Only two US Presidents have been granted a state visit since 1952, yet we are in the extraordinary and completely unprecedented position in which, seven days into his presidency, President Trump was invited to enjoy the full panoply of a such a visit.
There is no question of any disrespect towards the United States, but there is a great feeling of concern. The day after the inauguration, two million people, mostly women, marched on the streets of America and 100,000 people marched in this country. It was an expression of fear and anxiety that we had someone like this in the White House wielding such enormous power. The President’s power is enormous, but unfortunately his intellectual capacity is protozoan. He has blundered into frozen conflicts around the planet that needed delicate handling; they needed the microsurgery of decisions such as those that have been taken in the past by statesmen. He has gone in and caused problems in every area in which he has become involved: the South China sea, Ukraine, Israel-Palestine. It is of great concern that the President behaves like a petulant child. How would he behave in a future conflict that might arise?
Our main concern is that we are in this position of surrealism, of an Orwellian world that is unfolding before us, where the theme that has been put forward by Trump is that lies are the truth, good is bad, war is peace and fantasy is fact. We see that with the figure of the Trump Big Brother, who is there, ever-present seven days a week and 24 hours a day, preaching from his one source of news – the only voice of truth.
We are in a position unlike any faced by any previous Parliament, whereby a person of a unique personality is running the United States. There are great dangers in attempting to give him the best accolade we can offer anyone – a state visit. That would be terribly wrong, because it would make it appear that the British Parliament, the British nation and the British sovereign approve of the acts of Donald . Trump.
Paul Flynn (Labour, Newport West)
To those people who are finding it difficult to come to terms with Brexit, I say that we are leaving the European Union. That is what the people decided. To those who are finding it difficult to understand that the American people voted for Donald Trump, I say get over it, because he is President of the United States.
We must all ask ourselves why people felt so left behind that they made the democratic decisions they did. Some of us cannot understand some of those decisions. How could people possibly vote for Brexit? How could they possibly vote for Donald Trump? The fact is that the people have done so. They were the forgotten people. They are the ones who packed that stadium to cheer Donald Trump after his first month in the presidency, because they like what he says. He will go down in history as the only politician roundly condemned for delivering on his promises.
We can all go back and talk to the people we know in our own little echo chambers – all we hear are the same things – but the fact is that 61 million people voted for Donald Trump. When we stand up in this country and condemn him for being racist – I have seen no evidence of his being racist – or attack him in an unseemly way, we are attacking the American people and the 61 million who voted for Donald Trump. If they wanted more of the same or the usual stuff, it was on the ballot paper…
Nigel Evans (Conservative, Ribble Valley)
I am a great friend of the United States. My father is buried in the United States. I studied in the United States. I worked in the United States. I have visited America more times than I have visited France; it is a country I love tremendously.
Many African Americans there are sitting at home in fear. They are concerned about a President who has had the support of the Ku Klux Klan. They are concerned about a President who has welcomed white supremacists – a term we had almost hoped would fall into history – into his close inner circle. I think of my five-year-old daughter when I reflect on a man who considers it okay to go and grab pussy, a man who considers it okay to be misogynistic towards the woman he is running against. Frankly, I cannot imagine a leader of this country, of whatever political stripe, behaving in that manner.
David Lammy (Labour, Tottenham)
I would like people to ask themselves: if they knew that it would make a significant difference to bringing on side a new President of the USA so that the policies that prevented a conflagration on that scale continue – given he is in some doubt about continuing the alliance that prevented world war three and is our best guarantee of world war three not breaking out in the 21st century – do they really think it is more important to berate him, castigate him and encourage him to retreat into some sort of bunker, rather than to do what the prime minister did, perhaps more literally than any of us expected, and take him by the hand to try to lead him down the paths of righteousness?
What really matters to the future of Europe is that the transatlantic alliance continues and prospers. There is every prospect of that happening provided that we reach out to this inexperienced individual and try to persuade him – there is every chance of persuading him – to continue with the policy pursued by his predecessors.
Julian Lewis (Conservative, chair, defence select committee)
Given President Trump’s remarks about torture, his misogynistic stance against women and his stance against Muslims, associating with the President in the form of a state visit will do huge amounts of damage to the Queen and to our monarchy, which is respected and revered around the world.
Rushanara Ali (Labour, Bethnal Green)
It is difficult to know whether to be appalled at the morality of the invitation or just astonished by its stupidity. The PM’s holding-hands-across-the-ocean visit would be difficult to match as an example of fawning subservience, but to do it in the name of shared values was stomach-churning. What exactly are the shared values that this country would hope to have with President Trump? Exemplifying what shared values are is a process that is fraught with danger, but the PM tried it when she was Home Secretary. She said that they were: “Things like democracy…a belief in the rule of law, a belief in tolerance for other people, equality, an acceptance of other people’s faiths and religions.” Which of those values, has President Trump exemplified in his first days in office?
Alex Salmond (SNP spokesperson on foreign affairs)
My grandfather was an American who came here in 1944 to help us fight the Nazis. We should have contact with any American Administration. Much as I disagreed fundamentally with the policies and actions of President George W. Bush. Bush, I was deeply disappointed that that turned for many into a wider strand of anti-Americanism and anger towards America and Americans. In fact, America at its greatest is a place that espouses the very best of liberty and equality. It is for that reason that I feel deeply concerned and frightened when I see the very principles on which the founding fathers developed the constitution being called into question by a President. Indeed, he has done so with attacks on the press, the judiciary, religious freedoms and other parts of the Government that disagree with him.
Stephen Doughty (Labour/Co-Op, Cardiff South and Penarth)
America has been our greatest ally for a considerable time: it stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us in our hour of need, as we did in its hour of need, particularly during 9/11, so it is to my mind foolish to allow our personal views and assessments of the more grotesque characteristics or behaviour of an individual to blur what is in Britain’s national interest.
Simon Burns (Conservative, Chelmsford)
What we have seen has in many ways been chilling, with the executive orders that have dominated Donald Trump’s first weeks in the White House being frightening. Many of us are asking where the slippery slope really leads. To take only one of the groups of people where he has sought to divide – those of the Muslim faith, not necessarily distinct to one country or another – his rhetoric has been so broad that I personally, as a Muslim, feel attacked and misrepresented. We have to take every opportunity to show that his negativity and divisive messages will not divide us and, just as importantly, will not define us.
Naseem Shah (Labour, Bradford West)
Donald Trump’s attitude to Muslims is an outrage, and what is most outrageous is the total lack of evidence for his actions. All of the deaths caused by terrorists on US soil since 9/11 have been caused by US citizens or residents, and even the 9/11 attacks were made by people from outside the US but from none of the seven countries. The exclusion order was not only prejudiced, but totally lacked any evidence.
James Berry (Conservative, Kingston and Surbiton)
Let us get to the realpolitik behind this. It is very likely that opening up the possibility of an invitation for a state visit secured our Prime Minister the first call on the newly elected President of the United States. During her visit, she got the incredibly important assurance about NATO.
We must understand what is going on. We are dealing with the first non-politician and the first non-serviceman to be elected President. He is definitively different. Dangling a state visit in front of a half-Scottish President of the US, whose mother had an immense attachment to that country, was an exercise in pressing the right buttons to engage him and a successful use of the UK’s soft power.
Crispin Blunt (Conservative, chair, foreign affairs select committee)
Essentially, what we are talking about is a question of judgment, and in my view, the PM, in the exercise of her judgment, got it catastrophically wrong, not just in offering a state visit but, in doing so seven days after President Trump’s inauguration. That was not something that she just decided to do on the spur of the moment. We all know the PM well enough to know that it was not something she would have blurted out to fill an awkward pause in the conversation, so the question is: what was the motivation? My suspicion is that she was perhaps a little bit spooked by seeing the pictures of Nigel Farage at Trump Tower following the election in November, or it may be that she was pursuing questions of trade deals post Brexit. Whatever the motivation, however, it has left us looking desperate and craven and rushing to embrace a presidency when the rest of the world is rushing away from it.
Alistair Carmichael (Liberal Democrat spokesperson on home affairs)
Candidate Trump made some deplorable and vile comments, which are indefensible – they cannot be defended morally, politically or in any other way – but he is the democratically elected President of the USA.
It is time the establishment – the bubble – whether in Westminster, Brussels or Washington woke up to the reality that people want to see and hear their Government and elected representatives representing them rather than simply going through the motions of establishing further bubbles and retreating into their bubble even more.
We should ensure that that invite goes ahead and we should also say to Mr Trump: “Some of the things you have said are unacceptable. If you think that the pendulum has swung too far to the left, Mr Trump, please be sure that you do not allow it to swing too far to the right.”
Gregory Campbell (DUP spokesperson for international relations)
In an uncertain and increasingly dangerous world, the ability to work closely with key countries is critical. Strong alliances and close relationships are a central stabilising pillar for world security. This is an increasingly unstable world, but throughout modern history, the United States and the United Kingdom have worked together side by side to bring peace and security during times of danger and uncertainty. Put simply, a state visit matters so much because diplomacy matters, especially with the world as it is today.
The relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States is built around a common language, the common principles of freedom and democracy, and common interests in so many other areas. On security, defence, trade, investment and all such issues, the United Kingdom and the United States are and will remain the closest of partners. The United States is the world’s greatest power. In the light of America’s pivotal role, it is entirely right that we should use all the tools at our disposal to build common ground with President Trump.
Alan Duncan (Foreign Office minister of state)