Government insists on 'full courtesy' of state visit for Trump despite petition


The Government has insisted that US President Donald Trump should be extended the "full courtesy" of a state visit to Britain later this year in response to a 1.85-million strong petition against it.

In a statement, the Foreign Office said the Government "recognises the strong views expressed by the many signatories of this petition, but does not support this petition".

Support for the call to downgrade Mr Trump's visit because it would be "embarrassing" for the Queen snowballed after he imposed a travel ban on nationals from seven mainly Muslim countries.

The Government was compelled to reply to the petition because it garnered more than 10,000 signatures.

MPs will debate it in the House of Commons on Monday alongside a rival 300,000-strong petition in support of the state visit after they both reached the 100,000 signatures threshold to be considered for discussion in Parliament.

Responding to the anti-state visit petition, the Foreign Office said: "HM Government believes the President of the United States should be extended the full courtesy of a state visit. We look forward to welcoming President Trump once dates and arrangements are finalised.

"HM Government recognises the strong views expressed by the many signatories of this petition, but does not support this petition.

"During her visit to the United States on 27 January 2017, the Prime Minister, on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen, invited President Trump for a state visit to the UK later this year. The invitation was accepted.

"This invitation reflects the importance of the relationship between the United States of America and the United Kingdom. At this stage, final dates have not yet been agreed for the state visit."

Prime Minister Theresa May has been criticised for offering Mr Trump a state visit too soon in his already highly controversial presidency.

Barack Obama only received an invitation after 758 days, while it took 978 days before his predecessor, George W Bush, was offered a state visit, compared with seven days for Mr Trump.

The backlash against the visit has also caused controversy in Parliament, where Commons Speaker John Bercow is facing calls to resign after branding Mr Trump "racist" and "sexist" and effectively banning him from addressing MPs and peers in Westminster Hall during the trip.

The travel ban, which sparked mass protests in the UK and around the world, has since been suspended after two states - Washington and Minnesota - sued and a federal court rejected a US government appeal.

Mr Trump has promised to take action "very rapidly" in response to the ruling, which he reacted to in customary style on Thursday, tweeting "SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!"

Meanwhile, the president has been rocked by the resignation of his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, following reports that he misled White House officials about his contacts with Russia.

A US official has told the Associated Press that Mr Flynn was in frequent contact with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak on the day that Mr Obama imposed sanctions on Russia for presidential election-related hacking.