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Britons urge government to scrap plans for Trump state visit

Brendan Smialowski, AFP | British PM Theresa May (L) and US President Donald Trump meet in the White House on January 27, 2017

A petition urging the British government to deny US President Donald Trump a state visit surged past the 1-million-signature mark on Monday amid outrage over White House orders to temporarily ban immigration from several Muslim majority countries.

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The petition on the UK Parliament’s website could prove to be an embarrassment to Trump at the start of his mandate and to British Prime Minister Theresa May, who extended the invitation during a visit to Washington on Friday.

“Donald Trump should be allowed to enter the UK in his capacity as head of the US Government, but he should not be invited to make an official State Visit because it would cause embarrassment to Her Majesty the Queen,” the online petition read.

Petitions that gather more than 10,000 signatures earn the right for a response from the British government. Lawmakers consider all petitions that get more than 100,000 for a parliamentary debate.

There was nevertheless no guarantee that Trump’s visit, set for later this year, would be demoted or scrapped.

Asked about the petition on Monday, a spokesman for May said: "The invitation has been extended and it has been accepted. The UK and the U.S. have a very strong and close relationship and it is right that we continue to work together."

The petition was published before May’s invitation on Friday, but rapidly gained momentum over the weekend as thousands of noisy US citizens flocked to major airports to show support for immigrants and refugees affected by Trump's travel restrictions.

‘Save the Queen’

Graham Guest, a resident of northern English city of Leeds, created the petition to protect Queen Elizabeth II, and not in protest Trump’s actions as president.

“It just seemed a very incongruous thing for this man, with all of the things he’s said, to be with the Queen,” he told The Independent daily, noting the “misogyny and vulgarity” of Trump’s past comments.

However, Guest said that Trump’s order temporarily barring citizens of war-torn Syria and six other countries from entering the United States for 90 days “changes things slightly”.

“It’s added a new dimension to things and until that ban is lifted I don’t think he should come to the country at all in any capacity,” he was quoted by the British newspaper as saying.

Lawmakers from both Britain’s governing Conservative party and opposition Labour party criticised the immigration ban.

Ally or lapdog?

A “State” involves lavish pomp and ceremony, often with a stay at Buckingham Palace hosted by the Queen. Guest said he wanted to deny Trump a photo opportunity with the ageing monarch and the chance to “bask in [her] reflective glory”.

Even before the petition clinched more than 1 million signature on Monday, the three major opposition parties, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, have called for the state visit to be cancelled.

PM May last week came under fire for cosying up to Trump, who has repeatedly called NATO into question, defended torture as effective, and blasted climate change as a hoax.

During her visit to the United States, May complimented Trump on his “stunning election victory” last year and shared an awkward hand-holding moment that was widely commented on in the British press.

While some commentators saw it as a sign of the enduring bond between the US and Britain, others criticised what they thought was the prime minister’s haste to play lapdog to Trump as it prepares for an economic backlash when it leaves the European single market.

May came under intense political pressure after hesitating to condemn Trump’s ban on refugees and people from Muslim-majority countries. Late on Sunday she issued a statement saying she “does not agree” with the executive order.

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