Commons Speaker John Bercow has become embroiled in controversy after insisting US President Donald Trump should not be allowed to address Parliament during his state visit.
Mr Bercow’s extraordinary attack re-ignited controversy over the invitation to Mr Trump, provoking applause from MPs who oppose the US President, and drawing accusations the Speaker was “insulting” the UK’s closest ally.
The Speaker appeared to brand Mr Trump a “racist” as he said the president’s travel ban on Muslims from seven countries, and refugees, had hardened his hostility to any high profile Westminster address during the visit.
“I feel very strongly that our opposition to racism and to sexism and our support for equality before the law and an independent judiciary are hugely important considerations in the House of Commons,” Mr Bercow told MPs as he said he would not wish to invite Mr Trump to address them.
The Speaker said he was “strongly opposed” to the idea of an address to both houses of parliament by Mr Trump before the travel ban, and was now “even more strongly” against such a invitation.
Republican Congressman Joe Wilson criticised the Speaker’s comments, telling BBC Newsnight: “That’s very disappointing, because if ever in recent years there’s been a more pro-British president of the United States, it’s Donald Trump.”
“It’s been by his words, his assurances with Prime Minister May of 100% of standing with Nato, and working to create trade relationships.
“But, it’s also been symbolic. He was the one who returned Winston Churchill – the bust – to the Oval Office.
“I consider it too, sadly, a slap at the Republican Party. It was the leaders of our party that actually placed the bust of Winston Churchill in the US Capitol Building and we urge all persons to come visit our Capitol Building.”
Downing Street moved to reaffirm its backing for the visit, after the Speaker’s fierce intervention, stating: “We look forward to welcoming the president to the UK later this year. The dates and arrangements for the state visit will be worked out in due course.”
Number 10 has insisted it is too early in the process to say if Mr Trump would be offered the honour of addressing MPs and peers in Westminster.
Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage said the Speaker had “insulted” Mr Trump.
“I think the speaker of the House of Commons should be neutral. To have expressed political opinions in the way he did today devalues his great office, is insulting to President Trump,” he told the BBC.
The row erupted after Mr Bercow said addressing Parliament was “not an automatic right, it is an earned honour” for foreign leaders.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn backed the Speaker, tweeting: “Well said John Bercow. We must stand up for our country’s values. Trump’s state visit should not go ahead.”
The Lord Speaker, Tory former Cabinet minister Lord Fowler, was not consulted by Mr Bercow and will make his own statement on the issue to peers on Tuesday.