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U.K. Lords push for Trump to address Parliament in July visit

AFP-JIJI

British peers are pushing for U.S. President Donald Trump to address Parliament during a July visit, despite apparent opposition from the speaker of the House of Commons, according to reports on Thursday.

Conservative peer Patrick Cormack, one of Britain’s longest-serving lawmakers, said that as the leader of “our most important ally,” Trump should be allowed to deliver a speech to Parliament.

“My own personal views on him are completely irrelevant — we should give him the opportunity to speak to both Houses,” he told The Independent newspaper.

The U.S. president will defy planned mass protests to visit London during a July working trip to Britain announced last month.

John Bercow, the speaker of the Commons, said last year he was “strongly opposed” to letting Trump address lawmakers, citing “opposition to racism and sexism” and adding people had to “earn” such a right.

Reports suggested it may be possible for the American leader to address the Royal Gallery in Parliament, used for important occasions, often with members of both Houses present.

This would see Trump follow in the footsteps of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, who both addressed lawmakers in the portrait-lined gallery during their tenures in the White House.

Norman Fowler, the Lord Speaker — a presiding officer role in Britain’s unelected House of Lords — said since taking on the role in 2016 he had welcomed both the king of Spain and the president of Colombia to Parliament.

“No conversations have taken place between the House of Lords and the U.K. Government regarding President Trump coming to the Royal Gallery,” he added in a statement following Thursday’s reports.

“Any request for him to speak in the Royal Gallery would be discussed if and when it were received.

“The United States is a long-standing ally and friend of the United Kingdom,” he added.

Trump’s visit, which will take place on July 13, had been repeatedly delayed amid a series of diplomatic spats and fears it could be marred by huge protests.

British Prime Minister Theresa May controversially offered Trump a state visit when she was the first foreign leader to visit him shortly after entering the White House, provoking uproar at home following the president’s travel ban from several Muslim-majority countries.

British lawmakers called on May to withdraw the offer, while protesters have promised to turn out in record numbers.