Donald Trump 'not welcome' in London borough after council passes motion opposing US President's visit

Formal motion passed by council attacks President's retweets of far-right extremist group Britain First

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
@lizziedearden
Friday 15 December 2017 10:35
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A formal motion ‘noted with sadness the President’s bigoted attitude towards women and ethnic minorities’
A formal motion ‘noted with sadness the President’s bigoted attitude towards women and ethnic minorities’

A London council has called on the Government to revoke its state visit invitation to the “bigoted” US President after he shared messages from a far-right group.

A motion passed by the Royal Borough of Greenwich vowed that Donald Trump “would not be welcome” in the area if the engagement goes ahead.

Councillors said they were alarmed by Donald Trump’s decision to retweet Islamophobic posts by Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of Britain First.

“Council further notes with sadness the President’s bigoted attitude towards women and ethnic minorities which has resulted in examples of division and hatred within the US,” it continued.

“As such, Council calls upon the Government to abandon plans to invite Donald Trump on a state visit to the UK.”

Councillors said the huge security costs of the trip should be paid instead to charities that “promote peace and understanding”, such as the Jo Cox Foundation.

The Labour MP was murdered days before the Brexit referendum last year by a far-right extremist who shouted “Britain first” during his brutal assault.

Donald Trump criticised for Britain First retweets

Her husband, Brendan Cox, was among those condemning Mr Trump’s retweets with the warning: “Spreading hatred has consequences.”

The Twitter storm sparked calls for reprisals from MPs of all parties who took part in an urgent Commons debate, where many called for the state visit to be stopped.

Theresa May’s spokesperson said it was “wrong” for the President to share Ms Fransen’s tweets, sparking a diplomatic spat that saw Mr Trump return to Twitter telling her to concentrate on sorting out “radical Islamic terrorism”.

But the state visit invitation still stands, as does a separate invite from the US ambassador on a “working visit” to the UK for the opening of the new London embassy in early 2018.

Downing Street told The Independent it could not confirm when the state visit would take place, adding: “The invitation has been extended and accepted, and further details will be announced in due course.”

Mass protests and disruption are expected to greet the visit, with the Speaker of the House of Commons vetoing a presidential address following in the footsteps of Barack Obama.

Greenwich council said the President “would not be welcome” in the historic borough, which has been the setting for several recent Hollywood films, adding: “This borough’s commitment to maintaining a strong and vibrant community is incompatible with the ideology and policies espoused by President Trump.”

It also cited his Twitter attack on London mayor Sadiq Khan within hours of the London Bridge terror attack in June among reasons for the refusal.

Chris Kirby, the councillor who presented the motion at a full council meeting on Wednesday, said debate among 270,000 Greenwich residents and across the UK must not be “poisoned” by Mr Trump’s rhetoric.

“President Trump has regularly expressed abhorrent and aggressive views and in doing so has enabled the spread of division and hatred,” he said.

“We have stood up and made our position clear: there is no place for aggressive, bigoted and hateful rhetoric in the Royal Borough of Greenwich.”

Several councillors in the meeting spoke of memories of racist murders and marches by the far-right British National Party in the early 1990s.

Denise Hyland, leader of the council, said Greenwich works with all communities to celebrate difference and be a welcoming place.

“But in the case of President Trump we are willing to make an exception,” she added. “Diversity enriches our lives on a daily basis…we have no time for people who want to build walls, when we have done so much to break them down.”

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