Theresa May has issued a late-night statement saying she does not agree with Donald Trump’s ban on refugees and people from seven Muslim-majority countries entering the US, after coming under intense political pressure to condemn the order.
The prime minister released her comments through a spokesman shortly after midnight, saying the UK would make representations” if British citizens were affected by the 90-day ban on travel to the US for those from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen.
Immigration policy in the United States is a matter for the government of the United States, just the same as immigration policy for this country should be set by our government, the spokesman said.
But we do not agree with this kind of approach and it is not one we will be taking.
We are studying this new executive order to see what it means and what the legal effects are, and in particular what the consequences are for UK nationals. If there is any impact on UK nationals then clearly we will make representations to the US government about that.
The statement is unlikely to be strong enough to satisfy many of the MPs expressing outrage about Trump’s move, which quickly caused chaos at airports.
There are already reports that British people of dual nationality with the affected countries are unable to travel to or through the US because of the ban. High-profile UK nationals likely to be caught by the executive order include Olympic gold medallist Sir Mo Farah and Conservative MP Nadhim Zahawi.
The prime minister is also facing questions about why she took so long to respond to the controversy, which has soured her trip to visit Trump on Friday which Downing Street had regarded as a success.
May initially refused to condemn the ban on refugees and nationals of the seven countries when asked about Trump’s order during a visit to Turkey. After being repeatedly pressed, May would only say: The United States is responsible for the United States’ policy on refugees.
Aides again refused to elaborate on that position when May landed at Heathrow on Saturday evening, but the position could not hold as the prime minister came under under mounting criticism from Conservative and opposition MPs, while other foreign governments expressed strong concerns.
Following the ban, Zahawi, a Tory MP who was born in Iraq, said it was a sad day for the USA that he would not be allowed to enter. I’m a British citizen & so proud to have been welcomed to this country. Sad to hear I’ll be banned from the USA based on my country of birth, he tweeted.
He added that he had had confirmation from an immigration lawyer that the order applies to himself and his wife as they were both born in Iraq, one of the seven countries targeted in Trump’s executive order.
Farah, who came to the UK as a child from Somalia, trains in Oregon in the US but it is not clear he would be able to re-enter the country if he left.
The Olympic champion is believed to be in Ethiopia for two weeks before travelling to the UK for competition. There has not yet been comment from his camp.
David Warburton, Tory MP for Somerton and Frome, said the ban was shocking, ludicrous, appalling and insane and made clear he wanted May to oppose it.
James Cleverly, MP for Braintree, also weighed in to say Trump’s “immigration and Syrian refugee ban is indefensible, unworkable and almost certainly unconstitutional.
While government ministers were initially silent, Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, was one of the most senior Tories to condemn the ban, saying it was “both wrong in itself and very worrying for the future.
Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, said May should have condemned Trump’s actions. President Trump’s executive order against refugees and Muslims should shock and appal us all, he said.
Theresa May should have stood up for Britain and our values by condemning his actions. It should sadden our country that she chose not to.
After Trump’s hideous actions and May’s weak failure to condemn them, it’s more important than ever for us to say to refugees seeking a place of safety, that they will always be welcome in Britain.
The order caused chaos on Saturday, as people who had flown to the US were held at major airports while others were barred from boarding flights or were pulled off planes overseas. However, the Foreign Office had no comment or change to its travel advice as of 10pm on Saturday.
Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, said the British government urgently needed to give travel advice to British citizens who may be affected by the ban. Today Theresa May said that Donald Trump’s ban on people from Muslim countries was purely a matter for America, he said.
We now learn that the State Department apparently advises that the visa ban also applies to people with dual nationality, which will include Britons.
Even allowing for her cosying up to Donald Trump, it would be a gross abdication of her responsibilities to all British citizens if she doesn’t take this up with her new best friend now, making clear that anyone with a British passport and a visa should be allowed safe passage.
She must also order the Foreign Office to deliver urgently tonight advice to British citizens travelling to the United States on whether they should continue to travel.
Trump has also banned refugees from entering the country for 120 days and those seeking asylum from Syria have been banned indefinitely.
Labour MP Yvette Cooper, the chair of the Commons home affairs committee, has written to May asking her to clarify whether she raised concerns about the president’s approach to refugees and Muslims during their talks at the White House on Friday.
Her letter states: You will understand how important it is for people in the United Kingdom to know that when our prime minister talks on Holocaust Memorial Day about things we have in common with the president of the United States, you are not talking about or condoning in any way the deeply troubling measures that president Trump has introduced, she said.