Tuesday, 18/2/2020 | 1:26 UTC+0
Libyan Newswire

Boris Johnson faces grilling from MPs over Donald Trump's UK state visit

Boris Johnson faces a grilling from MPs amid widespread calls for Donald Trump’s state visit to Britain to be cancelled in the wake of his controversial travel ban on Muslims and refugees.

The Foreign Secretary will make a statement in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon before taking questions from MPs, many of whom have called for the United States’ president’s visit to be downgraded.

It comes as an online petition calling for Mr Trump to be stripped of the honour was backed by one million people.

Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones has also spelled out his opposition to a state visit in talks with Theresa May in Cardiff.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “The First Minister raised serious concerns about how the recent US immigration order was handled by the UK Government, and his belief that a state visit would be difficult in the current circumstances.”

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said that Theresa May “disagreed” with the ban, but the planned state visit would not be impacted by it, and the petition was a matter for Parliament.

“We don’t agree with these restrictions, it is not the way we would do it.

“Where people’s rights, UK citizens’ rights, have been affected, we have set about getting a clarification to allow them to travel.

“As we pointed out last week, where we disagree with something we are happy to say we disagree with it,” he told a regular Westminster briefing.

Mr Johnson is also likely to face questions from MPs amid confusion about the impact of the travel ban on Britons as well as the way the Government has responded.

On Sunday he was assured by Mr Trump’s team that Britons who have shared nationality with one of the seven mainly-Muslim countries covered by the restrictions would not be stopped from entering America.

But an urgent notice issued by the US Embassy in the UK on Monday appeared to contradict guidelines issued by the British Foreign Office (FCO) stating dual UK citizens “from one of the seven countries travelling to the US from outside those countries are not affected”.

A statement on the Embassy’s website said: ” Urgent Notice: Per U.S. Presidential Executive Order signed on January 27, 2017, visa issuance to aliens from the countries of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen has been suspended effective immediately until further notification.

“If you are a national, or dual national, of one of these countries, please do not schedule a visa appointment or pay any visa fees at this time.

“If you already have an appointment scheduled, please do not attend your appointment as we will not be able to proceed with your visa interview.”

But a UK Government spokesman insisted the FCO guidance “was cleared by the top team in the White House and they are in charge”.

The PM’s spokesman added: “We have extended an invitation to the president, he has accepted it, and it is right that we continue to forge our close relationships.”

A Government source said that after seeing the US Embassy guidance, Mr Johnson “sought clarity from the White House and was informed that the FCO statement was correct”.

Number 10 has distanced itself from BBC reports that Downing Street sources rejected calls for the state visit to be cancelled as a “populist gesture” that would “undo everything” Mrs May achieved on last week’s trip to the United States.

During the trip, Mr Trump accepted an invitation to visit Britain later this year, where he is due to be hosted by the Queen and would be treated to all the pomp and ceremony accorded to a state visit.

But Mr Johnson is likely to come under pressure to justify the trip, amid outrage from senior Tories and opposition politicians.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan wrote in the Evening Standard: “We must now rescind the offer of a full state visit for President Trump – until this ban is lifted.

“I don’t believe the people of London will support rolling out the red carpet until this happens.”

Baroness Warsi, who was the first female Muslim cabinet minister, said the US president should not be given the honour.

Lady Warsi told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that politics is facing a “crossroads” following Mr Trump’s election.

“If we want to continue to be a country that supports liberal, progressive values in which all have equal worth and equal value in our society, then we have to be clear that we voice that view and that opinion, so that people in this country know that whatever crazy things the president of the United States may be doing, it is not what we believe and not what we support.”

Conservative former foreign minister Alistair Burt said the “optics of a visit are currently very bad” and suggested American officials should find a way for it not to go ahead.

Tory MP Sarah Wollaston has said Mr Trump must not be invited to address both houses of Parliament from Westminster Hall, pointedly insisting “those who wish to fawn over him” should do so elsewhere.