Should the Queen host a full state visit for Donald Trump this year?

The row over Donald Trump being invited for a full state visit - which would include a stay at a royal residence and a guard of honour - is rumbling on.

Tuesday, 31st January 2017, 1:45 pm
Updated Tuesday, 31st January 2017, 4:46 pm
Theresa May and Donald Trump

Usually American presidents are not invited for full state visits in their first year in office, though may instead be invited to less formal visits which involve taking tea with the Queen.

But Theresa May has faced claims she has put the monarch in a difficult position by inviting Donald Trump for a full state visit so early in his term - particularly considering current controversies surrounding the new president.

Theresa May and Donald Trump

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MPs will debate on February 20 a 1.6 million-strong petition calling for the downgrading of US President Donald Trump's state visit to Britain.

What is a state visit?

State visits are formal visits to the UK by Heads of State from overseas, with the aim of strengthening Britain's relationships with other countries.

Invitations are sent on the advice of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The Queen acts as host to the visiting Head of State, who stays either at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle or, occasionally, The Palace of Holyrood house in Edinburgh.

Theresa May and Donald Trump

Visits normally begin with a ceremonial welcome attended by The Queen and other senior members of the Royal Family. If the guest is staying at Buckingham Palace, the welcome takes place on Horse Guards Parade. After inspecting a guard of honour, the visiting President or Monarch then travels with The Queen in a Carriage Procession back to Buckingham Palace.

On the evening of the arrival day, the Head of State will attend a State Banquet in his or her honour.


Mr May's spokeswoman said she did not "accept" the view of the former head of the Foreign Office, Lord Ricketts, that things would now be awkward for the monarch due to the controversy which has engulfed the planned visit.

The PM's spokeswoman also refused to be drawn on claims the Prime Minister had been given notice of parts of Mr Trump's travel ban on Muslims and refugees during talks at the White House last week.

She told a regular Westminster briefing there would be no "blow-by-blow" account of their private discussions.

Lord Ricketts, who was permanent secretary at the Foreign Office from 2006-10 before becoming David Cameron's national security adviser, said the offer of a state visit so early in Mr Trump's presidency was "premature".

In a letter to The Times, he said it was unprecedented for a US president to be given a state visit in their first year in the White House and questioned whether Mr Trump was "specially deserving of this exceptional honour".

"It would have been far wiser to wait to see what sort of president he would turn out to be before advising the Queen to invite him.

"Now the Queen is put in a very difficult position."

Downing Street's insistence that i t will not go into detail regarding Mrs May's talks with the US President comes as the Prime Minister faces calls from MPs to say what she was told by American officials about the temporary ban on nationals from seven mainly Muslim countries issued hours after her meeting with Mr Trump in Washington DC on Friday.

Number 10 has refused to be drawn on a report by Channel 4 News that she had been told refugees would be barred from travelling to the US, although officials were said not to have revealed much detail.

On Monday, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told MPs he was not prepared to comment on "confidential conversations" between the two leaders.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said it was "disgraceful" that Mrs May had appeared to know about the ban in advance but did nothing to prevent it.

He said: "I can only assume the Prime Minister is so desperate for a Brexit deal that she looked the other way and didn't want to rock the boat.

"This is utterly shameful. Parliament needs to know what she knew and when."

Despite a petition to Parliament signed by more than 1.6 million people calling for the visit by Mr Trump to be downgraded in status, the Prime Minister's spokeswoman again said the plans would not be altered or postponed.

She said regarding Mrs May: "The invitation has been extended, she was happy to do that, looks forward to hosting the president, and that will be a state visit this year.

"I would say we haven't set out timings of it, but it will be this year."

Asked about a possible address to Parliament by Mr Trump, the spokesman said: "On the programme for the state visit, that will all need to be worked out in due course, the elements of that, and to look at it all - it's months away, so there will be a discussion for that."

Asked if Mrs May would raise issues around America's immigration policy with Mr Trump in person, the Prime Minister's spokeswoman said: "You have already seen the action that was taken at the weekend.

"We have made clear that we disagree, secondly, obviously, we have had engagement with Government ministers and the Trump team in the US administration on this. "

The PM's spokeswoman said the visit was about the special relationship between the UK and US rather than an opportunity to pave the way for a post-Brexit trade deal.