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UK speaker opposes letting US President Trump address parliament

Britain's House of Commons speaker has announced in the chamber that he was 'strongly opposed' to allowing US President Donald Trump make an address there. A state visit is planned later this year.

The speaker of the British parliament's lower house, John Bercow, has opposed the idea of US President Donald Trump giving a speech to parliament. The speaker said that this was "not an automatic right, it is an earned honor."

To applause from opposition lawmakers in the house, Bercow told the house on Monday afternoon that he was against extending the invitation even before Trump's temporary ban on citizens of seven majority-Muslim nations entering the US. He said that after the migrant ban was issued he was "even more strongly opposed."

Treffen mit dem US-Präsidenten - May bei Trump (Reuters/C. Barria)

Trump's state visit to the UK was announced during Prime Minister Theresa May's recent trip to the US

"We value our relationship with the United States (…) but I feel very strongly that our opposition to racism and to sexism and our support for equality before the law and an independent judiciary are hugely important considerations in the House of Commons," Bercow told parliament.

Critical reactions

Bercow is one of three officials who would have to agree to any speech in parliament the government requested.

The speaker, who chairs parliamentary debates, is required to remain politically impartial, which is why his remarks have been regarded as unusual. UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, a strong supporter of Trump, said on Twitter that Bercow should be "neutral" as is required of his role.

Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn meanwhile praised Bercow for his stance, saying that the UK had to "stand up for our country's values."

Trump has accepted the invitation to make a state visit to Britain later in the year that Prime Minister Theresa May made during her recent visit to Washington. She was the first foreign leader to meet with the new president. However, there has been mounting opposition from politicians as well as members of the public in the UK against the state visit.

Several other national leaders visiting the UK in the past have held speeches in parliament during state visits. They include Trump's predecessor, President Barack Obama and South African President Nelson Mandela.

More than 1.8 million people have backed an online petition urging the government to downgrade Trump's state visit. Parliament will debate the petition on February 20. Some 163 MPs have also signed a parliamentary motion opposing an address by Trump, citing the ongoing controversy surrounding the US travel ban and Trump's comments on torture and about women.

ss/jm (AP, AFP, dpa)

 

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