The speaker of the British House of Commons was greeted with cheers today after he announced his opposition to President Trump addressing Parliament during his state visit to the U.K.
Speaker John Bercow pointed to Trump’s recent executive order barring citizens from seven Muslim-majority nation from travelling to the U.S. as part of the reason he could not support a Trump address.
"I would not wish to issue an invitation to President Trump to speak in the Royal Gallery," Bercow said during a session of Parliament, citing the body’s "opposition to racism and to sexism and our support for equality before the law and an independent judiciary."
Prime Minister Theresa May invited Trump to make a state visit during her meeting with the leader in Washington last month. The invitation has attracted significant controversy back in the U.K., one of the U.S.’s most important global allies.
A petition calling for the invitation to be rescinded garnered 1.8 million signatures and is now set to be debated in Parliament later this month. Thousands of demonstrators flooded the streets of London and other cities across the U.K. last week to protest Trump’s executive order. An estimated 10,000 protesters demonstrated in front of 10 Downing St., the prime minister's residence, chanting "shame on May" and other slogans opposing the invitation.
Speaking before Parliament is considered a great honor for foreign leaders visiting Britain. Only a few U.S. presidents have addressed the body over the past decades: President Ronald Reagan in 1982, President Bill Clinton in 1995 and President Barack Obama in 2011.
Bercow underscored the significance of such an address during his comments to Parliament, saying, "an address by a foreign leader to both houses of Parliament is not an automatic right, it’s an earned honor."
He acknowledged that he, as speaker of the House of Commons, was not the only politician to have a say in whether Trump would be invited but that the imposition of the migrant ban meant that he is now "strongly opposed to an address by President Trump in Westminster Hall."
In Parliament, his remarks were followed by a round of applause and cheers from many of the members present in the chamber, including Dennis Skinner, who rose to respond, "Further to that point of order, two words: Well done."
But some have criticized the speaker for the statements, most notably Nigel Farage, the former leader of the right-wing U.K. Independence Party and a prominent British Trump ally.
"For Speaker Bercow to uphold our finest parliamentary traditions, he should be neutral," Farage tweeted today.