Trump not expected to address parliament during UK state visit

Fears Speaker John Bercow’s opposition to speech could cause embarrassing row

Donald Trump is unlikely to address parliament when he visits the UK next month over fears that the Commons Speaker’s opposition to the idea could cause an embarrassing row.

UK and US officials are yet to discuss the US president’s full itinerary for the state visit, which will take place from 3 to 6 June to coincide with D-day commemorations.

The Commons speaker, John Bercow, told parliament in 2017, after the offer of a state visit was first made by Theresa May, that he would oppose Trump addressing parliament. Addresses have been made by Trump’s predecessors Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan.

Once the timetable for Trump’s trip is agreed, usual protocol would dictate that Buckingham Palace should then request invitations for the US president to address parliament from Bercow and Lord Fowler – Bercow’s counterpart in the House of Lords.

However, government sources suggested that although no final decision had been made, a request was unlikely to be put forward on this occasion because it would probably be turned down and could potentially embarrass the Queen.

Bercow told MPs in 2017 that addressing the Lords and the Commons was “an earned honour” and said his opposition had been prompted by the Trump-proposed ban on visitors from Muslim countries.

“I feel very strongly that our opposition to racism and sexism and our support for equality before the law and an independent judiciary are hugely important considerations in the House of Commons,” he said.

Bercow’s stance has been opposed by the Lord Speaker, who said it was unacceptable to bar a longstanding UK ally from addressing parliament.

“I profoundly object to any attempt to ban the president when he is coming to Europe to mark the anniversary of the D-day landings when so many Americans were killed and wounded in defence of our freedom,” Fowler told the Cambridge Union Society, in comments first reported by the Sun.

After arriving in the UK on Air Force One on Monday 3 June, US president Donald Trump will be formally welcomed in a ceremony in the gardens of Buckingham Palace. It will be attended by the Queen and Prince Charles. The president will then attend a private lunch at the palace, which is expected to be attended by Prince Harry, but not his wife, who Trump recently described as 'nasty'.

Following a wreath-laying ceremony in Westminster Abbey, Donald Trump will join Prince Charles for an afternoon tea at Clarence House. The Queen, Prince Charles and Prince Harry will then host a state banquet in the evening, which will be attended by prominent US citizens who live in the UK, as well as political and civic leaders.

On Tuesday 4 June the visit includes a breakfast meeting with Prince Andrew, and then talks and a press conference with prime minister Theresa May at Downing Street. On the Tuesday evening Trump hosts a dinner at the residence of the US ambassador.

On Wednesday 5 June Trump will take part in commemoration services in Portsmouth to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. The day ends with the Queen formally bidding farewell to the US president. 

Trump’s entourage will also include two identical seven-seat black armoured limousines nicknamed ‘The Beast’, and a number of presidential helicopters. The president has at his side at all times one of five rotating military aides who carry the nuclear ‘football’ which can trigger a missile strike - equipped with communication tools and a book with prepared war plans.  

“It also seems to me that if our role inside Westminster is to uphold the rights of backbenchers and their right to free speech, it would be ironic to apply a different standard to the elected president of the United States,” he said. “It is my view that we should not stifle views we may disagree with or shy away from lively debate.”

Both the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and the Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Vince Cable, have declined an invitation to a state banquet at Buckingham Palace that will be attended by Trump. He is not expected to stay at the palace, where refurbishment works are taking place.

The US president will arrive in the UK for a three-day state visit on June, taking in the 75th anniversary commemorations for the D-day landings. Anti-Trump campaigners called for a protest in London on 4 June, which thousands are expected to attend.


Jessica Elgot Chief political correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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