British parliament debates petition to cancel Trump′s state visit as thousands protest | News | DW | 21.02.2017
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British parliament debates petition to cancel Trump's state visit as thousands protest

Prime Minister Theresa May's government has defended the invitation as part of the 'special relationship' between the United States and Britain. Lawmakers also debated a counter-petition.

Signs reading "Dump Trump" and "No to Racism, No to Trump" filled Parliament Square Monday as representatives debated a petition on whether to strike US President Donald Trump's state visit from the UK diplomatic agenda.

The petition, which called for the state visit to be canceled to save Queen Elizabeth any potential embarrassment, received some 1.8 million signatures in just a few days, forcing Westminster to debate the matter as is required when any government website petition receives over 100,000 signatures.

Lawmakers also reviewed a counter-petition against the Trump-ban petition that had received 300,000 signatories.

Lawmakers lambast the US President

As noise from the protesters drifted through Westminster's halls, parliamentarians engaged in their own heated debate in a packed side-room. Those opposing the Trump visit lambasted the US president as a racist, misogynist and "petulant child" during the course of three-hour long debate.

Conservative lawmakers, however, argued that rescinding the visit would be a severe insult to President Trump and would be "catastrophic" for the relationship between Britain and the United States.

 "He is the duly elected president of the United States. ... It would be a disaster if this invitation is rescinded," Conservative MP Edward Leigh said.

Critics have argued that May's invitation to Trump, issued just after Trump took office and just before Trump issued his controversial travel ban, was issued out of desperation to cozy up to the new US leader in hopes of securing a favorable transatlantic trade deal as the UK leaves the European Union.

Großbritannien Donald Trump und Theresa May auf einer Wandgemälde in London (Reuters/T. Melville)

For some critics, May's invitation is a sign of weakness stemming from Brexit

May defends the state visit

Meanwhile, May's government backed the decision to issue the state visit, calling it Britain's "most important diplomatic tool" and stating Britain should seek to solidify its relationship with the United States.

"In the light of America's absolutely pivotal role we believe it entirely right that we should use all the tools at our disposal to build common ground with President Trump," the UK Minister of State for Europe and the Americas, Alan Duncan, told lawmakers.

May was the first foreign leader to be received in the White House by the new President.

State visits to the UK are different from official visits, and individuals offered an invitation are received by the Queen and stay at Buckingham Palace, giving the visit a  ceremonial seal of approval. 

Critics of Trump's visit have pointed out that only two American presidents have been offered such an honor since the 1950's - George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Their visits were made only after they had been in office for several years. 

cmb/jm (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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