LONDON — Monday’s newspaper front pages lead on the claim that the UK has secured a series of exemptions from US President Donald Trump’s travel ban on citizens from seven Muslim countries.
“Boris keeps US open to Britons” is the take of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s former employer, the Daily Telegraph.
Yet it’s unclear what, if any, concessions the Foreign Secretary has actually secured. What Johnson refers to as a new US’ “clarification” on the rights of British citizens with dual citizenship, is in reality a complete reversal.
Earlier statements by the US State Department made it clear that all arrivals, including those with dual nationality, from one of the seven banned countries, would be barred entry.
The reversal is also not specific to Britain. Although little noticed by the British press, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau announced the very same “clarification” some 15 hours prior to Johnson’s statement. And this reversal was secured without Trudeau having to hold hands, either metaphorically or literally, with the US president.
So while supporters of the UK government’s close relationship with the Trump administration will claim today’s statement as a vindication of their position, there is little evidence that May’s eleventh hour intervention had any real effect. Not least because it comes just one day after May stated that “immigration policy in the United States is a matter for the Government of the United States.”
While it’s obviously welcome that most UK citizens will no longer be affected by the ban, it does not make the ban any less abhorrent.
Banning people entry on the basis of their nationality or religion is no less despicable, whether British people are exempt from it or not. The fact that one famous British athlete will now be allowed into the US does not change the fact that thousands of Syrians fleeing for their lives will not. As London mayor Sadiq Khan said last year when Trump offered him an exemption from the ban: “This isn’t just about me — it’s about my friends, my family and everyone who comes from a background similar to mine, anywhere in the world.”
So far a million people have signed a petition calling for May to cancel Trump’s state visit to the UK and tonight thousands of British people will take part in a protest against him outside Downing Street. Similar protests are already taking place right across the US as American people make it clear that the ban will not stand.
As the nature of Trump’s administration becomes clear it is already being met by a growing global protest movement. Although still not fully-formed, this movement is already forcing the UK government to take a more sceptical and critical approach towards the new US president.
But ultimately, history suggests that it will be this mobilisation of people, rather than any late night phone calls from Boris Johnson, that will have the power to change the direction that now Trump takes.
This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
Donald Trump hasn’t “clarified” his position on dual citizens as the UK foreign office spin. He’s reversed it. Here’s the original policy. pic.twitter.com/Xgmt9MCf40
— Adam Bienkov (@AdamBienkov) January 30, 2017
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