Mon | Aug 20, 2018

UK lawmakers debate downgrading Trump invite for state visit

Published:Tuesday | February 21, 2017 | 12:00 AM
President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May walk along the colonnades of the White House in Washington, Friday, January 27, 2017.


US President Donald Trump should not be afforded the "rare privilege" of a state visit, a British opposition lawmaker said yesterday as Parliament debated a call for Trump's invitation to be downgraded and stripped of its royal seal of approval.

The non-binding debate was called in response to an online petition with more than 1.8 million signatures saying that a formal state visit "would cause embarrassment to Her Majesty the Queen".

As lawmakers meeting in a side-room of Parliament rather than the House of Commons chamber debated, hundreds of Trump opponents gathered outside to protest.

Opening the debate, Labour Party legislator Paul Flynn pointed out that only two other US presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have been invited for state visits since the 1950s.

State visits are distinct from official visits and see foreign leaders welcomed with royal pomp and military ceremony. Most stay at Buckingham Palace as guests of Queen Elizabeth II.

Flynn said that Trump had shown an "Orwellian" disregard for the truth and behaved "like a petulant child". He said that a state visit would make it appear as if the queen were "approving the acts of Donald J. Trump".

He urged the Conservative government to "consider this with a bit of humility ... and change the invitation to one for a visit, not a state visit".

Both Bush and Obama made their state visits several years into their tenures. Prime Minister Theresa May invited Trump a week after his January 20 inauguration.

Some lawmakers said May's haste to bolster the trans-Atlantic "special relationship" as the UK prepares to leave the European Union had an edge of desperation.

"We didn't do this for Kennedy," Labour lawmaker David Lammy said. "We didn't do this for Truman. We didn't do this for Reagan. But for this man, after seven days, we say, 'Please come and we will lay on everything because we are so desperate for your company?'... I am ashamed that it has come to this."