Pressure grows on May as a million people sign anti-Trump petition over 'Muslim ban'

The President's immigration ban has sparked a worldwide backlash 

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Sunday 29 January 2017 23:47
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Prime Minister Theresa May
Prime Minister Theresa May

A petition calling on a state visit by Donald Trump to be cancelled in the wake of his controversial immigration ban has passed a million signatures.

Citing Mr Trump’s “well documented misogyny and vulgarity”, the petition states that Mr Trump should be allowed into the country, but not invited to meet the Queen.

It comes as the Government confirmed Britons with dual citizenship flying from the UK would be exempt from the controversial ban, which targets immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries in a frantic bid to prevent a broad backlash against the policy from damaging her government.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson sought the clarification in anxious calls to senior figures in Mr Trump's team, highlighting the political problems the ban was causing Theresa May's administration.

However, on Monday the US Embassy in London appeared to contradict the Government’s claim that British citizens will be mostly exempt.

The Prime Minister had finally told Mr Johnson and Home Secretary Amber Rudd to “make representations” to their US counterparts, after she initially refused to condemn the ban sparking an angry backlash from her own MPs and others.

Theresa May's early reluctance to criticise the ban came after she was the first foreign leader to visit Mr Trump at the White House, where the pair were pictured holding hands and the President delighted Ms May by expressing a desire to sign a quick post-Brexit trade deal with the UK.

The Government has so far refused to bow to calls for Mr Trump's es as a petition calling on the Government to scrap Mr Trump's planned state visit to the UK passed a million signatures.

"An invitation has been extended and accepted," a Number 10 spokesman said, stressing the position had not changed.

Ministers face being hauled into the Commons later amid continued concerns about the impact on Britons, as well as the way the Government has responded.

And the Government is facing cross-party calls for an emergency debate.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron and SNP foreign affairs spokesman Alex Salmond have all called for the trip to be cancelled.

The clarification to Mr Trump’s plan to temporarily ban travellers coming into the US from a group of predominantly Muslim countries – Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – confirms that the only people affected will be dual citizens of the UK and a listed country, going directly to the US from the listed country.

But it is unclear if the move by ministers will be enough to quell anger over the ban, much of which was targeted at its discriminatory nature rather than the effect on Britons alone.

Ms May finally issued a statement saying she does “not agree” with the policy and ordered her ministers to contact senior figures in Mr Trump’s team.

Downing Street sources said the aim was to make representations, with the goal of protecting the rights of British nationals, adding that it showed how seriously Ms May was taking the issue and that she was “absolutely determined” to respond to fears about the ban.

Theresa May congratulates Donald Trump on 'stunning election victory'

Calls were said to have been made to both the State Department and Department of Homeland Security. However, another Government source told The Independent Mr Johnson and his team were additionally in contact with Trump’s top adviser Steve Bannon and his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner.

A Foreign Office statement eventually said: "The only dual nationals who might have extra checks are those coming from one of the seven countries themselves – for example a UK-Libya dual national coming from Libya to the US.

"The US has reaffirmed its strong commitment to the expeditious processing of all travellers from the United Kingdom."

Mr Johnson had already taken to Twitter to say: “We will protect the rights and freedoms of UK nationals home and abroad. Divisive and wrong to stigmatise because of nationality.”

Donald Trump announces a ban on refugees and all visitors from Muslim-majority countries

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid also tweeted to say that the US immigration ban was “not British values”. But the moves did not stop Labour trying to have Mr Johnson summoned to Parliament to account for the furore on Monday.

The Independent understands that shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry will table an urgent question on Monday morning, although it must first be accepted by the Speaker of the House.

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn has also called for Mr Trump’s state visit to be postponed until the Muslim-country ban is lifted.

The Government’s action comes after Ms May repeatedly refused to comment on Mr Trump’s policy at a press conference in Turkey on Saturday, leading to accusations that she is putting good relations with Mr Trump and the hopes of a post-Brexit trade deal ahead of human rights.

In the wake of the press conference, Tory MP Sarah Wollaston said the President should not be allowed to address either House of Parliament on his pending state visit as a result of the policy. She was backed by other Tories including Heidi Allen and ex-foreign minister Alistair Burt.

Another of Ms May’s Tory MPs, Iraqi-born Nadhim Zahawi, spoke of his sadness that he might now be banned from the States, where his children are studying.

Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Conservatives in Scotland, joined calls to cancel Mr Trump’s planned state visit until he repeals the ban.

Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said his visit would be “placing the Queen in an impossible position of welcoming a man who is banning British citizens purely on grounds of their faith”.

London’s Muslim Mayor Sadiq Khan said Mr Trump should only be invited for a state visit when he lifts his “shameful” travel ban.

Mo Farah could be prevented from returning to the US

Meanwhile, British Olympic gold medallist Sir Mo Farah, who lives and trains in Portland, Oregon, also attacked the ban, calling it “deeply troubling”. The Somali-born runner argued that the President’s executive order had made him feel like “an alien”.

In a statement on his Facebook page, Sir Mo wrote: “On 1 January this year, Her Majesty The Queen made me a Knight of the Realm. On 27 January, President Donald Trump seems to have made me an alien.”

Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage was alone in defending the immigration crackdown, and even suggested Britain should follow suit and introduce “extreme vetting” of incomers.

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