Theresa May has accused Donald Trump’s critics of “insulting” the UK’s closest ally as she defended her invitation for him to have a state visit in the wake of a controversial US travel ban.
The Prime Minister denied reports that she was told about the ban targeting Muslim-majority countries on a visit to the White House before it was unveiled.
She batted away criticism of her stance, accusing Jeremy Corbyn of only being able to lead a protest movement, not the country.
Mr Trump’s ban on Syrian refugees and all citizens from seven Middle Eastern and North African countries dominated Prime Minister’s Questions, with Mrs May facing calls to “stand up for British values” and issue stronger condemnation of the US President.
The Prime Minister called the ban “divisive and wrong” and said: “We would not do it. In six years as Home Secretary, I never introduced such a policy.” But she has faced questions over the speed and strength of her criticism of the new US administration.
Pressure on the government, Buckingham Palace and Commons authorities, with more than 70 MPs have joining calls for Mr Trump not to be invited the president to address both houses of parliament if a state visit goes ahead.
A petition calling for the state visit to be abandoned has reached 1.8 million signatures. The leaders of Labour, the SNP and the Liberal Democrats have said the visit should be put on hold, while Lib Dem leader Tim Farron has said he will boycott a state dinner if it takes place.
“President Trump has torn up international agreements on refugees,” Mr Corbyn said in the Commons chamber “He has threatened to dump international agreements on climate change. He has praised the use of torture. He has incited hatred against Muslims. He has directly attacked women’s rights.
“Just what more does he have to do before the Prime Minister will listen to the 1.8 million people who have already called for his state visit invitation to be withdrawn?”
She returned fire on Mr Corbyn, saying Labour’s foreign policy was to “object to and insult the democratically elected Head of State of our most important ally.
Mrs May went on: “Would he have been able to protect British citizens from the impact of the Executive order? No. Would he have been able to lay the foundations of a trade deal? No. Would he have got a 100% commitment to NATO? No.
“That is what Labour has to offer this country—less protection for British citizens, less prosperity, less safety.”
She concluded: “He can lead a protest; I am leading a country.”
The Prime Minister was given a tougher grilling on the issue by one of Mr Corbyn’s backbenchers, Jonathan Reynolds, who told Mrs May her answers were “deeply unsatisfactory” and demanded: “Does this country not deserve a leader who is willing to stand up for British values?”
In an angry reply, she said: “I will tell you what standing up for British values is.
“I and this Government introduced the first Modern Slavery Act in this country. I have ensured that stop and search has reduced, because I do not believe that anyone on the streets of this country should be stopped and searched because of the colour of their skin, and I ensured justice for the families of Hillsborough.”