British tech bosses have echoed their American counterparts by criticising President Donald Trump’s executive order banning travel to the US for people hailing from several majority Muslim nations.
Just days after Prime Minister Theresa May met the President in a bid to reinvigorate the “special relationship”, she was forced to distance herself from his controversial order on immigration.
The Foreign Office said last night that UK nationals would be exempt from the ban, following a conversation between foreign secretary Boris Johnson and US officials.
A few hours earlier, a spokesperson for the PM said: “We do not agree with this kind of approach. 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." Downing Street's statement came amid calls from politicians of various parties for the government to suspend an invitation for Trump to make a state visit to the UK later this year.
The ban attracted international condemnation. The heads of technology firms on both sides of the Atlantic weighed in and criticised Trump.
“Anything that impedes freedom of movement of people, with all their ideas and creativity, can curb innovation and growth,” said Tech City UK’s chief executive Gerard Grech. “Tech companies know how important this is and that's why they've been quick to react to this executive order. We will be watching these developments closely.”
Tech London Advocates founder Russ Shaw said: “Putting up barriers to skills is at odds with an industry that is global, meritocratic and collaborative in outlook. Whilst walls around America may hinder the international tech community, the UK needs to capitalise upon this opportunity and send a clear message to the rest of the world – despite Brexit, London is open for business and welcomes international talent.”
Iranian born British entrepreneur Ali Parsi, founder of health tech firm Babylon Health and Circle, told City A.M.: “We judge people by the humanity of their hearts, the ambition of their dreams, the purpose of their hard work, and the extent of their wisdom, and not by the country of their birth. Anything else is economically shortsighted, politically divisive, and socially abhorrent.”
Meanwhile, Somali-born British Olympic athlete Sir Mo Farah branded the ban “deeply troubling”. Tory MP for Stratford-on-Avon and co-founder of top polling company YouGov Nadhim Zahawi, an Iraqi born British citizen, said – prior to the Foreign Office statement – that he had been advised not to travel to the US.
London mayor Sadiq Khan called the ban shameful and cruel, adding: “While every country has the right to set its own immigration policies, this new policy flies in the face of the values of freedom and tolerance that the US was built upon.”
In the US, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook are among several of the top technology giants spearheading the fightback against the ban. Uber founder Travis Kalanick, a member of Trump’s economic advisory board, promised to raise the issue at the group’s first meeting on Friday.