British Prime Minister Theresa May today came under fire from her party lawmakers and opposition members for her delayed rejection of US President Donald Trump’s ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations.
May had said the immigration policy was a matter for the US, before Downing Street today clarified she “does not agree” with it. Her initial comments and refusal to condemn Trump’s executive order on the ban had sparked controversy yesterday.
“Immigration policy in the United States is a matter for the government of the United States. But we do not agree with this kind of approach and it is not one we will be taking,” a Downing Street spokesperson said.
May visited the US on Friday, before Trump issued an executive order halting the entire US refugee programme, and also instituting a 90-day travel ban for nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
She was, by then, in Turkey, where she declined to condemn the order before Downing Street clarified her stand today.
Protesters are planning to assemble outside Downing Street to criticise May’s response and a petition calling for Trump’s proposed state visit to the UK to be cancelled crossed over 100,000 signatures, prompting a possible House of Commons debate.
There are fears that British athletes, including Somalia-born Olympic champion Mo Farah, who trains in the US, could be affected by the ban.
Opposition politicians and some of her own Conservative party MPs have criticised May for not speaking out sooner.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused her of a “weak failure” to stand up for British values, indicating that Trump should not be invited to the UK for a state visit intended for June.
May had invited Trump to Britain on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II when she visited him in Washington DC earlier this week and the US President had accepted her invitation.
“Donald Trump should not be welcomed to Britain while he abuses our shared values with his shameful Muslim ban and attacks on refugees’ and women’s rights,” he said.
“Theresa May would be failing the British people if she does not postpone the state visit and condemn Trump’s actions in the clearest terms. That’s what Britain expects and deserves,” Corbyn added.
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron told BBC: “She should’ve argued against this from the beginning, but once it became apparent that this was going to affect British people.
You would expect the British prime minister to fight Britain’s corner.”
Conservative party MP Nadhim Zahawi, who was born in Baghdad, told BBC the ban meant he would be unable to visit his sons who are studying at Princeton University in the US.
“I’m hoping he will reconsider this decision, I think it’s hugely discriminatory,” he said.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan described Trump’s move as “shameful”, adding that “As a nation that, like the USA, values tolerance, diversity and freedom, we cannot just shrug our shoulders and say: ‘It’s not our problem’.”