House of Commons speaker John Bercow has come out against US President Donald Trump addressing the Houses of Parliament on a state visit this year in an extraordinary intervention.
More than a quarter of MPs have already signed a motion stating that Trump should not be offered the chance to make such a speech during his time in the UK.
And this afternoon Bercow – one of three "keyholders" who would have to approve an address in the ancient Westminster Hall – said he would block it, adding that he would also refuse to extend an invite for Trump to speak in the less prestigious Royal Gallery.
Addressing the House of Commons, Bercow said his decision reflected Trump's recently implemented travel ban, which blocks entry to the US for passport holders from seven African and Middle Eastern nations, as well as the US President's recent criticism of a judge who overturned the ban and his comments on the campaign trail on sexual assault.
"We value our relationship with the United States. If a state visit takes place that is way beyond and above the pay-grade of the speaker," Bercow said.
"However, as far as this place is concerned, I feel very strongly that our opposition to racism, and to sexism, and our support for equality before the law, and an independent judiciary are hugely important considerations in the House of Commons."
The move prompted cheers from Labour benches, but was criticised by other MPs. Conservative James Duddridge said: "It is wholly inappropriate for the Speaker of the House to enter the fray on this issue – really, the applause was ludicrous. He was really playing to the audience, he wasn’t doing the job as speaker, and he’s gone down severely in my estimations."
Nonetheless, Bercow's comments will come as a public blow to the government, which had previously sought to downplay concerns by noting that arrangements for the President's visit had yet to be put in place.
Later this month, MPs are set to hold a debate on whether Prime Minister Theresa May's offer of a state visit was appropriate.