The Associated Press LONDON (AP) — Thousands of protesters against U.S. President Donald Trump rallied outside Britain’s Parliament on Monday, while lawmakers inside urged the government to rescind its offer to the president of a state visit stamped with pomp, pageantry and royal approval.
In a passionate debate that’s unlikely to change the British government’s position, Trump was labeled a misogynist, a bigot and a “petulant child” by opposition legislators. They argued that a state visit planned for later this year will demean the U.K. and Queen Elizabeth II, the president’s official host.
Conservative lawmakers, however, said revoking the invitation would do far more harm. Tory lawmaker Edward Leigh said canceling the state visit would be “catastrophic” to the trans-Atlantic relationship.
“He is the duly elected president of the United States. ... It would be a disaster if this invitation is rescinded,” Leigh said.
Monday’s debate was called after more than 1.8 million people signed an online petition calling for the state visit to be downgraded.
All petitions on the government’s website that receive more than 100,000 signatures are eligible for debate in Parliament, though not a binding vote. Lawmakers on Monday also considered an opposing petition, with more than 300,000 signatures, backing the state visit.
No formal vote was held at the end of the three-hour debate, which took place in a side-room of Parliament rather than the House of Commons chamber. The chants of protesters outside could be heard as lawmakers spoke.
Labour Party legislator Tulip Siddiq said Trump should not be allowed to spread “his bigotry, his misogyny, his division” in Britain. Another Labour lawmaker, Daniel Zeichner, called the president “a disgusting, immoral man.”
“We do not welcome bigots,” he said.
Labour’s Paul Flynn pointed out that a state visit was a “rare privilege” given to only two other U.S. presidents since the 1950s — George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
State visits are distinct from official visits, and see foreign leaders welcomed with royal pomp and military ceremony. Most stay at Buckingham Palace as guests of the monarch, and Flynn said a state visit would make it appear as if the queen were “approving the acts of Donald J. Trump” — a man Flynn said had behaved “like a petulant child.”
Both Bush and Obama made their state visits several years into their tenures. Prime Minister Theresa May invited Trump a week after his Jan. 20 inauguration.
Some lawmakers said May’s haste to bolster the trans-Atlantic “special relationship” as the U.K. prepares to leave the European Union had an edge of desperation.
“We didn’t do this for Kennedy,” Labour lawmaker David Lammy said. “We didn’t do this for Truman. We didn’t do this for Reagan. But for this man, after seven days, we say ‘Please come and we will lay on everything because we are so desperate for your company?’... I am ashamed that it has come to this.”Speech