and present a once in a lifetime opportunity for the veterans.’
Councillor Vernon-Jackson stood by his comments and insisted Trump’s visit would overshadow the ceremony to honour the hundreds of D-Day survivors expected to be in attendance.
He added: ‘D-Day 75 is meant to be a commemoration. What will inevitably happen is that Trump’s visit will turn it into controversy.
‘That’s not right. We should be commemorating those who lost their lives.
‘So I’m really sad that the event will now change but you have to respect the office of the United States president.
‘We may not respect the man in that office but he will be treated cordially and politely.’