National / Politics / U.S. News

Amid protests, UK lawmakers to debate Trump visit invitation

Demonstrators hold placards as they listen to speeches Monday Feb. 20, 2017, in London, during a rally in Parliament Square opposing U.S. President Donald Trump as MPs debate his planned state visit to the United Kingdom. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)

Demonstrators hold placards as they listen to speeches Monday Feb. 20, 2017, in London, during a rally in Parliament Square opposing U.S. President Donald Trump as MPs debate his planned state visit to the United Kingdom. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)

LONDON (AP) — British lawmakers are set to debate a call for U.S. President Donald Trump to be denied a state visit to the U.K. — but the Conservative government insists the invitation remains firmly in place.

Trump opponents plan to demonstrate outside Parliament in London as legislators hold a non-binding debate Monday. It comes in response to an online petition with more than 1.8 million signatures saying a formal state visit “would cause embarrassment to Her Majesty the Queen.”

On state visits, foreign leaders are welcomed with royal pomp and military ceremony, and usually stay at Buckingham Palace as guests of Queen Elizabeth II.

Lawmakers will also consider an opposing petition, with more than 300,000 signatures, backing the state visit.

All petitions that receive more than 100,000 signatures are eligible for debate in parliament, though not a binding vote.

During her 65-year reign, the queen has welcomed many leaders with less-than-spotless records, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and the late Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. A 2015 state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping drew protests from Tibetan groups and human rights activists.

But Trump’s invitation has sparked unprecedented opposition, especially after his executive order temporarily barring citizens of seven majority-Muslim nations from entering the United States.

Thousands of people demonstrated against the order in British towns and cities, and London Mayor Sadiq Khan urged the government to reconsider its invitation in light of Trump’s “cruel” migrant ban, which has since been suspended by U.S. courts.

House of Commons Speaker John Bercow set aside his customary political neutrality to say that Trump should not be invited to address Parliament when he comes to Britain — an honor given to his predecessor, Barack Obama.

Dates have not yet been announced for Trump’s visit, expected later this year. The government said in a statement responding to the petition that the state visit “reflects the importance of the relationship between the United States of America and the United Kingdom.”

“We look forward to welcoming President Trump once dates and arrangements are finalized,” it said.
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