When scouring the news in recent months it is difficult to avoid stories which do not at least mention Donald Trump and whatever controversy he has been involved in most recently. The last couple of weeks have been no different as there is now a raging debate over whether the US President should have his invitation to make a state visit withdrawn following his attempts to instate a ban on citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries entering the States. Many have turned out in protest against Trump’s visit to Britain, with 10,000 people taking part in the Women’s March in London on 21st January. Last week the issue faced further exposure when the speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, declared that he was in opposition to the state visit and that he would consider banning Trump from addressing the House of Commons. However, others argue that Trump should be allowed to conduct his visit as normal, as he is no worse than others such as Xi Jinping, the President of China.
Personally I feel that Trump should not have been invited to make a state visit until much later in his presidency, as there was always the chance that he would make a controversial move such as the Muslim ban. However, now that Trump has been invited I feel that he should be allowed to make his state visit, just as any other leader would be able to. As I said earlier, Xi Jinping of China was able to make a state visit and address the Houses of Parliament despite his inconsistent record on human rights, so Trump deserves at least the same level of hospitality. Also, seeing as his Muslim ban has been overturned by the courts, Trump is yet to successfully implement any of the more radical policies he outlines in his election campaign. Therefore it is possible to argue that people are overreacting to his presidency so far and that they are not even willing to give him a chance to be a successful president.
Not only that, but withdrawing the invitation for Trump to make a state visit would undo all the work Theresa May has been doing to build a ‘special relationship’ between Britain and the United States. So far Trump’s attitude to Britain has been encouraging and he seems keen on making a trade deal, so the last thing the country should want is to humiliate him by withdrawing the invitation. Post Brexit the USA is likely to be Britain’s main trade partner and it would be stupid and irresponsible to jeopardise that just to make a point. Withdrawing the state visit will not have any effect on how Trump acts during his presidency apart from making him less sympathetic towards Britain. Stopping him from addressing the Houses of Parliament would not make him rethink his policies or trying to find a way to constitutionally ban Muslims from his country so there is really nothing concrete to gain from withdrawing his invitation.
Most people who are in favour of withdrawing the invitation feel that he should not be allowed to make the visit as a matter of principle. They feel that allowing him to visit the queen and the Houses of Parliament would be failing to make a stand against his actions so far, which many people feel are racist and sexist. Many feel that Britain needs to make their position on these issues abundantly clear by withdrawing Trump’s invitation, but I feel that we can stand up to sexism and racism in ways that will be less harmful to the country and the economy. While withdrawing the invitation would make a strong point that discrimination will not be tolerated, the impact it would have upon any future trade deal between Britain and the States would be disastrous, something that – in my opinion – is too great a price to pay for the moral high ground. All that is needed is for a strong statement to be made by Britain’s representatives to say that discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated, possibly dualed with a clamp down on discriminatory acts by the police, and then Britain will have still made their point but will not have offended President Trump.
As for John Bercow, I simply feel that it is not the place of the Speaker of the House of Commons to make a decision that could have such a profound impact on Britain as a whole. While, as an elected MP, I agree that he has the right to express his opinion on whether Trump is to be allowed to address the Houses of Parliament, he should not be able to make the decision on his own. While I can understand the reasons for Bercow’s reluctance to allow Trump to make his address, there has to be a Parliamentary debate and a vote by MPs before any such a decision is made. Depriving Trump of a fundamental part of the state visit such as addressing the Houses of Parliament would be a public humiliation and would hurt Britain’s transatlantic interests such as a trade deal, therefore it is too important a decision for Bercow to make of his own volition.
The final, and most important, reason for Trump not having his invitation withdrawn is that he has a democratic mandate from the American public to implement the policies he spoke about in his campaign. One of these policies was a Muslim ban, so Britain cannot say they were not warned of Trump’s intentions with plenty of time to spare. The simple fact is that he should never have been issued with a state invitation this early in his presidency when there was always the risk of a controversial policy being implemented. It is not for Britain to decide whether Trump should be the US president or not; that is a matter for the American public and they made their choice. The only thing Britain can do is protect their own interests and make the best they can of the situation, and I strongly believe that the best way of doing that is to allow Trump to make his state visit and address Parliament without causing any further controversy.