British Parliament debates whether Trump should be banned from visiting the UK

Posted at 1:37 PM, Feb 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-20 13:42:07-05
British Prime Minister Theresa May visited the U.S. in late January and met with President Donald Trump. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

British Prime Minister Theresa May visited the U.S. in late January and met with President Donald Trump. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

LONDON — The political controversy over the decision to accord US President Donald Trump the honor of a state visit to the UK will be reignited in the British parliament on Monday.

Members of Parliament will spend up to three hours discussing a petition calling for the visit to be downgraded because of Trump’s “well-documented misogyny and vulgarity.”

The petition attracted more than 1.8 million signatures, easily crossing the 100,000 threshold qualifying it for a parliamentary debate. A rival 310,000-strong petition in support of the state visit will also be discussed.

While the debate is largely symbolic, it will expose the fault lines caused by the decision of the British government to award Trump a state visit so early in his term of office.

The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, faced calls for his resignation from some MPs after he said he was “strongly opposed” to letting Trump address lawmakers during his visit because of Parliament’s “opposition to racism and sexism.”

Bercow is one of three parliamentary officials who must approve any invitation for someone to speak in Westminster Hall, the venue typically used for grand occasions of state, where Monday’s debate is being held.

The British government has already formally rejected the petition.

Protests planned

Controversy over Trump’s visit intensified after he imposed a travel ban — later blocked by courts in the US — on nationals from seven mainly Muslim countries.

Organizers of the Stop Trump Coalition say they expect up to 20,000 people to demonstrate outside the Houses of Parliament while the debate is under way. Smaller protests in support of migrants are due to take place around the country.

Final details for Trump’s visit, announced by Prime Minister Theresa May during her trip to Washington last month, have yet to be agreed.

According to the Guardian newspaper, options under consideration include inviting Trump in August when Parliament is in recess — allowing the government to swerve the controversy over whether the President should address lawmakers. That would also allow the Queen to host Trump at her summer retreat in the north of Scotland, Balmoral Castle, rather than the more high-profile Buckingham Palace in London.

If Trump’s trip was downgraded to an “official visit”, the President would be deprived of a ride in the Queen’s carriage, gun salutes, a banquet at Buckingham Palace and other ceremonial honors typically associated with full state visits.

No US President has received a state visit in his first year in office.

President Barack Obama was afforded the honor 28 months into his tenure, while George W. Bush was extended the invite after 32 months.