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UK says Trump visit still on amid outcry over travel ban

UK says Trump visit still on amid outcry over travel ban

LONDON — A state visit to Britain by President Donald Trump later this year will go ahead, the prime minister’s office said Monday, despite increasing calls for it to be cancelled over his temporary ban on residents of seven majority-Muslim countries entering the U.S.

Furor over the travel ban has tarnished what British officials had considered a highly successful trip to Washington by Prime Minister Theresa May. She met Trump at the White House on Friday and announced that he had been invited to come to Britain later this year as the guest of Queen Elizabeth II.

May’s Downing St. office said Monday that “an invitation has been extended and accepted,” and the visit is still on.

No date has been announced for the state visit, which involves lavish pomp and ceremony, generally with a stay at Buckingham Palace.

The visit was hailed by government officials as a sign of the close trans-Atlantic relationship, which was also reflected in May’s invitation to meet Trump just a week after his inauguration.

But criticism of May’s wooing of Trump erupted when — only hours after the prime minister had left the White House — the president signed an executive order suspending all travel to the U.S. of citizens of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and Libya for 90 days. The order also bars all refugees entering the country for 120 days.

Britain’s three biggest opposition parties have all called for Trump’s state visit to be cancelled and an online petition opposing the trip has more than 1 million signatures. Protests against the travel ban are planned Monday in London and other British cities.

Any petition with more than 100,000 signatures must be considered for a debate in Parliament, though not a binding vote.

Last year, Parliament debated whether to ban Trump, then a presidential candidate, from visiting Britain after a similar online petition was filed.

Trump’s travel ban sparked protests at airports across the U.S., along with expressions of condemnation and concern from around the world.

There was widespread confusion about whether the ban applied to dual nationals. Somali-born British Olympic champion runner Mo Farah said he feared it would prevent him returning to the U.S., where he lives.

Late Sunday, Britain’s Foreign Office said U.S. authorities had clarified that the ban didn’t apply to British citizens who are also nationals of one of the seven countries. Canada’s foreign minister said he had been told the same about Canadian dual nationals.

However, the website of the U.S. Embassy in London advised nationals of the seven countries — “including dual nationals” — not to book visa appointments, saying their applications would not be processed.

The U.S. Embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The British exemption didn’t end the storm of opposition, with prominent members of May’s Conservative Party joining in calls for Trump’s visit to be scrapped.

Sayeeda Warsi, a former government minister and Conservative member of the House of Lords, said it was “sending out a wrong signal” to invite Trump, a leaders whose values “are not the same as British values.”

Conservative lawmaker Sarah Wollaston said Trump should not be invited to address both houses of Parliament, an honour given to many visiting foreign leaders.

She said that “those who wish to fawn over him” should do so elsewhere.

Former U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, a Trump ally, said “British politicians are sheer hypocrites” to oppose the travel ban as they had not objected when President Barack Obama imposed what Farage called a six-month ban on Iraqis.

In 2011 the U.S. imposed stringent checks on Iraqi refugees after two Iraqis were charged with terrorism offences in Kentucky. It did not ban all travellers from Iraq, however.

Jill Lawless, The Associated Press

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