A petition urging the British government to cancel a state visit by President Trump in response to his controversial new immigration policy has amassed more than one million signatures.
The groundswell of public support for the petition began as news spread about Trump’s executive orders to stop accepting refugees and temporarily block people from seven countries with a majority Muslim population.
“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 petition’s author, a solicitor from Leeds, a city in the north of England, wrote.
Prime Minister Theresa May was widely criticized in Britain on Monday for failing to speak out against the measures which were introduced hours after she became the first foreign leader to meet with the newly-inaugurated president at the White House on Friday.
It was during that visit that May announced Queen Elizabeth II had invited Trump to visit Britain later this year as part of a formal state visit.May’s office sought to qualm the outrage by issuing a statement saying “we do not agree with this kind of approach” but firmly stated that immigration policy in the U.S. was a matter for the U.S. government alone.
Many lawmakers on all sides of the political divide said that was simply not good enough.
Opposition Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn said the country should be in “no rush” to welcome Trump onto home soil adding that he would object to Trump’s visit until the current ban is lifted.
Even within May’s own Conservative Party, there was outrage.“I’m a British citizen & so proud to have been welcomed to this country. Sad to hear I’ll be banned from the USA based on my country of birth,” Iraqi-born MP Nadhim Zahawi wrote on Twitter.
During a debate in the House of Commons on Monday, foreign secretary Boris Johnson condemned Trump’s actions but also stopped short of saying that the state visit should be cancelled.
"I share the widespread disquiet and I have I’ve said that it’s divisive, I’ve said that it’s wrong and that it stigmatizes people on the grounds of their nationality.”
But, he added, the government would be working to protect the rights and freedoms of UK nationals globally and did not want to severe ties with its US allies for fear that would have a detrimental impact on British citizens. There was, however, widespread confusion, and conflicting information, about how the ban would affect Britons.
On Sunday, the foreign office said the clampdown would not likely impact British citizens traveling to the US, even if they had shared nationality with a country on the temporarily banned list, namely Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sunday, Syria and Yemen.
But the US embassy in London temporarily posted an “urgent notice” on its website saying any citizens from those banned countries, including dual nationals, should hold off applying for a visa. The page has since been removed from the website.
The petition quickly became the second most popular on the government’s website, behind one calling for a second referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU after the country voted to leave by 52% to 48% in June.
A previous petition calling for then-Republican presidential candidate Trump to be banned from the UK for suggesting he would ban Muslims from entered the U.S. also received more than half a million signatures, prompting a debate in parliament where MPs discussed the issue passionately, describing Trump as a “buffoon” and a man who invited “violent ideology.”
Any petition that amasses more than 100,000 votes must be debated in Parliament, though the outcome is not legally binding.Graham Guest, the petition’s author, said he was not a political man but started the petition because he thought “a state visit would legitimize his presidency in a way that it shouldn’t be.”
Boyle is a special correspondent