In the hours after President Trump retweeted a string of anti-Islamic hate videos, Britons reiterated their call for his state visit to be canceled.
In the House of Commons, several members of Parliament suggested that the president should be uninvited. London Mayor Sadiq Khan, an occasional sparring partner of Trump's, released a statement reading, in part: “I have previously called on [Prime Minister] Theresa May to cancel her ill-judged offer of a state visit to President Trump. After this latest incident, it is increasingly clear that any official visit at all from President Trump to Britain would not be welcomed.”
Guardian columnist Martin Kettle wrote, “The tweets also make a Trump state visit to Britain inconceivable, now or at any other time.”
These sentiments were echoed by some 1.8 million people who signed a petition urging May to rescind the invitation, issued last spring. Calls intensified over the summer, after a white nationalist march in Charlottesville left one anti-racism activist dead. Afterward, Trump equated white nationalists and their opponents, saying that there were many “fine people” among the neo-Nazis and that there was violence on “both sides.”
Even so, May is unlikely to revoke the invitation, at least officially.
A state visit has never been canceled, though the United Kingdom has hosted some pretty unsavory characters. In 1973, Mobutu Sese Seko, then president of Zaire, was welcomed with much fanfare. At the time, he was considered an important Cold War ally. He was also a murderous dictator who embezzled billions. In 1978, Romania's communist, authoritarian leader, Nicolae Ceausescu, paid a state visit to Britain. Zimbabwe's recently deposed dictator Robert Mugabe was a guest of the queen in 1994. In 2003, Russian President Vladimir Putin was toasted.
Some have suggested Trump's case might be different. “If there is a groundswell of political resistance, and if we continue to see the Crown push back against what they call the 'premature invitation,' then May might well have to venture into this uncharted territory,” James Morrison, an assistant professor of international relations at the London School of Economics, explained in the New Statesman. “The rule book has essentially been thrown out [with Trump], especially in terms of diplomatic protocol.”
But that doesn't seem likely. The odds are that the trip will either be downgraded or postponed, perhaps indefinitely. Already, it has been relabeled a “working trip” timed to the opening of a new U.S. Embassy in London. He will not be a guest of the queen.
After Trump's latest affronts — including a Twitter spat with May over the videos — the Telegraph newspaper quoted a “government source” as saying that the trip has been “kicked into the grass as long as it can get.”
Home Secretary Amber Rudd suggested Thursday that it might be delayed. “I can only repeat what I have said before, that the invitation has been extended and accepted and we have yet to make the arrangements,” Rudd said. “Dates have not yet been agreed to.”