British lawmakers will hold a debate on Monday on a petition signed by more than half a million people calling for U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to be banned from Britain after he said Muslims should not be allowed to enter the United States.
Last month, Trump provoked controversy with his comments that Muslims should be banned from entering the United States, after 14 people died in a shooting spree in California by two Muslims whom the FBI said had been radicalised.
The British government responds to all petitions that gain more than 10,000 signatures and topics are considered for parliamentary debate if they reach 100,000.
The debate, which was starting at around 1630 GMT (1130 EST), will not be followed by a vote. Only interior minister Theresa May can issue an order banning entry into Britain and Prime Minister David Cameron has said that while Trump’s comments were divisive, he does not favor barring him.
Trump has threatened to cancel over 700 million pounds ($1 billion) of planned investments in golf courses in Scotland if he is banned.
“What I will be doing today is asking that Theresa May exercise constancy in her approach to people who preach hatred,” Scottish National Party lawmaker Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, who is in favor of a ban, told BBC Radio on Monday.
“If we wish to be taken seriously, the same rules should be applied regardless of who you are because otherwise what we are saying is if you are a prospective presidential candidate it is alright to say what you want – and it isn’t.”
But opposition Labour lawmaker Paul Flynn, who will lead the debate, said that while Trump’s comments had been worse than those of many people who have previously been banned by Britain, barring Trump him would only give him more publicity.
“Sadly a ban would perversely help him in America, and that is where opinion matters. It would probably give him a halo of victimhood as a martyr and perversely that will attract more support for him,” he said.
A statement by Trump International Golf Links in Scotland strongly criticized the debate.
“It is absurd that valuable parliamentary time is being wasted debating a matter raised as part of the American Presidential election,” it said.
“Our politicians would do better to debate how to solve the challenges facing our own country and its people, like the tens of thousands of job losses in the oil industry and the thousands more job cuts planned.”
(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan and Stephen Addison; editing by Michael Holden)