POLITICS

Boris Johnson Urged To 'Speak Out For The Sake Of History' Against Donald Trump's Travel Ban

The Foreign Secretary faced a barrage of criticism

30/01/2017 17:39 GMT | Updated 30/01/2017 18:45 GMT

Boris Johnson was today urged to “have the guts to speak out” against Donald Trump’s controversial refugee and travel bans.

Appearing in the Commons this afternoon, the Foreign Secretary was subjected to sustained criticism by opposition MPs for the Government’s reaction to America’s new immigration rules.

Johnson repeatedly assured the House that he found the policy “divisive, discriminatory and wrong”, but rejected numerous comparisons of Trump to Adolf Hitler.

He also repeated that British citizens born in any of the proscribed countries, or hold dual nationalities, will not be affected by the ban.

Former Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper was one of many Labour MPs who delivered a fierce rebuke to Johnson, and said: “This is not just about the impact on British citizens.

“One of our closest allies has chosen to ban refugees and target Muslims and all he can say is ‘well, it wouldn’t be our policy.’

“That is not good enough. Has he urged the US administration to lift this order? To help refugees? To stop targeting Muslims?

“This order was signed on Holocaust Memorial Day. For the sake of history, for Heaven’s sake have the guts to speak out.”

Johnson was defiant in his response to much of the criticism, repeatedly saying he thought the policy was “wrong.”

He even accused Labour of “pointlessly demonising” the new Trump administration. 

On Friday, the US President signed an Executive Order banning all Syrian refugees indefinitely and other asylum seekers for 90 days.

He also barred entry to the US for those from seven predominately Muslim countries - Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen - for 90 days.

Confusion reigned after the announcement as it seemed Brits who were born in those countries, or held dual citizenship, were also banned from entering the United States.

Speaking in the Commons this afternoon, Johnson said: “All British passport holders remain welcome to travel to the US.

“We have received assurances from the US embassy that this executive order will make no difference to any British passport holder irrespective of their country of birth or whether they hold another passport.”

Despite his assurances that Brits would be unaffected by the policy, Johnson faced a volley of criticism over the Government’s response to the ban.

Veteran Labour MP Mike Gapes compared Theresa May’s behaviour to Trump to that of Britain’s war-time Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s attitude to Hitler.

Referring to Trump’s invitation for a extravagant state visit to the UK, Gapes said: “Can the Foreign Secretary confirm that George W Bush was President for more than two years before he made a state visit? That Barack Obama was President for more than two years?

“And that many previous Presidents have not had state visits at all, though they did visit this country in their duties?

“Why on earth has ‘Theresa the Appeaser’ got him here within a few months?”

Johnson replied: “I do find it distasteful to make comparisons to the elected leader of a great democracy and 1930s tyrants. I think it is inappropriate.”

Another veteran Labour MP, Dennis Skinner, also drew parallels between Trump and fascist dictators of the 1930s, and urged the Government to call off the state visit.

“Do the decent thing and ban the visit. This man is not fit to walk in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela,” he said.

It was not only Labour MPs who gave Johnson a rough ride at the Despatch Box.

Conservative Sir Simon Burns – a long time admirer of Hillary Clinton – said: “Given our new found closeness with the Trump administration, what plans does he have to try and persuade the administration after the 90 days to abandon what to many is a despicable and immoral policy?

“And would he agree, in paraphrasing a far wiser president – John F. Kennedy – that those that ride on the back of a tiger end up inside it?”

Johnson repeatedly defended the planned state visit, despite more than a million people signing a petition demanding it be scrapped.

Tory MP Sir Edward Leigh also defended the visit, and said: “Certainly if we got the Queen to have tea with the President of China, I don’t see why she shouldn’t have tea with the President of America.”