Two weeks into his brief presidency, most of the headlines about Donald Trump’s foreign policy efforts have been negative. They’ve addressed angry phone calls with allies and other world leaders, and a further poisoning of Washington’s relationship with Mexico over Trump’s border wall.
Until now, most of the damage appears to have emanated from Trump himself. That changed on Monday, when a senior British lawmaker revealed that the so-called “special relationship” between the United States and the United Kingdom apparently doesn’t extend to welcoming President Trump to speak before the Houses of Parliament.
John Bercow, who has served as Speaker of the House of Commons since 2009, said on Monday that he would block any effort to give trump the opportunity to address the Commons and the House of Lords during a widely-expected state visit later this year, a promise he has the authority to follow-through on.
The talk of a Trump visit to the UK intensified last week after British Prime Minister Theresa May came to the White House and extended an invitation to the new president to meet Queen Elizabeth. The offer incensed many in the British public. A petition demanding that the invitation be rescinded was submitted to Parliament, and with 1.8 million signatures to date, easily satisfied a trigger requiring lawmakers to debate the proposition.
“We value our relationship with the United States,” Bercow said in the Commons on Monday, according to the BBC. He also pointed out that it is not really within his power to thwart the Queen if she wishes to extend an invitation, saying, “If a state visit takes place, that is way beyond and above the pay grade of the Speaker.”
However, Bercow said that Trump’s accumulated attacks on migrants and refugees, his history of sexist behavior and his disdain for the role of the judiciary in a democratic society show that the U.S. president has not “earned” the right to address Parliament. He said those feelings only intensified after Trump announced an executive order banning refugees from entering the country.
“Before the imposition of the migrant ban, I would myself have been strongly opposed to an address by President Trump in Westminster Hall,” Bercow said. “After the imposition of the migrant ban I am even more strongly opposed to an address by President Trump in Westminster Hall.”
He added, “As far as this place is concerned, 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.”
While Trump and Prime Minister May made a public display of graciousness and restated their two countries’ promises of mutual support, Bercow’s statement pulls back the curtain on what may have become a much more complicated relationship between the two countries.
As part of the “five eyes” intelligence-sharing network, the U.S. and UK, together with Australia, New Zealand and Canada, work closely together to monitor terrorism and other threats. It will not have been lost on British leaders that the Australian Prime Minister was on the receiving end of one of Trump’s outbursts last week over an agreement by the U.S. to take in refugees.
There have also been reports that British intelligence officials are requesting guarantees from their U.S. counterparts that their most sensitive information on sources and methods won’t be compromised, either purposefully or inadvertently, by a president that they do not regard as disciplined. Trump’s actions while in office, including a widely noted affection for Russian president Vladimir Putin, haven’t helped.
If Bercow’s comments about Trump are just the beginning of a broader rejection of Trump as a leader among U.S. allies, the impact on U.S. standing around the world, and on national security, could be vast.