The Prime Minister has said tackling the far right is as important as dealing with Islamist terrorism amid a deepening diplomatic crisis sparked by Donald Trump’s online posts promoting the extremist Britain First group.
Theresa May said publicly that Mr Trump had been “wrong” to share anti-Muslim videos published by a leading figure in the far-right organisation.
The UK’s ambassador to the US also officially “raised concerns” with the White House over the issue, which led to an emergency debate in the House of Commons on Thursday.
But Ms May still rejected the growing clamour to call off the President’s controversial state visit insisting she remains committed to the “special relationship” between the UK and US.
The unprecedented row saw Mr Trump hit back at Ms May on Twitter telling her not to focus on his actions, but to concentrate on tackling Islamist terrorism in the UK, adding: “We are doing just fine!”
The Prime Minister was in Jordan on the final day of an official visit to the Middle East when she condemned Britain First as a “hateful organisation” dedicated to spreading division and mistrust.
She added that it was essential to deal with terrorism and extremism “from whatever source” it comes, knowing that Mr Trump has been criticised in the past for his reluctance to condemn the far right in the US.
Asked whether she regarded the President as a “supporter and enabler” of far-right groups, Ms May said: “We must all take seriously the threat that far-right groups pose both in terms of the terrorist threat that is posed by those groups and the necessity of dealing with extremist material which is far right as well.
“I’ve commented in the past on issues in the United States on this matter.
“In the United Kingdom we take the far right very seriously and that’s why we ensure we deal with these threats and this extremism wherever it comes and whatever its source.”
Britain’s ambassador to Washington Sir Kim Darroch said he had raised the Government’s concerns with the White House on Wednesday after Mr Trump retweeted three videos posted by Britain First deputy leader Jayda Fransen.
But pressed on whether the President’s state visit should still go ahead, Ms May said they had “yet to set a date”, with officials sticking to the line that an invitation had been extended and accepted.
While she stressed that she was not afraid to criticise the US when it was wrong, she also made clear her commitment to preserving the transatlantic partnership.
The extraordinary row between the allies came after Mr Trump responded directly to her assertion, made through her official spokesman on Wednesday, that his retweets had been wrong.
He wrote: “Theresa-May, don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We are doing just fine!”
In the Commons, a string of MPs demanded the cancellation of Mr Trump’s visit, with Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott saying his behaviour was “offensive to all decent British people”.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd appeared to indicate her agreement to a call from Tory MP Peter Bone for the President to delete his Twitter account, telling MPs: “I’m sure many of us might share his view.”
But Ms Rudd also urged MPs to bear in mind the importance of the special relationship with the US, including “the unparalleled sharing of intelligence”.
“It has undoubtedly saved British lives. That is the big picture here,” she said.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said Ms May should withdraw the invitation to the President, while Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable said he was an “evil racist” who should not be given the honour of a state visit.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies