UK Says Trump Visit Still on Amid Outcry Over Travel Ban

January 30, 2017 Updated: January 30, 2017

LONDON—President Donald Trump’s order barring U.S. entry to people from seven majority Muslim nations is “divisive, discriminatory and wrong,” British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Monday. But he rebuffed calls for the government to cancel Trump’s planned state visit to the U.K. over the temporary ban.

Johnson said he had told American officials that it’s wrong “to promulgate policies that stigmatize people on the basis of their nationality.”

He told lawmakers in the House of Commons that the Trump administration had assured him that “all British passport holders remain welcome to travel to the U.S.,” even if they are also citizens of one of the seven countries.

There has been confusion about whether dual nationals are affected by the 90-day ban on citizens of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, and Libya.

Britain’s three biggest opposition parties have all called on the government to revoke Trump’s state visit, planned for later this year, and an online petition opposing the trip has more than 1.3 million signatures. Any petition with more than 100,000 signatures must be considered for a debate in Parliament, though it is not a binding vote.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson makes a statement regarding US President Donald Trump's travel ban in the House of Commons, London on Jan. 30, 2017. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson says he has been assured by American officials that "all British passport holders remain welcome" in the United States, even if they are also nationals of seven countries temporarily barred by President Donald Trump. (PA via AP)
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson makes a statement regarding US President Donald Trump’s travel ban in the House of Commons, London on Jan. 30, 2017. (PA via AP)

State visits involve lavish pomp and ceremony, generally with a stay at Buckingham Palace as the guest of Queen Elizabeth II.

Johnson echoed Prime Minister Theresa May’s Downing St. office in saying that the visit should go ahead.

“He is the elected head of state of our closest and most important ally and there is absolutely no reason why he should not be accorded a state visit, and every reason why he should,” Johnson said.

 

Furor over the travel ban has tarnished what British officials had considered a highly successful trip to Washington by May, who met Trump at the White House on Friday—the first foreign leader to visit the president since his inauguration.

Criticism of May’s wooing of Trump erupted when, only hours after the prime minister had left the White House, the president signed an executive order imposing a 90-day entry ban for citizens of the seven countries. The order also bars all refugees entering the country for 120 days.

Protests at airports across the U.S. erupted in response to Trump’s travel ban, and leaders around the world criticized the move.

The website of the U.S. Embassy in London on Monday advised nationals of the seven countries—”including dual nationals”—not to book visa appointments, saying their applications would not be processed.

The advice was removed from the site before Johnson’s statement to Parliament.

Passengers arrives during a demonstration against the new ban on immigration issued by President Donald Trump at Logan International Airport in Boston, Massachusetts on Jan. 28, 2017. President Trump signed an executive order that halted refugees and residents from predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States. (Scott Eisen/Getty Images)
Passengers arrives during a demonstration against the new ban on immigration issued by President Donald Trump at Logan International Airport in Boston, Massachusetts on Jan. 28, 2017. President Trump signed an executive order that halted refugees and residents from predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States. (Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

Jacob Parakilas, assistant head of the U.S. and the Americas program at the Chatham House think tank, said details of the ban were still unclear. He said there was “a great deal of diplomatic work to be done to soothe tensions with a lot of countries that are allied with the United States.”

The British exemption didn’t end the storm of opposition, with prominent members of May’s Conservative Party joining in calls for Trump’s visit to be scrapped.

Sayeeda Warsi, a former government minister and Conservative member of the House of Lords, said that it was “sending out a wrong signal” to invite Trump, a leaders whose values “are not the same as British values.”

But former Conservative Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind said Britain had welcomed other leaders on state visits despite human rights concerns, including Chinese President Xi Jinping.

He told the BBC that, “whatever we think of him, (Trump) is well-disposed to the United Kingdom, and it would be pretty silly, from everybody’s point of view, simply to throw away that opportunity to develop that relationship.”