21 Feb 2017

Protests as British MPs clash on Trump visit

1:23 pm on 21 February 2017

Thousands of protesters gathered outside the British parliament as MPs debated whether Donald Trump should receive a state visit.

Protesters outside the British parliament as MPs debate  whether Donald Trump's state visit should be blocked.

Protesters outside the British parliament as MPs debate whether Donald Trump's state visit should be downgraded. Photo: AFP

The largely parliamentary debate was triggered by two petitions. One, signed by more than 1.85 million people, called for the visit to be stripped of the trappings of a state occasion to avoid causing "embarrassment" to the Queen. The other, in favour, got 311,000.

Prime Minister Theresa May announced the state visit during a visit to Washington for talks with Mr Trump. A former head of the British Foreign Office said the invitation put the Queen in a "very difficult position".

Opening the three hour-debate, Labour MP Paul Flynn said it would be "terribly wrong" to go ahead with the visit, but Conservative Nigel Evans told the US president's critics to "get over it".

Mr Flynn, a member of the petitions committee, said there was "no question of any disrespect" towards the US in opposing Mr Trump's visit. The president had caused problems in "every political area in which he has become involved in" and had been " behaving like a petulant child".

He claimed a state visit would put the Queen "in an awkward position".

Mr Evans said the US president was criticised for implementing the policies he promised during the US election campaign.

Critics who "condemn him for being racist" are "attacking the American people" who voted for him.

Outside, a group of anti-Trump protesters gathered in Parliament Square ahead of a planned rally.

Campaigners from the Stop Trump Coalition say similar demonstrations will be held elsewhere around the UK, including in Edinburgh, Manchester, Liverpool, Cardiff and Newcastle.

Campaigners are marking "One Day Without Us", celebrating the contribution of migrants to the UK, coinciding with the United Nations' World Day of Social Justice.

The debate was largely symbolic and the state visit to Britain will go ahead.

Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan insisted the visit "should happen, the visit will happen".

Earlier this month the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, faced calls for his resignation from some MPs after he said he was "strongly opposed" to letting Mr Trump address parliament during his visit because of Parliament's "opposition to racism and sexism."

Mr Trump was invited to the UK for a state visit after just seven days as president, while it took 758 days for Barack Obama and 978 days for George W Bush.

The government has said it recognised the "strong views" expressed by the US president but looked forward to welcoming him once details have been arranged.

- BBC