Trump's state visit will go ahead despite angry backlash


Donald Trump's state visit to Britain will go ahead despite a 1.8 million-strong petition, more noisy protests attended by thousands, and MPs' warnings against it, the Government has said.

As thousands of protesters gathered in Parliament Square on Monday, MPs in Westminster Hall called on ministers to heed the "Greek chorus of disapproval" and avoid "fawning subservience" to the United States president.

In the time-limited debate, about a dozen backbench MPs spoke in favour of the petition to downgrade Mr Trump's visit but Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan insisted the visit "should happen, the visit will happen".

He called on the UK to "extend a polite and generous welcome" to Mr Trump during his state visit, where he will be hosted by the Queen and afforded the pomp and ceremony attached.

Sir Alan said the "rare and prestigious" occasions are Britain's "most important diplomatic tool", adding: "They enable us to strengthen and influence those international relationships that are of the greatest strategic importance to this country, and even more widely, to other parts of the world as well."

But his calls for a cordial state visit are unlikely to be observed by those attending the rally outside Parliament, organised by the Stop Trump Coalition and campaign group One Day Without Us.

Scores of supporters carried signs and placards reading "Special Relationship: Just say no", and "No to racism; no to Trump", and chanted "No Trump, no Brexit; no racist EU exit".

Veteran Labour MP Paul Flynn, leading the debate in Parliament, called on ministers to listen to the demonstrators and downgrade the visit.

He likened the president's behaviour to a "petulant child" and urged ministers to avoid making the mistakes of the past when "very unsavoury characters" were invited on state visits.

SNP former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond also hit out at the visit.

He said: "As an example of fawning subservience... the Prime Minister's holding hands across the ocean visit would be difficult to match.

"To do it in the name of shared values was stomach churning.

"What exactly are the shared values that this House, this country, would hope to have with President Trump?"

But several Conservative MPs warned that Britain and the Queen would be made to look foolish if the invite was suddenly rescinded.

Conservative James Cartlidge said there would be "smiles all round in the Kremlin" if the UK withdrew its offer of a state visit to Mr Trump.

While fellow Conservative Sir Simon Burns said it is a "no brainer" the invite should be kept as a post-Brexit Britain will need to keep America close.

MPs also joined the protest, with shadow home secretary Diane Abbott warning there was a "dark shadow of racism and anti-immigrant sentiment" in the modern era, which was reflected in the Trump administration.

She said: "He (Mr Trump) was supported in his presidential campaign by white supremacists."

Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas MP, who came out of the debate to address the crowd, said Mr Trump was a "bully and a bigot" whose first 100 days in power had made it clear "what kind of future he is building".