LONDON — Theresa May was at the centre of a political storm on Saturday evening after it emerged that US President Donald Trump’s ban on Muslims of particular nationalities entering the US will affect Britons, including one of her own MPs.
On Friday, Trump signed off an executive order that officially banned people from seven countries with mostly Muslim populations from entering the US for 90 days. The countries are Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
The executive order unleashed chaos in the US overnight as thousands of people were left in legal limbo. Crowds of protesters gathered at airports where affected people already in transit were being detained as a result of Trump’s severe crackdown on immigration from Muslim states.
At least seven people were stopped from boarding a flight at from Amsterdam to the US, while in Cairo, Egypt officials said six Iraqis and a Yemeni had been stopped from boarding an EgyptAir flight to New York.
This was all took place just hours after May left Washington having become the first foreign leader to meet Trump since his inauguration.
The prime minister initially failed to condemn Trump’s Muslim ban, but then backtracked, releasing a statement late on Saturday night saying that she “did not agree” with the policy. “We do not agree with this kind of approach and it is not one we will be taking,” a spokesperson for Number 10 said.
However, numerous politicians and other leading figures have criticised May for failing to condemn Trump’s executive order in much stronger terms, particularly because its remit extends to Brits who have dual nationalities.
Nadhim Zahawi, an MP in May’s own Tory party, was born in Iraq but left as a child when Saddam Hussein came to power. His legal representatives had told him he will be affected by the ban. British Olympic hero Mo Farrah could also be banned as he has a British-Somalian passport.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn released a statement condemning May for failing to stand up for British values. He said:
He said: “President Trump’s executive order against refugees and Muslims should shock and appal us all.
“Theresa May should have stood up for Britain and our values by condemning his actions. It should sadden our country that she chose not to. After Trump’s hideous actions and May’s weak failure to condemn them, it’s more important than ever for us to say to refugees seeking a place of safety, that they will always be welcome in Britain.”
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron was absolutely scathing in his criticism of May, accusing the prime minister of humiliating the country’s reputation on the world stage. In a statement, Farron said:”Theresa May has failed to criticise President Trump for turning away and banning refugees whose only crime is to believe in a different religion.
“Not only is this shocking even by her standards, it cannot be allowed to stand. The President’s actions have horrified the world, and this is a moment when she has to show what side she is on.
“Perhaps she feels in a weak position on Syrian refugees because her own record on this is so lamentable.
“More likely it is because she is so desperate for a trade deal at any price after her decision to haul Britain out of the world’s largest market that she will turn a blind eye to anything.
“At the press conference she contrived to make the Turkish government look liberal. They said it was wrong to build walls. Rather than fighting to build a world that is open, tolerant and united, Theresa May is dividing the world in a very dangerous way.
“If Theresa May would stay in the Single Market none of this humiliation would be necessary.”
Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston said that Trump should be disinvited from addressing the Houses of Parliament when he visits the UK later this year. It is common practice for visiting US Presidents to deliver a speech in Westminster Hall to MPs and Lords alike. However, Wollaston has called on Parliament to snub the President in response to his highly-contentious immigration policy.
She tweeted on Saturday evening: “On his forthcoming State visit I don’t think Trump should be invited to address both Houses of Parliament from Westminster Hall.Westminster Hall has great significance & should be reserved for leaders who have made an outstanding positive difference in the world. That doesn’t include Mr Trump. Those who wish to fawn over him should be free to do so in the Royal Gallery as normal. Not Westminster Hall, thanks.”
Prior to visiting the White House this week, May had vowed to “stand up” to Trump on his inflammatory policies and comments. But she is now accused of cosying up to the divisive President in a way that reflects negatively on her office and the country, in what is the most difficult moment she has faced since succeeding becoming prime minister.
I’m a British citizen & so proud to have been welcomed to this country. Sad to hear ill be banned from the USA based on my country of birth
— Nadhim Zahawi (@nadhimzahawi) January 28, 2017
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