LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May called President Trump’s controversial travel ban “divisive and wrong”, a delayed response to the backlash she faced at home for failing to criticize the executive order. May, the first foreign leader to meet with Trump at the White House last Friday, told Parliament that “this government is clear that that policy is wrong. We wouldn’t do it. We believe it is divisive and wrong.” The order, which temporarily suspends the U.S. refugee program and immigration from seven majority Muslim nations because of security concerns, created havoc for many international travelers headed for the U.S. over the weekend. It also sparked protests across the U.S. and in other countries. A petition to stop Trump from making an official state visit to the United Kingdom later this year has gained more than 1.7 million signatures and will be debated in Parliament on Feb. 20. A counter-petition, calling for Trump to make a state visit, expected in the summer, attracted more than 200,000 signatures and also will be debated by lawmakers. Such petitions need only 100,000 signatures to force a debate in Parliament.
May’s office said she will not dis-invite Trump, who already accepted an invitation from Queen Elizabeth II. Thousands of people took to the streets around the U.K. earlier this week to protest Trump’s order. Trump tweeted Wednesday morning: “Everybody is arguing whether or not it is a BAN. Call it what you want, it is about keeping bad people (with bad intentions) out of country!” Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and other politicians had criticized May for initially failing to condemn the order. She later said U.S. immigration is a matter for the American government, but “we do not agree with this kind of approach and it is not one we will be taking.” A former U.S. ambassador to the U.K. advised the queen and May to push Trump’s state visit back “to see how it plays out.” Louis Susman, who was President Obama’s envoy in 2009-13, said a Trump state visit in the near future might cause “some difficulties.” “I think we’re dealing in an unknown world with President Trump and I think that the issues going forward, whether they be domestic or foreign, we have to judge as they happen,” Susman, who now lives in Chicago.