Donald Trump’s state visit to the UK ‘should and will happen’ MPs were told during a three hour debate today.
Sit Alan Duncan, foreign office minister, made the remarks as politicians debated the petition signed by more than 1.8 million people calling on the US President’s state visit to be downgraded.
But MPs branded the Republican a ‘petulant child’ and hit out at Britain’s ‘fawning subservience’ as thousands of protesters gathered on Parliament Square in opposition to the visit.
Despite the warnings of the ‘Greek chorus’ of protesters drifting across Westminster, Sir Alan insisted the visit will go ahead.
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 decision to extend the invite was condemned by a number of MPs, with many warning that it will be seen by the world as a tacit endorsement of Trump and his policies.
But Sir Alan said that while state visits – where the guest is hosted by the Queen and afforded the pomp and ceremony attached – are ‘rare and prestigious’ occasions, they are also Britain’s ‘most important diplomatic tool’.
He said: ‘They enable us to strengthen and influence those international relationships that are of the greatest strategic importance to this country, and even more widely, to other parts of the world as well.’
Labour MP Paul Flynn opened proceedings by highlighting that Trump is only the third US president to be given the honour of a state visit.
Barack Obama only received an invitation after 758 days, while it took 978 days before his predecessor, George W Bush, was offered a state visit, compared with seven days for Mr Trump.
Mr Flynn repeated comments made by former Foreign Office permanent secretary Lord Ricketts, who said the Queen has now been put in a ‘very difficult position’
The Labour veteran added: ‘I believe for that reason alone that we should consider this, and the Government should consider this with a bit of humility… and change the invitation to one for a visit, not a state visit.’
SNP MP Alex Salmond noted: ‘The question of the seven-day invitation – would you interpret desperation as the reason?
‘And if you’re able to see desperation for a trade deal, do you think that President Trump might be able to detect it as well?’
The former Scottish first minister said the US president is ‘not a stupid man’, adding it is a ‘recipe for total and utter disaster’ for the UK to advertise its weak position to Mr Trump.
At the end of this debate Andrew Turner, the chair, put the motion that the House has considered the two Trump petitions to a vote by acclamation, which carries no weight.
Some MPs shouted aye, but many more shouted no.