UK lawmaker: Parliament speaker should quit for criticizing Trump
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UK lawmaker: Parliament speaker should quit for criticizing Trump

John Bercow, who is Jewish, draws praise, admonition for publicly opposing visit by US president

A Wednesday, June 4, 2014 file photo of Britain's Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, Pool, File)
A Wednesday, June 4, 2014 file photo of Britain's Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, Pool, File)

A British lawmaker is trying to oust the House of Commons Speaker over comments criticizing US President Donald Trump.

Speaker John Bercow said this week that Trump should not be allowed to address Parliament when he pays a state visit to Britain. Bercow cited Trump’s migrant ban as well as the UK’s “opposition to racism and to sexism.”

Bercow’s intervention was highly unusual because those in his position are expected to remain above Parliament’s partisan fray.

Although Bercow belongs to the governing Conservative Party, he has been criticized by some Conservative lawmakers.

Lawmaker James Duddridge filed a no-confidence motion in Bercow, saying he had “overstepped the mark.”

Parliament began a 10-day recess Thursday. Duddridge, currently the only signatory to the motion, hopes to build momentum against Bercow during the school break.

In his comments, Bercow said a Trump speech in Parliament was “not an automatic right, it is an earned honor” — and one he would object to following Trump’s ban on refugees and travelers from seven mainly Muslim countries.

“Before the imposition of the migrant ban I would myself have been strongly opposed to an address by President Trump in Westminster Hall,” said Bercow, one of three officials who would have to approve the move.

US President Donald Trump stands with British Prime Minister Theresa May, Friday, Jan. 27, 2017, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
US President Donald Trump stands with British Prime Minister Theresa May, Friday, Jan. 27, 2017, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

“After the imposition of the migrant ban by President Trump I am even more strongly opposed.”

Bercow, whose paternal grandparents were Romanian Jewish immigrants to England, attended the Finchley Reform Synagogue and had a bar mitzvah, though he now considers himself secular.

Prime Minister Theresa May has come under intense pressure over the invitation for Trump to make a state visit, which she extended while at the White House just hours before he announced his travel ban.

More than 1.8 million people have signed a public petition calling on ministers to cancel the visit, which MPs are due to debate later this month.

Bercow said that decision was above his pay grade.

“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,” he said.

The date and details of the state visit are still being worked out and a spokeswoman for the speaker’s office said the government had not made any request for Trump to address parliament.

But a speech to both Houses of Commons and Lords has been a feature of many previous state visits, including one by Barack Obama in 2011.

Some 163 MPs have signed a parliamentary motion opposing an address by Trump, citing the travel ban and his comments on torture and women.

Bercow’s statement sparked cheers and clapping from the opposition benches.

Earlier, May told MPs that at a summit last week, she had urged her fellow European leaders to “engage patiently and constructively” with the new US administration.

Trump’s criticism of the NATO military alliance and his prediction that the EU could fall apart following Britain’s vote to leave has caused alarm in European capitals.

AP, AFP and JTA contributed to this report.

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