Parliament debate is in response to a petition launched over Donald Trump's remarks about Muslims
No vote will be held over the debate, and Britain's Prime Minister says he doesn't support any ban
For Donald Trump, in politics as in life, it seems the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.
But Monday, the Republican presidential candidate is entering unfamiliar territory, even by his larger-than-life standards, as members of the British Parliament hold a debate over a petition calling for the U.S. businessman-turned-politician to be banned from the country.
The unconventional debate is unlikely to result in any practical move by Parliament. No vote will be held at the end of the debate, and politicians are expected to treat it more as an opportunity to air their views on the divisive Republican under the protection of parliamentary privilege, which legally shields them from accusations of defamation or slander.
Scottish freelance journalist and activist Suzanne Kelly launched a petition last month to block the former reality TV star from British shores, which led to the debate. The petition accuses the 69-year-old of “hate speech” for calling for a travel ban on Muslims entering the United States. It has received more than 574,000 signatures.
Any petition that gets more than 100,000 signatures is considered by Parliament’s Petitions Committee, which weighs whether to send the petition for debate by lawmakers in Parliament.
Some parliamentarians expressed support for Trump, while others slammed him.
“People often say that the public are apathetic about politics,” said member Tulip Siddiq. “This online petition signed by nearly 600,000 people shows that when people feel a sense of justice, when people feel that we need to stop a poisonous, corrosive man (from) entering our country, they will act in good conscience.”
She continued, “But this is not any man we’re talking about. This is a man who is extremely high profile, involved in the American show business industry for years and years, a man who is interviewing for the most important job in the world. His words are not comical. His words are not funny. His words are poisonous. They risk inflaming tension between vulnerable communities.”
Another lawmaker, Philip Davies, stood to say he thought Trump’s approach was smart.
“In the race to become the next president, he’s been gaining support with a political manner that can be described as blunt directness,” Davies said. “He is definitely straight-talking, and as a Yorkshireman I certainly applaud him for that, too. In fact, I think in this country we could do with rather less political correctness and much more straight-talking across the board, and I think many of our constituents would agree.”
Members of Parliament will also debate a counter-petition that calls for Trump not to be banned from the country.
“Leave the decision making on appropriate responses to the Americans. (Let’s) mind our own business,” reads the petition, launched by David Gladwin, which has received more than 40,000 signatures.
Read more: Could the UK really ban Trump?
Cameron opposes ban
British Home Secretary Theresa May already has the power to ban visitors who have been convicted of a crime, jailed or are in breach of immigration rules, and can ban visitors from outside the European Economic Area, whose presence in the UK is deemed nonconducive to the public good.
People who have been barred previously include Quran-burning U.S. pastor Terry Jones, a Hamas lawmaker and a former Ku Klux Klan leader.
Donald Trump debate: Could UK really ban him?
British Prime Minister David Cameron has already said he is not in favor of any ban on Trump.
In comments to Parliament last month, Cameron said that Trump’s proposal for a temporary ban on Muslims from entering the United States for security was “divisive, stupid and wrong,” but that a British ban on Trump in response was unnecessary.
“If he came to visit our country, I think he would unite us all against him,” he said.
Frosty response to remarks in Britain
Trump’s remarks on Islam after last month’s San Bernardino, California, terror attack – including the claim that parts of London were so radicalized that British police feared for their lives – struck a nerve in the UK, drawing condemnation from a range of public figures.
London Mayor Boris Johnson labeled them “complete and utter nonsense,” adding that “the only reason I wouldn’t go to some parts of New York is the real risk of meeting Donald Trump.”
And Scotland’s Robert Gordon University stripped Trump of an honorary degree it had bestowed on him five years ago, saying the politician had made “a number of statements that are wholly incompatible with the ethos and values of the university” during the presidential campaign.
The university had been pressured by another petition launched by Kelly, author of the one to ban Trump from the UK, calling on it to revoke the honorary degree.
Kelly had previously campaigned against the development of the Trump International Golf Links, a high-end golf resort in Aberdeen, Scotland, which repeatedly has brought the billionaire into conflict with locals.
Last month, Britain’s Supreme Court unanimously knocked back Trump’s appeal against a wind farm being built overlooking the golf course, which he argued would be a blight on the coastal landscape.
Trump company: Debate ‘absurd’
Trump International Golf Links responded to the debate on banning Trump in a statement Monday from Executive Vice President Sarah Malone, who labeled the episode “ridiculous.”
“It is absurd that valuable parliamentary time is being wasted debating a matter raised as part of the American presidential election,” she said.
“For the UK to consider banning someone who made a statement in America, about American borders during a U.S. election campaign is ridiculous.”
She said that in holding the debate, the British Parliament was setting a “dangerous precedent” and “sending a terrible message to the world.”
“The individuals who instigated this … have a self-serving personal agenda and do not represent the views or interests of the vast majority of British people.”
If Trump was banned, he would abandon his plans for a further £700 million ($1.1 billion) investment in Scotland, she said.
CNN’s Lindsay Isaac, Max Foster and Joshua Berlinger contributed to this report.