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Theresa May: Donald Trump invitation stands

A defiant Theresa May has stood by the decision to issue an invitation to Donald Trump to make a state visit to Britain in the face of the outcry over his controversial travel ban.

The Prime Minister, who became the first world leader to meet the new US president in the White House, faces demands from a petition signed by more than 1.4 million people to call off the visit.

But appearing at a joint press conference in Dublin with Irish prime minister Enda Kenny, Mrs May was adamant it would go ahead.

"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," she said.

"I have issued that invitation for a state visit for President Trump to the United Kingdom and that invitation stands."

Earlier Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told MPs that Mr Trump's executive order - signed after Mrs May's visit on Friday - would not affect British passport holders.

"The general principle is that all British passport holders remain welcome to travel to the US," he said in a Commons statement.

"We have received assurances from the US embassy that this executive order will make no difference to any British passport holder, irrespective of their country of birth or whether they hold another passport."

Foreign Office sources suggested the UK had secured a "special carve-out" from Mr Trump's policy after a round of frantic diplomatic activity, with Mr Johnson and Home Secretary Amber Rudd contacting their counterparts.

The US Embassy had earlier suggested that UK citizens with dual nationality including one of the seven countries covered by the temporary travel ban - Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen - should not seek to obtain a visa.

The guidance was subsequently removed from the embassy website.

Mr Johnson stressed the travel ban was not British Government policy and ministers would not consider such a measure in the UK.

"I have already made clear our anxiety about measures that discriminate on grounds of nationality in ways that are divisive and wrong," he said.

However he faced a barrage of criticism from opposition MPs - as well as some Conservatives - over the Government's refusal to take a tougher line with the US administration.

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said Mr Trump was "descending down a very dangerous slope" on issues of human rights, torture and the rights of minorities.

"When that happens we need a prime minister who is prepared to tell him to stop, not one who simply proffers her hand and silently helps him along," she said.

Veteran left-winger Dennis Skinner compared the US president with Hitler and Mussolini, accusing the Government of being "hand-in-hand with another fascist - Trump".

Conservative former minister Sir Simon Burns said the travel ban was "despicable and immoral" while fellow Tory Crispin Blunt, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said it would be "a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism".

Mr Johnson said comparisons between the elected leader of the US and the "tyrants of the 1930s" were "inappropriate" and warned that attempts to "pointlessly demonise" the president would be counter-productive.

He refused to be drawn on reports that Mr Trump's advisers had briefed Mrs May on the executive order when she was in the White House, saying he did not comment on "confidential conversations" between the Prime Minister and the president.

Downing Street insisted Theresa May was "very happy" to invite the US president to make a state visit to the UK despite the political storm.

No 10 denied it had attempted to "blame" the Foreign Office for the timing of the invitation to Mr Trump, after criticism that it had been offered too early in his presidency.

"I was very clear that the PM had extended the invitation to the president on behalf of the Queen, and that he had accepted," the Prime Minister's spokesman said.

"At no stage did I seek to blame the Foreign Office for making the decision, or attempt to distance No 10."

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