Judy Dempsey writes: How Theresa May must be regretting the day she proposed inviting U.S. President Donald Trump on a state visit to the UK sometime in 2017. The British prime minister extended the invitation on behalf of the queen during her official visit to Washington on January 26–27. This was May’s way of proving that Britain could manage quite well without the European Union, thank you very much. London and Washington would have an even closer and even more special relationship than before now that the EU is soon going to be out of the way.
Just think of the trade deals the United States and Britain could forge, May argued, forgetting that as long as Britain remains a member of the EU, trade deals are the prerogative of Brussels, not of national governments. No matter. It was as if membership of the EU were hindering Britain’s foreign policy and its economic ties with third countries. Britain would now be free to go its own way.
No sooner had May returned home from the United States than a petition was launched to stop the visit “because it would cause embarrassment to Her Majesty the Queen.” The queen is not easily embarrassed. She has had no qualms in sharing the royal horse-drawn carriage with dictators including Romania’s Nicolae Ceauşescu, Zaire’s Mobutu Sese Seko, or Indonesia’s Haji Muhammad Suharto. Those visits were about political and ideological interests. [Continue reading…]
Trump suffers from ‘ceaseless incontinence of free speech’ says British MP during debate on state visit
The Guardian reports: British MPs lined up on Monday to pour scorn on a “racist and sexist” Donald Trump, who they said should not be allowed to come to Britain for a state visit because of the risk it would embarrass the Queen.
The US president was compared to a “petulant child” and had his intelligence questioned by MPs during a three-hour debate triggered after more than 1.8m people signed a petition urging Theresa May to cancel her invitation.
So many politicians packed into Westminster Hall for the debate that they had to have their speeches limited to five minutes each.
Alex Salmond said he was unsure over whether to be appalled by the morality of the invitation or astonished by its stupidity.
“As an example of fawning subservience, the prime minister holding hands [with Trump] would be difficult to match,” the former Scottish first minister said. “To do it in the name of shared values was stomach churning. What exactly are the shared values that this house, this country would hope to have?”
Labour’s Paul Flynn said that only two US presidents had been accorded a state visit to Britain in more than half a century and it was “completely unprecedented” that Trump had been issued his within seven days of his presidency.
Flynn – who started the debate because he is on the petitions committee – said Trump would hardly be silenced by the invitation being rescinded, accusing him of a “ceaseless incontinence of free speech”. [Continue reading…]
The Guardian reports: A British Muslim schoolteacher travelling to New York last week as a member of a school party from south Wales was denied entry to the United States.
Juhel Miah and a group of children and other teachers were about to take off from Iceland on 16 February on their way to the US when he was removed from the plane at Reykjavik. The previous week, on the 10 February, a US appeals court had upheld a decision to suspend Donald Trump’s executive order that temporarily banned entry to the country from seven Muslim-majority countries.
The trip proceeded as planned but pupils and colleagues from Llangatwg comprehensive in Aberdulais were left shocked and distressed after the maths teacher, who had valid visa documentation, was escorted from the aircraft by security personnel.
The teacher’s employer, Neath Port Talbot council, has written to the US embassy in London demanding an explanation and the issue is being taken up by Welsh politicians.
A council spokesman said Miah was left feeling belittled at what it described as “an unjustified act of discrimination”. The council said the teacher is a British citizen and does not have dual nationality. [Continue reading…]
In an editorial, The Guardian says: If the test of a speech is how effectively it generates headlines and dominates conversations, Tony Blair’s call for a Brexit rethink today was a resounding success. Less so, perhaps, if the test was to persuade people who do not agree with him already.
Mr Blair always commands attention as the only living British politician to have won three elections and served a decade as prime minister. That experience furnishes insight deserving of an audience. But such insight is routinely obscured by debate about the integrity of the man. Anyone who served so long will animate partisan feelings; Mr Blair’s unusual fate is to have aroused some of the most passionate hatred within his own party.
It is possible to believe that some of the opprobrium is earned, yet also to think that the argument advanced by Mr Blair on Brexit is sound. His case is that Britain voted to leave the European Union without an account of what that would involve in practice. As the terms of separation become clear – if it appears that the government is wedded to a ruinous version of Brexit – it is reasonable to argue for a different course. [Continue reading…]
The Washington Post reports: President Trump’s tough talk on Iran is winning him friends in the Arab world, but it also carries a significant risk of conflict with a U.S. rival that is now more powerful than at any point since the creation of the Islamic republic nearly 40 years ago.
With its warning last week that Iran is “on notice,” the Trump administration signaled a sharp departure from the policies of President Barack Obama, whose focus on pursuing a nuclear deal with Iran eclipsed historic U.S. concerns about Iranian expansionism and heralded a rare period of detente between Washington and Tehran.
Many in the region are now predicting a return to the tensions of the George W. Bush era, when U.S. and Iranian operatives fought a shadow war in Iraq, Sunni-Shiite tensions soared across the region and America’s ally Israel fought a brutal war with Iran’s ally Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Except that now the United States will be facing down a far stronger Iran, one that has taken advantage of the past six years of turmoil in the Arab world to steadily expand its reach and military capabilities. [Continue reading…]
The Guardian reports: Theresa May has resisted pressure to re-examine the viability of the international nuclear deal with Iran from her Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, who urged her to follow Donald Trump’s example by imposing fresh sanctions.
Netanyahu had said “responsible” countries should follow Trump in imposing new sanctions against Iran after it test-fired a ballistic missile. But May expressed her concern about Iran’s actions without saying there was a need for sanctions. [Continue reading…]
The Guardian reports: Donald Trump is unfit to address MPs, according to the Speaker of the House of Commons who said that he would refuse to invite the US president to speak at Westminster because of parliament’s long held opposition “to racism and to sexism”.
John Bercow warned that the opportunity to speak in the prestigious Westminster Hall during a state visit “is not an automatic right, it is an earned honour” in an extraordinary intervention that divided MPs and annoyed No 10.
The unprecedented step caused many MPs to pour praise on Bercow, but also triggered an angry response in parts of government with ministers privately claiming that he had overstepped the mark.
Senior figures accused the Speaker of grandstanding – while his counterpart in the House of Lords, Lord Fowler, was understood to be irritated by the unexpected statement.
Bercow, whose role is non-political, told MPs that he did not have the power to block the state visit invitation extended to Trump by Theresa May, but made clear that he would use his authority to prevent what is considered one of the high points of the official trip.
The speaker made clear that he was always against the idea of Trump making a speech in the same hall that Barack Obama did in 2012, but said recent policies had even more determined to block the move. [Continue reading…]
The New York Times reports: A close relationship with any American president is regarded as crucial by allies and foes alike, but especially by intimates like Britain, Canada, Japan and Mexico. Yet like moths to the flame, the leaders of those nations are finding that they draw close at their peril.
While [Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa] May is the latest prominent figure to suffer repercussions for her handling of Mr. Trump, the leaders of those other three close allies have also felt the sting of public anger soon after what seemed to be friendly telephone calls or encounters. They then find themselves facing a no-win situation, either openly criticizing the leader of their superpower ally or pulling their punches and risking severe criticism at home.
One Western leader to escape this fate so far is the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, who has kept a cool distance from Mr. Trump. In a telephone call on Saturday, she reminded him of Washington’s obligations under the Geneva Conventions to accept refugees fleeing war, a view underlined by her official spokesman.
The danger of playing nice with Mr. Trump should come as little surprise to his country’s allies. Besides campaigning on an “America First” platform, he has regularly argued that allies have been taking the United States for a ride, in trade, security and financial terms.
While he has been cordial in public settings with the leaders of those allied nations, Mr. Trump has turned on them soon afterward.
“The problem for May is that Trump doesn’t value relationships. He values strength and winning,” said Jeremy Shapiro, the director of research at the European Council on Foreign Relations and a former senior State Department official. “If you rush to the White House to offer a weak hand of friendship, you guarantee exploitation.” [Continue reading…]
Paul Mason writes: We have two choices: we can acquiesce and let this sociopathic sex pest grab our collective hand amid the scary world he has created. We can abase ourselves for special favours – such as exemption for British dual nationals. Or we can reject Trump in his entirety.
Just as Trump is meddling – via Ukip – in the racial politics of Britain, British liberalism and socialism has the duty now to intervene in the social politics of the US. We must bet on Trump’s defeat in 2020, help train and fund lawyers and journalists to hold him in check, and – once he is gone – attempt to rebuild the multilateral order. Yes, and ruin his state visit: through all forms of protest legally possible.
The shape of a Dump Trump foreign policy is clear: Britain must strengthen its alliance with countries whose governments and peoples share our values: France, the Netherlands, Germany, Canada and Greece. Although we are headed out of the EU, the case for the softest possible form of Brexit is only strengthened by the US’s descent into arbitrary government. [Continue reading…]
Suzanne Moore writes: If you had told me a few months back I would be encouraging people to sign a petition to prevent embarrassment being caused to the Queen, I would have laughed. Petitions are so overused these days that they can seem meaningless – and surely there are bigger issues at stake than the feelings of the monarch. But that was before Donald Trump and his decency-shredding goons were in power, before this shameful Muslim ban. These are not normal times – despite our government and much of our press pretending that they are. It is good to see that Trump is being fought on every level from huge marches, to spontaneous demonstrations to legal challenges. This petition is another small front. It is not an attempt to ban Trump, it simply asks that he does not make a state visit, that the red carpet is not rolled out for him. It says a state visit could cause the Queen “embarrassment”.
This is a smart move because Trump does care about pomp, ceremony and hierarchy. Symbolism matters more to him than reality. Never accepted socially in the upper echelons of American society, it matters hugely that he is now seen with those his supporters recognise as important. He kept the menu from his dinner with Theresa May remember, as a reminder that he’d “had lunch with the British prime minister”.
Embracing him with the royal flummery would signal to his base that this country held him in high regard, that he was head of a respected government. Both these things are untrue. May’s embarrassing renewal of the vows of the special relationship didn’t even amount to a one-night stand. As soon as she had got on the plane he was signing this vile executive order. The ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries is a domestic policy to play to his racist base. It has nothing to do with terrorism, but some of those who would support it would also enjoy seeing him all puffed up hanging out with the Queen. [Continue reading…]
The New York Times reports: President Trump began a new era of diplomacy with Russia on Saturday as he and President Vladimir V. Putin conducted an hourlong telephone call, and vowed to repair relations between the countries after nearly three years of conflict that threatened a new Cold War between East and West.
The two leaders discussed fighting terrorism and expanding economic ties, but barely mentioned the wedge that has been driven between Washington and Moscow since Russia annexed Crimea and sponsored a separatist war in eastern Ukraine in 2014. Still, although Mr. Trump had previously expressed a willingness to lift sanctions against Russia, the issue did not come up, according to officials on both sides.
The tone of the conversation was reported to be warm, indicating a drastic shift after relations had broken down between Mr. Putin and former President Barack Obama. “The positive call was a significant start to improving the relationship between the United States and Russia that is in need of repair,” the Trump administration said in a statement. “Both President Trump and President Putin are hopeful that after today’s call, the two sides can move quickly to tackle terrorism and other important issues of mutual concern.”
In its statement, the Kremlin said: “Donald Trump asked to convey a desire for happiness and prosperity for the Russian people, noting that the people in America relate with sympathy to Russia and its citizens.” Mr. Putin answered that Russians feel the same way about Americans, the statement said. Neither side mentioned the Russian hacking of the American election in their statements.
Over the past two days, Mr. Trump has also had a series of conversations with the United States’ traditional European allies, but those calls were seemingly not as congenial. After a meeting on Friday with Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain, in which she warned against removing sanctions on Russia, Mr. Trump had on Saturday what appeared to be a businesslike call with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, and a testier call with President François Hollande of France.
Mr. Hollande’s office said the French president pressed Mr. Trump not to lift sanctions against Russia and to respect the nuclear agreement with Iran. He asserted the importance of the Paris climate change pact, warned of the consequences of protectionism, and added that democratic values included welcoming refugees — all in reaction to Mr. Trump’s first week of policy moves. Mr. Hollande also emphasized the importance of NATO and the United Nations, both of which Mr. Trump has disparaged. [Continue reading…]
— Tom Fletcher (@TFletcher) January 28, 2017
The Guardian reports: Jeremy Corbyn has told Theresa May she will be “failing the British people” if she does not cancel Donald Trump’s state visit in the wake of the US president’s ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries entering the US.
Corbyn told the Guardian the summer visit should be called off if Trump’s indefinite ban on Syrian refugees remains in place, even if time-limited restrictions put in place have lapsed by then.
“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.”
With Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, also calling for the visit to be cancelled, May was under pressure on Sunday to make a stronger condemnation of Trump’s ban, which has brought global condemnation and prompted travel and legal chaos within the US. [Continue reading…]
BBC political correspondent, Susana Mendonca, writes: Before all the hand holding and pally smiles, Theresa May promised the world she would not be afraid to tell Donald Trump what she thought when she disagreed with him. It didn’t take long for her to stumble at the first hurdle.
Downing Street later said the prime minister didn’t agree with Mr Trump’s approach. And her Chief Secretary to the Treasury also said she was not the kind of politician to “shoot from the hip”.
But this tougher stance only came after wide criticism of her failure to condemn the president in the first place.
Iraqi-born MP Nadhim Zahawi said he would also be banned from the US; fellow Conservative Heidi Allen said she didn’t care how “special” the relationship was, some lines shouldn’t be crossed.
And that’s the trouble for Theresa May. Donald Trump is bound to cross yet more lines, and if she doesn’t criticise him she’ll look like the weak partner obeying the powerful one.
The real question for her will be whether keeping Mr Trump sweet in the interests of getting a good trade deal for Britain is worth the backlash she’ll get for not being candid enough when she and Britain disagrees with him.
Labour Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he was pleased the prime minister “has now said she and the government do not agree” with the policy – which Mr Khan described as “shameful”.
“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’.”
Labour’s former deputy leader Harriet Harman told the BBC: “I was horrified when he announced this ban on people from Muslim countries.
“And three times – once, twice, three times – [Mrs May] said: ‘Oh it’s nothing to do with me.’ Well, it is to do with us, as we all know. And she obviously has to be careful as prime minister – but she needs to be strong as well. So I was really disappointed – I hope she’s learnt some lessons.”
The Guardian reports: Hamaseh Tayari, a UK resident who holds an Iranian passport, has been on holiday in Costa Rica with her boyfriend for the last week. She was due to fly back to Glasgow, where she works as a vet, this morning but was denied entry onto the flight because her flight went via New York and she would need a transit visa, which was revoked.
Tayari, who grew up in Italy, has never experienced anything like this. She says: “This has really shocked me. We just discovered [what Trump did] at the airport when we went to check in. I want people to know that this is not just happening to refugees. I am a graduate and I have a PhD. It has happened to a person who is working and who pays tax.”
Tayari and her boyfriend are trying to find an alternative route home. A flight to Madrid on the 30 January will cost them £2,000 and they’ll still have to find a way from there to Glasgow. “We had been saving for months for this holiday and it will cost me a month’s salary just to get home,” she said.
“I am destroyed. I did not know that I could cry for so long. It feels like the beginning of the end. How this is possible? I am really afraid about what is going on.”
British Conservative MP Nadhim Zahawi, who was born in Iraq, interviewed on the BBC:
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) January 29, 2017
Sadly, it’s a bit late in the day for Zahawi to have recognized the importance of freedom of movement. Last March, sounding very much like Trump, the MP tweeted in support of Brexit:
— Nadhim Zahawi (@nadhimzahawi) March 30, 2016
Another Brexiter, now Britain’s foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, is now speaking out in defense of freedom of movement:
We will protect the rights and freedoms of UK nationals home and abroad. Divisive and wrong to stigmatise because of nationality
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) January 29, 2017
The Telegraph reports: Sir Mo Farah, the British Olympic hero, has attacked Donald Trump and said he fears he may now be separated from his family because of the American president’s immigration crackdown.
The four-times Olympic gold medal winner said the Queen had made him a knight, but Mr Trump had apparently now made him an ‘alien’
The long distance runner said he would be forced to tell his children “that Daddy may not be able to come home” because of the ban preventing any citizen of seven mostly-Muslim countries from entering the US for 90 days. The ban extends to those with dual British nationality.
In a damning statement, the long distance runner who was knighted last month said Mr Trump’s new policy was “from a place of ignorance and prejudice.” [Continue reading…]
— BBC Newsbeat (@BBCNewsbeat) January 29, 2017
Reuters reports: Prime Minister Theresa May said on Saturday Britain did not agree with U.S. President Donald Trump’s curbs on immigration after facing criticism from lawmakers in her own party for not condemning his executive order.
On a visit to Turkey, she was asked three times to comment on Trump’s move to put a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the United States and temporarily barring travelers from Syria and six other Muslim-majority countries, which he said would protect Americans from violent Islamists.
She replied Washington was responsible for its policy on refugees.
But later, after her return to London, her spokesman said: “Immigration policy in the United States is a matter for the government of the United States, just the same as immigration policy for this country should be set by our government.
“But we do not agree with this kind of approach and it is not one we will be taking. We are studying this new executive order to see what it means and what the legal effects are, and in particular what the consequences are for UK nationals.” [Continue reading…]
World leaders condemn Trump’s ‘Muslim ban.’ Theresa May take note: the ban also applies to dual nationals
To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) January 28, 2017
Al Jazeera reports: European leaders, the United Nations and international groups have condemned US President Donald Trump’s measures against refugees and travellers from several Muslim-majority countries.
The chorus of criticism came as passport holders from Arab countries were blocked on Saturday from passing through customs at US airports and others were prevented from boarding US-bound planes.
Trump on Friday signed an executive order that will curb immigration and the entry of refugees from some Muslim-majority countries. He separately said he wanted the US to give priority to Syrian Christians fleeing the civil war there.
The bans, though temporary, took effect immediately, causing havoc and confusion for would-be travelers with passports from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
The United Nations refugee agency and the International Organization for Migration called on the Trump administration to continue offering asylum to people fleeing war and persecution, saying its resettlement programme was vital.
“The needs of refugees and migrants worldwide have never been greater and the US resettlement programme is one of the most important in the world,” the two Geneva-based agencies said in a joint statement on Saturday. [Continue reading…]
The Wall Street Journal reports: Citizens of the seven countries identified by President Donald Trump for a 90-day visa ban who hold dual nationality also will be barred from entering the United States, the U.S. State Department said in a statement Saturday.
In a statement that the State Department is due to release, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, the 90-day visa moratorium extends beyond just citizens of Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Libya and Yemen.
It also applies to people who originally hail from those countries but are traveling on a passport issued by any other nation, the statement notes. That means Iraqis seeking to enter the U.S. on a British passport, for instance, will be barred, according to a U.S. official. British citizens don’t normally require a visa to enter the U.S. [Continue reading…]
She was speaking just a day after meeting the new President in Washington, where the pair pledged their commitment to the “special relationship” between Britain and the US.
After agreeing a controversial £100 million fighter jet deal amid wide-ranging purges and security crackdowns following an attempted coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ms May held a joint press conference with Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım.
Their talks were overshadowed by global debate over Mr Trump’s executive order to ban Syrian refugees from entering the US indefinitely, halt all other asylum admissions for 120 days and suspend travel visas for citizens of “countries of particular concern”, including Syria, Iraq and other Muslim-majority nations.
Faisal Islam, the political editor of Sky News, asked Ms May whether she viewed it as an “action of the leader of the free world”.
The Prime Minister replied that she was “very pleased” to have met Mr Trump in Washington, before evading the question by hailing Turkey’s reception of millions of refugees and Britain’s support for its government and other nations surrounding Syria.
When pressed for a second time for her view by another British journalist, Ms May continued: “The United States is responsible for the United States’ policy on refugees, the United Kingdom is responsible for the United Kingdom’s policy on refugees.” [Continue reading…]
The Guardian reports: The rise of unthinking pacifism and kneejerk isolationism in Britain have dangerous consequences for the safety of people around the world, according to a report started by Labour MP Jo Cox, who was murdered in June 2016.
The report, which was finished by Cox’s colleague and fellow MP Alison McGovern and Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, makes the case that doing nothing can have a greater cost than intervention.
The findings are to be launched by the former prime minister Gordon Brown and former Tory foreign secretary William Hague on Thursday, at an event for the Policy Exchange thinktank in London.
The paper was intended to be jointly published by Cox, a former aid worker, and Tugendhat, a former soldier, before the Batley and Spen MP was shot and stabbed by far-right terrorist Thomas Mair.
It points to a number of global conflicts where intervention has been deemed successful, including a no-fly zone in Iraq in 1991 to protect Kurds from Saddam Hussein’s air attacks, the 1999 intervention in Kosovo to save civilians from ethnic cleansing and the British intervention in Sierra Leone in 2000 to help repel the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) advance. [Continue reading…]
Reuters reports: British Prime Minister Theresa May must give parliament a vote before she can formally start Britain’s exit from the European Union, the UK Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday, giving lawmakers who oppose her Brexit plans a shot at amending them.
By a majority of eight to three, the UK’s highest judicial body decided May could not use executive powers known as “royal prerogative” to invoke Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty and so begin two years of divorce talks.
“The referendum is of great political significance, but the Act of Parliament which established it did not say what should happen as a result,” said David Neuberger, President of the Supreme Court.
“So any change in the law to give effect to the referendum must be made in the only way permitted by the UK constitution, namely by an Act of Parliament.”
However, the judges did remove one major potential obstacle for the British government, saying May did not need the approval of the UK’s devolved assemblies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland before triggering Brexit. [Continue reading…]
Rafael Behr writes: aybe the European Union is God’s way of teaching the British about Belgium. Specifically, it is a mechanism that forces UK politicians to confront the idea that Belgium matters. And not just Belgium but countries like it – the small countries.
This concept doesn’t come naturally to a nation that is neurotically worried about its greatness. Naming famous Belgians is a parlour game for British foreign secretaries. Cultivating small-state alliances feels like something less ambitious countries do. The UK struggles to see itself in perspective because it is richer and more powerful than most countries, yet so much less influential than it used to be.
We are not alone in suffering from post-imperial angst, but we have tied ourselves in uniquely existential knots where relations with our European neighbours are concerned. Theresa May understands the deep cultural and psychological attraction of Brexit as a great unpicking – a disentanglement from continental ties, the benefits of which feel obscure to much of the public.
Therein lies the emotional cleverness of the prime minister’s formulation of a “clean Brexit”, as laid out in her speech on Tuesday. Pro-Europeans probe the agonising detail of the negotiations to come without recruiting any more of the public to share their pain. If anything, the balance of opinion is swinging the other way. The prime minister’s message was tailored to the large segment of voters, including many ex-remainers, who see the big in/out question as settled and say they want the job done without any more palaver.
The effectiveness of May’s account of future relations with the EU – no “partial membership”, no messy overlaps with the past – is its simplicity. Her Europhile critics want to talk only about complexity, which is the least catchy tune in politics. May paints Britain with the crispness of its outline restored, its place in the world made clearer by the erasure of all those fiddly lines that connect London to Brussels and then to Paris, Berlin, Ljubljana, Tallinn and the rest. She offers liberation from the need to care about Belgians.
That obligation endures whether the prime minister wants it or not. Small states will have a say in the divorce contract terms that Britain signs with the EU. Their voice will be heard in the negotiations and in chambers where the deal must be ratified. It was opposition in Belgium’s Wallonian regional parliament that nearly scuppered a Canada-EU free trade agreement last year. [Continue reading…]