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Trump travel ban: these are dark days for liberal democracy

Theresa May must take a firmer stand against Trump's misguided order

By Tom Brake  

US President Donald Trump ©Pool/ABACA/ABACA/PA Images

The 9th of November was a dark day for liberal democracy. The US presidential candidate who had on countless times made racially charged and deeply xenophobic comments on the campaign trail, mocked disabled reporters, divided communities and embodied misogynistic attitudes towards women on an unprecedented level had won the election. Our world was much less stable, yet so many people tried to put on a brave face and say that when “The Donald” reached the Oval Office, common sense, channeled from those around him, would prevail—and the worries all had on the 9th November would not be realised. One week into his presidency and the results couldn’t be further from this increasingly desperate prediction.

In recent days, Trump has issued an executive order which bans immigration to the US from nationals of certain predominantly Muslim countries. This isn’t just illogical and unconstitutional—it smacks of religious discrimination.

 The entire refugee admissions system has been suspected for 120 days; entry of citizens on any visa category from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen has been banned for 90 days; and the Syrian refugee programme has been suspended indefinitely. There is a loophole: an exemption from the ban on refugee entry for “religious minorities.”

With every brash executive order, in a pen stroke, this new president is breaking down the pillars of what held the United States up as a liberal democracy. Trump has no concern for this form of politics, and it is pitiful that Theresa May flew over at the earliest moment, clutching a delusional dream of a strong trade deal for the UK, to stand next to him and congratulate him on his stunning victory.

If the “special relationship,” which the government loves to champion, really is so special, then the Prime Minister should use her so-called influence to condemn Trump for his actions. This demagogic leader is trying to isolate himself from his international obligations.

But alas. While she cosies up to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and strikes arms deals, May’s statement that she “does not agree” with Trump’s ban is not nearly strong enough. It was also made remarkably late in the day. All this exemplifies the role her government has let the UK play on the international stage.

May must come out harder against Trump’s misguided position. There is clearly demand for this: since the president issued the ban, over 1m people have signed a petition to prevent his state visit to the UK.

If she fails to take a firmer stance on this issue, then it will be up to others to say that we will not stand idly by and let this ban stay in place. No one should be barred from travelling to see their friends and family based on their religion, especially the thousands of UK dual nationals, who have faced such an uncertain weekend following this ban. Boris Johnson has said that Trump’s ban will not affect them, but the US Embassy now appears to have contradicted this.

For the sake of international values and human rights, Trump should back down on this callous and cruel decision and May should stop rolling out the red carpet for such dangerous world leaders. She must start speaking the truth and condemn their actions for what they really are.

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