- Category: Volume 88 (Fall 2016 - Spring 2017)
- Published: 15 February 2017
- Written by KERRY BREEN | HEAD COPY EDITOR
Members of the UK parliament are to hold a debate on President Donald Trump’s controversial state visit. The debate, which will be held in the House of Commons on February 20, comes after a petition calling for the invite to be recalled attracted over 1.6 million signatures.
According to John Bercow, the Speaker for the House of Commons, President Donald Trump will not be welcome to address Parliament on his upcoming state visit to the United Kingdom.
Bercow cites Trump’s racism and sexism, as well as his controversial travel ban, as the reasoning behind his decision. In an interview, he said that he was “strongly opposed” to Trump speaking, saying that it was “not an automatic honor” but “an earned honor”.
Bercow then went on to say that even prior to the ban, he would have been opposed to Trump’s speaking, but said that “after the imposition of the migrant ban by President Trump I am even more strongly opposed to an address by President Trump in Westminster Hall.”
According to The Independent, parts of the Commons erupted into “rare, spontaneous applause” in support of Bercow’s statement. Bercow was supported by Dennis Skinner, a Veteran Labourer Member of Parliament, who said that although he and other members of Parliament valued the United Kingdom’s relationship with the United States, “I feel very strongly that our opposition to racism and to sexism and our support for quality before the law and an independent judiciary are hugely important considerations in the House of Commons.”
Bercow’s statement was supported by Neven Anjelic, a senior lecturer in the international relations and human rights department at Regent’s University, a London-based school which houses Monmouth University students who are studying abroad.
“Trump is not the first statesman who polarized the British public,” Anjelic said. “I don’t think Trump cares too much about the general British public. Furthermore, human rights activists, women’s equality advocates, all these people do not want him here. Even the establishment debated to ban him from entering into Britain just over a year ago. I personally dislike the established way of communicating and addressing issues in international diplomacy and international relations.”
“However, I dislike even more Trump’s ways around this. It is dangerous and leaders and their nations might feel insulted and consequently less willing to cooperate with Americans. The end of the process is that the United States will suffer eventually and the American public will vote Trump out.”
Anjelic’s sentiments were echoed by Monmouth University graduate student Sydney Underhill, a graduate public policy student.
“The bottom line is that no one has to be accommodating to him should they not support his actions, or agree with his beliefs,” said Underhill. “It goes back to the whole ‘respect is earned, not given’ saying. Just because you are now the president does not mean that you automatically garner the respect of a president. The only way to successfully resist and assure change is to refuse to give into those notions of accommodation.”
However, Kaitlyn Hill, a Regent’s University political science student, disagreed with opposition to the visit.
“I don’t think he is deserving of respect, and I do think that he stands in opposition to much of what a lot of people believe in,” she said. “However, he should be able to speak, as his predecessors have. From what I understand, Donald Trump likes to play the victim and say that he is being bullied. Moves like this only give him more ammunition - he can say that they’re refusing him for his beliefs, et cetera. It may not be the smartest move to make.”
As pointed out by Anjelic, this is not the first time a state leader with a polarizing or controversial platform has come to the UK on a state visit. However, as far as he knows, this was the first time the state leader was not asked to speak.
“Such an honor is rare,” he said. “State visits...are rare. Therefore, it is usually a consensus, and common sense, not to create diplomatic scandal.”
“Chinese President Xi Jinping, despite Member of Parliaments being unhappy about his policy on Tibet, and the Emir of Kuwait, with a less than perfect human rights record, both addressed the Parliament. There are more similar examples in history, like Soviet leader Nikita Hruschev, doing the same.”
It is suspected that the intervention will cause problems in Downing Street. Prime Minister Theresa May has spent much time attempting to rekindle the so-called ‘special relationship’ between the United Kingdom and the United States, saying that Trump would fly to Britain before the end of the year to make a state visit.
That visit is just as controversial as his addressing of Parliament, according to a number of politicians. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has been one of several political figures who have said that the visit should be cancelled until Trump rescinds his travel ban, and according to The Independent, his team is reportedly hoping to avoid any meeting with Prince Charles, whose ‘environmental campaigning might put him at odds with the president.’