LONDON – A petition calling on Britain to cancel President Donald Trump’s state visit surpassed a million signatures Monday, meaning that it will be considered for debate in the British Parliament.
The popularity of the petition follows the controversial introduction of strict new rules on traveling to America. Trump provoked a worldwide backlash after signing an executive order for a 30-day ban to prevent people from seven predominantly Muslim countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – from entering the United States. It also stopped the U.S. refugee program for three months. Trump has insisted that the order is not about religion, but an interim measure.
British Prime Minister Theresa May announced during a joint press conference with Trump on Friday – before the ban was ordered – that Trump had accepted an offer by Queen Elizabeth II for a state visit later this year.
The petition to rescind the state visit began two months ago, but signatures began to pour in after the travel restrictions were announced.
Graham Guest, 42, of Leeds, said he launched the petition because he did not want Trump to embarrass the queen. Trump should not be allowed to “bask in the queen’s reflective glory,” he told the Independent newspaper.
The petition argues that Trump should be allowed into the United Kingdom but not invited on an official state visit. “Donald Trump’s well documented misogyny and vulgarity disqualifies him from being received by Her Majesty the Queen or the Prince of Wales,” it reads.
If a petition receives over 100,000 signatures, then Parliament will consider it for debate.
When asked about the petition, a spokesman for Downing Street said of Trump: “He has been invited and he has accepted.”
May faces criticism from across the political spectrum because the country intends to roll out the red carpet for Trump.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said that the state visit should not proceed while “a cruel and divisive policy which discriminates against citizens of the host nation is in place.”
“I hope President Trump immediately reconsiders his Muslim ban,” she added.
Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition Labour party, has said that May should cancel the state visit and “stand up to Trump’s hate.”
May has also come under fire for not condemning the ban as quickly or forcefully as other European leaders.
After initially refusing to condemn the measure, May’s office released a statement saying that it “does not agree” with the approach. A spokesman for the German chancellor Angela Merkel, by contrast, described the measures as unjustified “general suspicion against people of a certain origin or a certain religion.”
Boris Johnson, Britain’s foreign secretary, has since tweeted that it’s “divisive and wrong to stigmatise because of nationality.”
Nadhim Zahawi, a Conservative member of Parliament who was born in Iraq, told the BBC he thought the ban was “demeaning” and “sad.” His twin sons are studying at Princeton University and he initially thought he would be blocked from entering the U.S. because he has dual citizenship in Iraq and Britain.
Over the weekend, the British government clarified that the ban would not apply to dual citizens from the named countries, but that dual nationals traveling from one of the seven countries could face extra checks.
While many on the left have attacked May for appearing to cozy up to Trump – epitomized by a photograph showing the two leaders holding hands outside of the White House – others have argued that she is only doing her job and it would be foolish not to engage with the elected leader of the United States.
If British lawmakers launch a debate on Trump, it wouldn’t be the first time. Last year, British politicians debated whether to ban Trump from the U.K. following the controversial remarks he made about Muslims while on the campaign trail. Lawmakers called Trump “an idiot,” a “ridiculous xenophobe” and a “buffoon.” The petition that triggered that debate received over half a million signatures.
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