Monday, 22 April 2019

Queen is in ‘difficult position’ over Trump State Visit

LONDON: Theresa May has been accused of putting the Queen in a ‘very difficult position’ by inviting Donald Trump for a state visit. A former Foreign Office chief has hit out at the PM’s ‘ill judged’ move saying it has exposed the monarch to a furious row about the US president’s travel ban on nationals from seven mainly-Muslim countries. Lord Ricketts, the top mandarin at the department until 2010, said he could not see why Mr Trump was ‘specially deserving’ of an honour which his predecessors had to wait years for. He suggested the full ceremonial visit should be delayed and a lower-key political trip happen instead. The intervention comes amid signs that Buckingham Palace is uncomfortable with Downing Street’s handling of the situation. Aides are said to have made clear that the Queen was only acting on the recommendation of the PM. Fears the monarch could be dragged into the furore grew last night as tens of thousands of people took to the streets in London and other major UK cities to express their anger over Mr Trump’s executive order. Senior Tories and Labour MPs have joined forces to urge Mrs May to withdraw the invite – extended when she visited Washington last week for talks with the US commander-in-chief. But a defiant Mrs May used a press conference in Dublin last night to insist the visit will go ahead this year. ‘The United States is a close ally of the United Kingdom. We work together across many areas of mutual interest and we have that special relationship between us,’ she said. ‘I have issued that invitation for a state visit for President Trump to the United Kingdom and that invitation stands.’

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson made clear that the government viewed the ban as ‘divisive, discriminatory and wrong’ last night. He said he had received assurances from the US authorities that no Britons, even those with joint nationality, would be affected by the restrictions. But Mr Johnson also dismissed calls for the state visit to be cancelled, saying there was ‘absolutely no reason’ to do so. Lord Ricketts, who was permanent secretary at the Foreign Office from 2006-10 before becoming David Cameron’s national security adviser, said the offer so early in Mr Trump’s presidency was ‘premature’. In a letter to The Times, he said it was unprecedented for a US president to be given a state visit in their first year in the White House and questioned whether Mr Trump was ‘specially deserving of this exceptional honour’. ‘It would have been far wiser to wait to see what sort of president he would turn out to be before advising the Queen to invite him. Now the Queen is put in a very difficult position.’  Lord Ricketts called for the state visit to be delayed so a scaled-down political trip by Mr Trump could take place first. He told: ‘Perhaps the timing of a state visit can be put back a bit … ‘in the meantime he should pay an early official visit, mainly centred on political talks with the Prime Minister. ‘Once this official invitation has been issued, then, of course, there should be a state visit. ‘But I think if you did it two or three years into the Trump presidency, the controversial early policy announcements would have been out of the way, things would have settled down.’ However, Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said the full state visit should go ahead within the next six months when issues around the travel ban have been ‘resolved one way or another’. He told: ‘The Queen is a consummate, professional head of state, her staff will be professional with all foreign leaders, heads of state, that come to visit our country… ‘I would suspect that any date for his visit will be long after any travel ban has expired and other arrangement will be in place.’

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