Prime Minister Theresa May is standing firm amid growing demands to cancel the forthcoming state visit of US President Donald trump to Britain, but there are concerns that her invitation for a state visit had put Queen Elizabeth in a “very difficult” situation.
May has come under criticism for showing unseemly haste in inviting Trump — earlier US presidents were invited only when they were well into their first terms. A petition calling for stopping the state visit had over 1.6 million signatories and thousands protested across Britain on Monday evening.
Peter Ricketts, former permanent secretary of the Foreign Office, said on Tuesday that May’s invitation to Trump had put the Queen in a “very difficult” position, and said it was unprecedented to invite a US president in the first year of office.
In a letter to The Times, he questioned whether Trump was "specially deserving of this exceptional honour", described the invitation as "premature", and added: "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," he wrote.
No date has yet been announced for Trump’s visit, but some MPs have raised the prospect of major protests when the US President does come. Others believe he is unlikely to visit in the next 90 days, by when his controversial order on refugees and immigration may be resolved.
If Trump’s visit goes ahead, it will not be the first time that the Queen will play host to a controversial foreign leader — the Shah of Iran visited in 1959, Mobuto Sese Seko of Zaire in 1973; Nicolae Ceausescu of Romania in 1978 and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe in 1994.
May, during a visit of Dublin on Monday, said: “The United States is a close ally of the United Kingdom. We work together across many areas of mutual interest and we have that special relationship between us. I have issued that invitation for a state visit for President Trump to the United Kingdom and that invitation stands.”