U.S. President Donald Trump must not be allowed to address the U.K. Parliament during a state visit to Britain, House of Commons Speaker John Bercow said.
Prime Minister Theresa May invited Trump to visit the U.K., but there have been calls by lawmakers not to give the president the honor of addressing both houses of Parliament after he introduced a ban on people from some majority-Muslim countries traveling to the U.S.
“Before the imposition of the migrant ban I would myself have been strongly opposed to an address by President Trump in Westminster Hall; after the imposition of the migrant ban by President Trump I’m even more strongly opposed,” Bercow told lawmakers. “I feel very strongly our opposition to racism and to sexism and our support for equality before the law and an independent judiciary are hugely important considerations in the House of Commons.”
Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, and world leaders including Nelson Mandela, Angela Merkel and Pope Benedict XVI have all been invited to speak to members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Bercow said he has a veto over a speech in Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the Houses of Parliament, and would block one. And it would be a breach with tradition if Trump spoke in the Royal Gallery behind the Lords without his name on the invitation, he said.
“An address by a foreign leader to both houses of Parliament is not an automatic right, it is an earned honor,” Bercow said. “There are many precedents for state visits to take place to our country that do not include an address to both houses of Parliament.”
Bercow’s announcement was greeted with cheers and — rare in the House of Commons — applause from the opposition benches. A motion arguing that Trump shouldn’t be invited to speak has been signed by 163 out of Parliament’s 650 members.
Bercow made clear he wasn’t going to comment on the merits of inviting Trump to the U.K., something that will be getting its own debate in Parliament on Feb. 20. “We value our relationship with the U.S.” he said. “If a state visit takes place, that is way beyond and above the pay grade of the Speaker.”