MP says it would be a ‘disaster’ to cancel President Trumps UK visit

Edward Leigh MP
Edward Leigh MP

Gainsborough’s MP says it would be a “disaster” if President Trump’s invitation to visit Britain was cancelled because of a public backlash.

A petition has been launched to prevent President Trump from making a state visit to the United Kingdom.

The petition says Donald Trump should be allowed to enter the UK in his capacity as head of the US Government, but he should not be invited to make an official State Visit because it would cause embarrassment to Her Majesty the Queen.

This topic was discussed in parliament on Monday, February 20.

Gainsborough MP, Sir Edward Leigh, said: “There are two ways in which those who agree that the state visit should go ahead can approach the debate. There is the argument along the lines of national self-interest, which is the relatively easy way, and there is the more difficult way: we have got to seek to understand what Mr Trump means to many people in America. I will start with the first. It seems obvious to me that great countries such as our own act in their own national self-interest, and they issue these invitations in order to further that self-interest.

“Presumably, when we invited not one but two Presidents of China, we were prepared to overlook the fact that China is effectively a police state, that there is no freedom of expression, of movement or of association, and that there is outright religious persecution. In every single respect it is a state that does not share our values in any shape or form. Presumably, when we issued an invitation all those years ago to President Ceausescu and awarded him a knighthood, we felt it was in our national self-interest so to do. Indeed, we rescinded the award of the knighthood only on the day before he was executed by his own people.

That is a perfectly valid point and I have no objection to it. To continue the historical analogies, presumably when we invited President Mugabe, a racist homophobe, to have tea with the Queen, we were prepared to overlook his transgressions, and when we invited King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who presided over the ultimate misogynist state, presumably we felt that Saudi Arabia was an important ally of ours.

“We have to be careful about what we wish for. Just think for a moment: if we listened to the petition—I accept that people have signed it in perfectly good faith, and it is a perfectly reasonable point of view—and accepted it and, as a result of the debate, we were to rescind the invitation, that would be catastrophic to our relationship with our closest ally.

“I will not labour that point, but surely my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) has won the argument in the sense that ​our peace and security and the peace and security of the whole western world depends on our using influence with President Trump. I for one believe that our Prime Minister’s visit was an absolute triumph not only in furthering our national self-interest but by binding President Trump and his new Administration to NATO. We see the effects of that in terms of what the vice-president has been saying only this week.

“There is no doubt in my mind that it is in our national self-interest to accord respect and honour to our closest and greatest ally. Whether we like it or not, this man is the duly democratically elected leader of the free world.

“To me, that is the easy argument to make, but I feel I have to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley (Mr Evans) in making what is probably a much more difficult and controversial argument. We had a debate a year ago on Mr Trump when speaker after speaker, even on the Conservative side, condemned him, saying he was outrageous.

“I was the only one who tried to understand the phenomenon and why people were supporting and voting for him. I made the point then, and will make it now, that it is unwise of us to try to transfer our own views and prejudices to the other side of the Atlantic. For instance, most people here think that I am on the far right of the political spectrum in this House, but here I am, a person who warmly supports gun control, who opposed the Iraq war and who relies entirely on the NHS.

“All of those things would make me an abomination in large parts of the Republican party. It is very foolish for us to lecture our conservative colleagues on the other side of the Atlantic about what is the right or improper nature of conservativism.

“Mr Trump is not my sort of conservative, I have nothing in common with him, but let us look at some of his comments and the charge of misogyny.

“Of course, what he was reported as saying in a private conversation was horrible and ridiculous, I hope none of us would make those comments, but which one of us has not made some ridiculous sexual comment at some time in our past? Well, in private. Let he is without sin cast the first stone. He has apologised. That is not really a reason to withdraw an invitation.

“As regards the argument of racism, I do not believe there is any proof that the travel ban is racist. Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world and there is no question of a travel ban on Indonesia. All the travel ban countries are riven by civil war and the travel ban builds on work done by President Obama, so to accuse the new President of the United States of racism, misogyny and all the rest is overstating it.

“I knew that these arguments would be difficult to make, but the fact is that 61 million American people voted for Mr Trump and support him, like it or not. Even if he fills people with rage, the fact is that he is there.

“He is the duly elected President of the United States. Our interests rely absolutely on trying to influence the man, and on bringing him over here to tie him to our point of view. He would never be elected in this country, his views would have no traction. He would never become the leader of the Conservative party in this country.

“None of us would campaign along the lines he has campaigned on. We all disagree fundamentally with many things he has said, but he is there. He is elected. We have to work with him. That is why it would be a disaster if the invitation were rescinded.”