TRENTON — British lawmakers will soon consider an unusual question: Should Donald Trump be banned from the United Kingdom?
A committee in the lower house of British Parliament — the nation’s equivalent of U.S. Congress — has scheduled a Jan. 18 debate on whether to block Trump, the billionaire businessman and Republican presidential front-runner, from entering the U.K. again, according to reports.
The move comes after more than 560,000 people in the nation signed a petition asking for Trump to be barred in the wake of his controversial proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the U.S. to protect the country from possible terrorism. That’s much more than the 100,000 signatures required for members of Parliament to debate an issue.
MP Helen Jones, chairwoman of the House of Commons’ debates committee, stressed Tuesday that “by scheduling a debate on these petitions, the committee is not expressing a view on whether or not the government should exclude Donald Trump from the U.K.
“As with any decision to schedule a petition for debate, it simply means that the committee has decided that the subject should be debated,” Jones said in a statement. “A debate will allow a range of views to be expressed.”
She added that any conclusion reached from the debate would not be binding.
MP Steve Double, a member of the committee, told BuzzfeedNews that the panel decided to debate the petitions because of their popularity.
“It’s a very interesting point: How do we, as an open democracy, deal with people who say things we perhaps don’t agree with?” Double told the website. “My personal view is that we shouldn’t ban people like Donald Trump, but we should have the confidence to stand up for what we believe in, have an open debate, and defeat the views in open debate.”
Trump’s Muslim ban proposal drew criticism not just at home but from leaders across the globe.
London Mayor Boris Johnson, a member of the U.K.’s right-wing Conservative Party, said “the only reason I wouldn’t go to some parts of New York is the real risk of meeting Donald Trump.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron said Trump’s plan is “divisive, stupid, and wrong.” But he and other top British leaders said they do not support barring the businessman.
Trump owns a resort and a golf course in Scotland, which is part of the U.K.
George A. Sorial, an executive for The Trump Organization, said Tuesday that a ban would hinder the company’s plans for significant investments at both locations.
“Any action to restrict travel would force The Trump Organization to immediately end these and all future investments we are currently contemplating in the United Kingdom,” Sorial said in a statement.
“Westminster would send a terrible message to the World that the United Kingdom opposes free speech and has no interest in attracting inward investment,” he added. “This would also alienate the many millions of United States citizens who wholeheartedly support Mr. Trump and have made him the forerunner by far in the 2016 presidential election.”
You can watch the debate online here.