During a joint press conference with Donald Trump on Friday, British Prime Minister Theresa May announced that the president had accepted an offer from Queen Elizabeth II for an official state visit in 2017.
That, to put it mildly, hasn’t gone over well in May’s home country. More than a million British citizens have signed on to an increasingly popular petition calling for the state visit to be canceled — making it currently the second most popular initiative on the website of the British Parliament. (A petition asking for a do-over on the country’s Brexit vote has even more support.)
The massive public backing for the anti-Trump measure means it has easily passed the 100,000-signature threshold required for it to be considered for debate by Parliament.
In its first eight weeks in existence, the petition, which impugned Trump for his “misogyny and vulgarity,” gathered just a few dozen signatures. But in the wake of Trump’s executive order calling for a ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries over the weekend, the petition went viral, and one point was racking up 1,000 signatures a minute.
The petition isn’t calling for Trump to be banned from the UK altogether, but rather for his visit to be downgraded from a state visit to a more casual one. State visits are majestic affairs with the royal family, “which usually includes a carriage procession and a lavish state banquet at Buckingham Palace,” according to the Washington Post. The man who created the petition told the Independent that his original goal was to deny Trump the opportunity to “bask in the Queen’s reflective glory.”
Despite the fact that the petition was not originally designed to be specifically about Trump’s attitude toward Muslims, it’s gained traction in the UK because of the controversy surrounding his travel ban. British politicians from across the political spectrum slammed the May administration’s sluggish reaction to Trump’s ban, which came a day after Trump signed the executive order.
And when May did offer public comment, it was strikingly mild: "Immigration policy in the United States is a matter for the government of the United States," said a spokesperson from May’s administration. “But we do not agree with this kind of approach and it is not one we will be taking."
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson offered stronger criticism over Twitter on Sunday: "We will protect the rights and freedoms of UK nationals home and abroad. Divisive and wrong to stigmatize because of nationality,” he wrote.
But on Monday, while speaking before Parliament about how he disagreed with Trump but saw nothing to be gained from trying to “demonize” him, Johnson came under fire from all sides for being too deferential to the US. Yvette Cooper, a Labour member of Parliament, found Johnson’s rhetoric to be too tepid. “One of our closest allies has chosen to ban refugees and target Muslims and all he [Johnson] can say is ‘well it wouldn’t be our policy,’’” she said. “That’s not good enough.”
“For the sake of history, for heaven’s sake, have the guts to speak out,” Cooper said.