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Donald Trump UK state visit to be debated in Parliament

By James Masters CNN

LONDON (CNN) -- Members of the UK parliament are to hold a debate on President Donald Trump's controversial state visit.

The debate, which will be held in the House of Commons on February 20, comes after a petition calling for the invite to be scrapped attracted over 1.6 million signatures.

A counter petition, supporting Trump's visit, will also be discussed, after it gathered the support of more than the required 100,000 signatures required to trigger a debate in Parliament.

Demonstrations took place across the UK Monday with thousands turning out to protest against Trump's potential visit in which he would be expected to meet Queen Elizabeth II.

There has been growing anger over Trump's travel ban which has imposed a 90-day ban people from seven Muslim-majority nations and to restrict the number of refugees who can enter the country.

The executive order was signed just hours after British Prime Minister Theresa May left the White House after becoming the first world leader to hold talks with Trump.

Since then, May has come under fire for her slow response in criticizing the ban and her perceived reluctance to speak out against Trump.

May did eventually comment when one of her spokespeople said "we do not agree with this kind of approach," adding that immigration was a matter for the US to decide on its own.

Anger

May's invitation to Trump, which was made during a joint press conference in Washington last week, has caused anger both inside Parliament and with the public.

It has also left Buckingham Palace under the spotlight.

In a letter to Tuesday's Times newspaper, the respected former head of the Foreign Office, Peter Ricketts, said May had put The Queen in a "very difficult position" and should protect her by downgrading Trump's invitation to an "official visit".

Such a trip would be a far quieter affair, involving talks with May and a low-profile call on the monarch.

No US President has received a state visit in his first term in office, making Trump's invite unprecedented.

President Barack Obama was afforded the honor 28 months into his tenure, while George W. Bush was extended the invite after 32 months.

'Divisive and wrong'

On Monday, Downing Street said that May "extended an invitation on behalf of the Queen - and she was very happy to do so."

But her stance has caused consternation with MPs urging for any invite to be rescinded until the travel ban is halted.

"Why on earth has Theresa the appeaser got him here within a few months?" asked Labour lawmaker Mike Gapes during a Parliamentary debate Monday.

Another Labour member of Parliament, Yvette Cooper, urged Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson "for the sake of history, for heaven's sake have the guts to speak out!"

Earlier, Johnson labeled Trump's travel ban as "divisive and wrong," while London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the move was "shameful and cruel."

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