After first splitting the United States during an acrimonious election campaign, Donald Trump has now caused division within the UK government following his travel ban on people from mainly Muslim countries.
Yesterday, Home Secretary Amber Rudd told parliament that it as important for the government “to state that we disagree with the ban and we have said that it is divisive, it is wrong”. But this is a statement that the Prime Minister has not been able to utter since the US president made his bold declaration.
Meanwhile, debate continues over whether or not a state visit is still appropriate for Mr Trump. This honour was agreed last week before the travel ban was announced, and last night, the UK government was standing by the decision to entertain Mr Trump in this way.
It has been pointed out that compared to some who have enjoyed the trappings of a state visit to the UK, Mr Trump is far from the worst. Emperor Hirohito of Japan and Romanian leader Nicolae Ceausescu probably top the list of unlikely house guests – Ceausescu was executed 11 years later.
These visits were necessary, we are told, to attempt to influence these leaders and encourage them to change their ways. But while it would be wrong to place Mr Trump in the same bracket, his actions should force us to rethink the purpose of the state visit. What the president has announced has a direct effect on British citizens right now, causing unacceptable uncertainty in their lives.
The public mood is set so firmly against Mr Trump, that a state visit adds insult to injury. The timing is wrong, and continuing with haste to roll out the red carpet would be another damaging mistake for Mrs May.