Financial Times

Trump immigration clampdown sows confusion as protests swell

by Jim Pickard, Henry Mance & Stefan Wagstyl, Financial Times

January 31, 2017 | 9:59 am
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Johnson claims UK exempt after visa stand-off; Petition over state visit signed by 1.5m

The Trump administration’s haphazard implementation of its immigration ban left the US’s closest ally flailing yesterday after the UK government was openly contradicted by American diplomats over which British nationals were covered by the measure.

The US embassy in London notified dual nationals holding citizenship from both Britain and one of seven Muslim-majority countries that they could not apply for US travel visas – guidance that came just hours after the Foreign Office claimed they were exempt from the ban.

Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary who spoke directly with the White House before issuing the guidance, later told parliament he had secured a carve-out for all “British passport-holders”, claiming the UK was reaping the benefits of not “pointlessly demonising” Donald Trump.

The US embassy, which had joined consulates across Europe in turning away dual nationals, later revised its guidance in Britain. But US diplomats in Germany – which along with the UK is the largest European home to citizens from the seven countries – said they were still not accepting applications from dual nationals.

The see-sawing in London is the latest in a series of contradictory signals from Washington over a measure that has sowed international confusion and sparked protests at airports across the US. It came 24 hours after Mr Trump was forced to reverse course on the status of US permanent residents from the seven countries, who were originally covered by the ban.

It also raised new questions over whether the White House had fully communicated the measure’s implications to US agencies tasked with enforcing the ban, including the state department. Officials there did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

According to UK officials, Mr Johnson originally received assurances that nationals of “all Western countries” would be exempt, after a phone call with Jared Kushner, Mr Trump’s aide and son-in-law.

After the stand-off with the US embassy, Mr Johnson said the exemption would be more limited; UK officials said Canada, Australia and New Zealand had received similar carve-outs.

Britain’s special status could infuriate its EU allies. France has advised citizens who are also nationals of one of the seven countries – Libya, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – against US travel.

Meanwhile, the government is facing pressure to withdraw official state visit status for a UK trip by Mr Trump. More than 1.5m people signed an online petition calling for it to be rescinded.

Labour’s Mike Gapes, former chair of the foreign affairs committee, called Theresa May, the prime minister, “Theresa the Appeaser”. Stella Creasey, another Labour MP, said the state visit was “shameful”.

There were also conflicting accounts about who had suggested the Queen extend the invitation for a state visit. The government distanced Mrs May from the decision, saying that such invitations were proposed by the previously obscure state visit committee.

Insiders say this provoked anger from Buckingham Palace and Mrs May was later forced to clarify, acknowledging during an evening press conference in Dublin: “I issued the invitation [and] that invitation stands.”


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by Jim Pickard, Henry Mance & Stefan Wagstyl, Financial Times

January 31, 2017 | 9:59 am
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