A cross-party group of MPs has called on Theresa May to rescind an invitation for Donald Trump to attend a state visit to the UK later this year.
MPs branded the US President “disgusting” and “immoral” as they criticised the Prime Minister for appearing to act in “desperation” by extending the offer to Mr Trump just seven days after he entered the White House.
The debate was triggered after a petition to block Mr Trump’s state visit reached almost two million signatories. A separate petition, defending the state visit, which attracted more than 300,000 signatures, also formed part of the debate.
Calling on the Government to reconsider its offer, Labour’s Paul Flynn compared the US President’s behaviour to a “petulant child”, while fellow Labour MP Daniel Zeichner branded him “a disgusting and immoral man” who “represents the very opposite of the values we hold”.
Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael said Ms May was left looking “desperate and craven” while Labour’s Dawn Butler said the US had a “pretty nasty virus, and it’s important that virus doesn’t spread”.
Green MP Caroline Lucas attacked Mr Trump’s “effrontery to basic climate science” and the SNP’s Alex Salmond suggested there was “desperation for a trade deal” driving Ms May’s Government.
They clashed with several Conservative MPs who insisted Ms May was right to prioritise Britain’s national interest by fostering good relations with its historic ally.
Tory Nigel Evans said he had seen no evidence from the first four weeks of the Trump administration to suggest that the President was “racist”.
“When we stand up in this country and condemn him for being racist, and I have seen no evidence of that, I have seen no evidence of him being racist, we are actually attacking the American people,” he said.
Veteran Conservative MP Edward Leigh also defended Mr Trump, saying his unsuccessful travel ban on seven majority-Muslim countries did not amount to racism.
“I don’t think there is any proof that this travel ban is racist,” he said.
“Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world, there is no question of a travel ban on Indonesia.
“These countries are riddled by civil war, this travel ban builds on work done by [Barack] Obama.
“So to accuse the new President of the US of racism, misogyny and all the rest is overstated.”
Trump Inauguration protests around the World
Much of the debate centred on the timing of the offer, coming just a week after Mr Trump was inaugurated and during a hastily-arranged visit to Washington by Ms May.
Barack Obama only received an invitation after 758 days, while his predecessor, George W Bush, waited 978 days before he was offered a state visit.
Tory MP Crispin Blunt said he was not opposed to a state visit but said it should be delayed until 2020 – the 400th anniversary of the voyage of the Mayflower.
However, Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan said Mr Trump’s state visit to the UK “should happen and will happen”.
He told MPs in the Westminster Hall debate: “This is a special moment for the special relationship. The visit should happen, the visit will happen and when it does I trust the United Kingdom will extend a polite and generous welcome to president Donald Trump.”
The debate over the US President’s impending trip took place against the backdrop of protests across the UK against the state visit.
The faint shouts of demonstrators could be heard inside Westminster Hall while outside in Parliament Square, thousands of protesters had gathered.
Organisers of the rally said they expected more than 20,000 people to take part.
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, addressing the crowds, warned about the “dark shadow of racism and anti-immigrant sentiment” that were beginning to emerge.
She said: “We know the values that Trump represents. With Donald Trump, you don’t have to look into a crystal ball, you can read the book.
“He was supported in his presidential campaign by white supremacists. And even in the first weeks of his presidency he has had a viscerally anti-immigrant line.”
Calls for the state visit to be cancelled have been backed by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who criticised the president’s “cruel and shameful” policies.
But the Government has remained steadfast in its commitment to honour the invite.
In its official response to the petitions, it stressed ministers believed “the President of the United States should be extended the full courtesy of a state visit”.