The details of President Donald Trump’s state visit to the United Kingdom are still to be penciled in. But following an extraordinary intervention Monday evening, it now seems unlikely that he will be extended the honor of addressing both houses of British Parliament.
Citing “racism,” the speaker of the House of Commons told lawmakers Monday that he was “strongly opposed” to the president addressing both houses of Parliament in Westminster Hall. President Barack Obama delivered a speech in the medieval hall in 2011, the first American president to do so.
“I would not wish to issue an invitation to President Trump,” John Bercow said.
“We value our relationship with the United States. 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 for equality before the law, and an independent judiciary are hugely important considerations in the House of Commons.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May announced during her visit to the White House last month that Trump had accepted an invitation on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II for a full state visit later this year.
But she has come under pressure to revoke the offer after the backlash triggered by Trump’s travel ban. Later this month, lawmakers will debate canceling the state visit after 1.8 million people signed a petition urging the British government to rescind the offer to avoid “embarrassing” the queen.
Bercow said that an address to Parliament by a foreign leader was “not an automatic right, it is an earned honor” and that there was precedent for a state visit to the U.K. not to include an address to both houses of Parliament.
By convention, three people come to a decision on who to invite to speak at Westminster Hall, one of whom is the speaker of the House of Commons.
“In relation to Westminster Hall, there are three key-holders . . . the speaker of the House of Commons, the speaker of the House of Lords and the lord great chamberlain. Ordinarily we are able to work by consensus and the hall would be used for a purpose such as an address, or another purpose, by agreement of the three key-holders,” Bercow said.
He added: “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 am even more strongly opposed to an address by President Trump in Westminster Hall.”
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Karla Adam