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UK government rebuffs petition to downgrade Trump’s visit

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British Prime Minister Theresa May and U.S. President Donald Trump walk along The Colonnade of the West Wing at The White House on January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

LONDON — The British government has formally rejected the online petition calling for President Donald Trump‘s state visit to the UK to be canceled or downgraded.

In a statement from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office posted Tuesday on the petition’s web page, the government said it “recognizes the strong views expressed by the many signatories of this petition, but does not support this petition.”

The statement added that the invitation, which Prime Minister Theresa May extended to President Trump during her visit to Washington last month, “reflects the importance of the relationship between the United States of America and the United Kingdom.”

No date fixed yet

Final dates for Trump’s visit have yet to be agreed, but the Foreign Office reply to the petition confirmed “HM Government believes the President of the United States should be extended the full courtesy of a State Visit. We look forward to welcoming President Trump once dates and arrangements are finalized.”

The petition attracted over 1.8 million signatures, easily crossing the 100,000 signature threshold required for it to be debated in Parliament.

Embarrassment to Queen

The petition stopped short of calling for a ban on Trump’s proposed UK visit but said he “should not be invited to make an official State Visit because it would cause embarrassment to Her Majesty the Queen.”

The Government was compelled to reply to the petition, which recognized Trump’s right to come to the UK because it garnered more than 10,000 signatures.

MPs are scheduled to debate the petition in the House of Commons on Monday.

They will also debate a rival 310,000-strong petition in support of the state visit after they both reached the 100,000 signatures threshold to be considered for discussion in Parliament, the Press Association reported.

Support for the call to downgrade Trump’s visit snowballed after he imposed a travel ban on nationals from seven mainly Muslim countries.

Gun salute for Trump

May’s invitation to Trump, which was made during a joint press conference in Washington last month, caused anger both inside Parliament and with the public.

Last month, in an letter to The Times newspaper the former head of the Foreign Office, Peter Ricketts, said May had put the Queen in a “very difficult position” and should protect her by downgrading Trump’s invitation to an “official visit”.

This would deprive President Trump of a ride in the Queen’s carriage, gun salutes, a banquet at Buckingham Palace and other ceremonial honors.

An official visit usually means just talks with the Prime Minister and a low-profile courtesy call on the monarch.

No US President has received a state visit in his first year in office, making Trump’s invite unprecedented.

President Barack Obama was afforded the honor 28 months into his tenure, while George W. Bush was extended the invite after 32 months.

House of Commons Speaker opposed to Trump address

Last week the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, said he was “strongly opposed” to letting Trump address lawmakers during his visit because of Parliament’s “opposition to racism and sexism.”

Bercow is one of three parliamentary officials who must approve any invitation for someone to speak in Westminster Hall, the venue typically used for grand occasions of state.

Speaking in response to a motion signed by 163 MPs calling for Trump not to be afforded a Westminster Hall audience, Bercow said “an address by a foreign leader to both Houses of Parliament is not an automatic right, it is an earned honor.” His comments have led to calls for his resignation from fellow Conservative MP’s who support Trump.