Speaker Of British House Of Commons Says No Address By Trump
When she came to visit President Trump during his first week in office, British Prime Minister Theresa May invited Trump to visit the United Kingdom. It has since been reported that such a visit, which apparently has not been scheduled, would be a formal state visit that would include an audience with Queen Elizabeth II and all the other formalities associated with such a visit. One thing that won’t be included, though, is an address to Parliament, at least not if the Speaker of the House of Common has anything to say about it:
The Speaker of Britain’s House of Commons says he is “strongly opposed” to letting US President Donald Trump address lawmakers during his state visit to the UK.
John Bercow said his resistance to the speech was because of Parliament’s opposition to “racism and sexism.”
Bercow is one of three parliamentary officials who must approve any invitation for someone to speak in Westminster Hall, the venue typically used for grand occasions of state.
Speaking in response to a motion signed by 163 MPs calling for Trump not to be afforded a Westminster Hall audience, Bercow said “An address by a foreign leader to both Houses of Parliament is not an automatic right, it is an earned honor.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May invited Trump to make a state visit to the UK when she met him in the White House a week after his inauguration last month. The details of the trip have not yet been finalized, and not every state visit to the UK involves an address to Parliament.
Bercow said his disapproval of any such speech by Trump had increased in the wake of the US President’s controversial travel ban.
“Before the imposition of the migrant ban I would have myself have been strongly opposed to an address by President Trump at Westminster Hall,” he told MPs on Monday. “After the imposition of the migrant ban, I am even more strongly opposed.”
“We value our relationship with the United States,” Bercow insisted, adding that “if a state visit takes place, that is way beyond and above the pay grade of the Speaker.”
“However as far as this place is concerned I feel very strongly that our opposition to racism and to sexism and our support to equality before the law and an independent judiciary are hugely important considerations in the House of Commons,” he said.
Bercow’s strongly-worded statement to the House of Commons was greeted with applause from some MPs. Applause is unusual in the Commons chamber, where members usually voice their approval or dissent vocally.
On Twitter later, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas voiced her approval of his opposition, saying: “Good on the Speaker.”
For what it’s worth, it is worth noting that prior to becoming Speaker, John Bercow was a Member of Parliament from the Conservative Party so it’s not like this is coming from someone on the left side of the British political spectrum.
An invitation to address Parliament is an honor that has been granted to only three American Presidents, President Reagan, President Clinton, and President Obama (source), so the lack of an invitation would not necessarily be new. The public manner in which it is being debated, though, is arguably a strong indication of the antipathy toward Trump overseas even in a nation that has been among one of the United States’s closest and most loyal allies. It also suggests that Trump’s visit to the United Kingdom later this year is likely to prove controversial with the British public and could spark public protests unlike any that has accompanied a visit by any American President.