British PM repeats criticism of US leader for retweeting far-right group
A state visit by U.S President Donald Trump to Britain would not be welcome, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said Thursday.
“President Trump yesterday used Twitter to promote a vile, extremist group that exists solely to sow division and hatred in our country,” Khan said.
Khan’s reaction came on the second day of the latest spat in U.S./U.K. relations, which was sparked by the American president when he retweeted three anti-Muslim videos originally posted by the deputy leader of a fringe far-right anti-Muslim group called Britain First.
“Many Brits who love America and Americans will see this as a betrayal of the special relationship between our two countries,” Khan said. “It beggars belief that the president of our closest ally doesn’t see that his support of this extremist group actively undermines the values of tolerance and diversity that makes Britain so great.”
“As the mayor of this great diverse city, I have previously called on Theresa May to cancel her ill-judged offer of a state visit to President Trump,” he added.
Lawmakers in the House of Commons also debated the latest controversy on Thursday.
Home Secretary Rudd denounced Britain First as “an extremist organization which seeks to divide communities through their use of hateful narratives which spread lies and stoke tensions.”
“President Donald Trump was wrong to retweet videos posted by the far-right group Britain First,” Rudd added.
However, she said the state visit invitation to Trump had already been made.
No date has been set for the Trump visit.
Anti-racism activist groups such as Hope Not Hate have started online campaigns for the cancellation of any state visit by the American leader to the U.K.
Trump’s official Twitter account retweeted a series of inflammatory anti-Muslim videos on Wednesday.
The three clips were previously tweeted by Britain First deputy leader Jayda Fransen, who was convicted by a U.K. court in November 2016 of religiously aggravated harassment.
The videos were automatically tweeted and retweeted by at least three accounts associated with the group.
Britain First is well known in the U.K. for anti-Islamic outbursts, anti-mosque protests plus street and online provocations. It is an Islamophobic, fascist group founded by former members of the British National Party in 2011.
The group organizes mosque invasions and its members stage provocative marches in political uniforms. It even uses an old army jeep in its stunts.
Paul Golding, Britain First’s leader, and his deputy Fransen have been arrested numerous times and both have received convictions.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson described it as "a divisive, hateful group whose views are not in line with our values".
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable branded Trump an “evil racist” whose invitation should be withdrawn.
"It is wrong for the President to have done this," Prime Minister Theresa May said in her initial response to Trump.
On Thursday, May told a news conference in Jordan, where she is visiting, that “Britain First is a hateful organization”.
“It stands against common Britain decency,” she added.
Underlining that Muslims have been the victims of far-right terrorism, May said her government had been confronting terrorism wherever it came from.
May said she worked together with the U.S. but she is not afraid to say when they have got something wrong.
“And retweeting Britain First is wrong,” she said. However, May did not signal any intention to cancel Trump's visit to the U.K., saying: "The invitation has been extended and accepted."
Calls for the cancellation of state visit increase after U.S. leader retweeted clips shared by British far-right group.
In a response, Trump said May should focus on her own country over extremism.
Britain First on Thursday tweeted: “Thank you all our new followers. [sic] Thank you Mr. President.”