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MP: Giving Trump state visit makes UK look ‘craven’

Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

UK PRIME Minister Theresa May’s decision to afford US President Donald Trump a state visit leaves the country looking “desperate and craven”, according to Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

On Monday MPs debated a petition, signed by over 1.8 million people including over 1,500 in Shetland and Orkney, urging May to cancel her invitation. Many of those who spoke during the three-hour debate lambasted Trump as “racist and sexist” and a “petulant child”.  

During his contribution, Carmichael said the Prime Minister had got her judgement “catastrophically wrong” both in offering a state visit and in doing so just seven days after Trump’s inauguration.

“That was not something that she just decided to do on the spur of the moment,” the MP said.

“We all know the Prime Minister well enough to know that it was not something she would have blurted out to fill an awkward pause in the conversation. So the question is: what was the motivation?

“My suspicion is that she was perhaps a little bit spooked by seeing the pictures of Nigel Farage at Trump Tower following the election in November, or it may be that she was pursuing questions of trade deals post-Brexit.

Around 40 people in Lerwick joined a worldwide Women's March against Trump in January. Photo: Gill Hession.

“Whatever the motivation, however, it has left us looking desperate and craven and rushing to embrace a presidency when the rest of the world is rushing away from it.”

The first month of the Trump presidency has been dominated by the chaotic implementation of a travel ban on citizens from a host of Muslim-majority countries, which numerous courts in the US have blocked.

He and others in his administration have also told a succession of blatant falsehoods, while protests have been staged in the US and beyond – including here in Shetland – deploring his stances on major issues including race, gender, immigration and climate change.  

Carmichael said: “I have no issue with the Prime Minister seeking to influence the President of the United States, but she should do it in a way that engages the relationship that we have enjoyed in the past; she should be seeking to build on that.

“If, and only if, she is successful in that should an offer such as the one she has made be extended. That presumes, of course, that President Trump will be influenced. I see little evidence to support that contention. Even those few benign influences that are around him do not seem able to do that.

“I start from the position of somebody who values the special relationship, but I understand that that special relationship is not between a government and an administration; it is between our two peoples.

“It is our shared history and our shared values that make it special and enduring, and that is what the Prime Minister risks doing severe damage to today.”

Speaking afterwards, Carmichael highlighted that over 1,500 people in the Northern Isles had signed the petition.

“Normally that figure would be a few hundred,” he said. “It shows the strength of feeling that there is in every corner of the country about the way our government is handling relations with the Trump administration. 

“Having issued the invitation it would not be easy to rescind it but the danger now is that a state visit will create more problems than it would solve.”

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