May condemns Trump’s retweeting but will not cancel state visit

‘British Muslims are peaceful’ and victims of acts of terror by far right, says British PM

UK prime minister Theresa May:  “Britain First is a hateful organisation. It seeks to spread division and mistrust among our communities.” Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA

UK prime minister Theresa May: “Britain First is a hateful organisation. It seeks to spread division and mistrust among our communities.” Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA

 

Theresa May has said Donald Trump was wrong to retweet anti-Muslim posts from a British far-right group but rejected calls to cancel the United States president’s planned state visit to Britain. Speaking in Jordan, the British prime minister said the special relationship between their two countries did not prevent her telling Mr Trump when he was wrong.

“Britain First is a hateful organisation. It seeks to spread division and mistrust among our communities, it stands in fundamental opposition to the values that we share as a nation – values of respect, tolerance and, dare I say it, just common British decency,” she said. “The fact that we work together does not mean that we are afraid to say when we think that the United States have got it wrong and to be very clear with them. And I am very clear that retweeting from Britain First was the wrong thing to do.”

When the prime minister’s official spokesman first criticised Mr Trump for retweeting the messages on Wednesday, the president responded with a message to Ms May telling her to focus on the threat to Britain from radical Islam. In Jordan on Thursday, Ms May said her government was alert to the threat posed by all forms of extremism.

‘Threat of terrorism’

“On the issue of radical Islam, British Muslims are peaceful and law-abiding people who have themselves been the subject and victims of acts of terror by the far right. There are those who conduct acts of terror in the name of Islam, but it is not in the name of Islam. And as prime minister I am very clear about the priority that I give to dealing with the challenge of the threat of terrorism, and that’s dealing with the threat of terrorism and extremism from whatever source they come,” she said.

Earlier, government and opposition MPs condemned Mr Trump and a number of them demanded that the state visit, for which no date has been named, should be cancelled. Labour’s Chris Bryant went further, calling for the US president to be arrested if he came to Britain.

“He is a repeat offender. And it will go on and on and on. You cannot stand up to this kind of action, you cannot stand up to horrible racism, or pretend to do so, and invite the man in through the front door,” he said.

“In the past, and quite rightly, the prime minister when she was home secretary said homophobes and racists who will stir up hatred in this country will not be allowed in this country and if they come to this country, they will be arrested. That is what should happen in this case.”