THE UK Government has hit back at the wave of public criticism against Donald Trump’s forthcoming visit to Britain, insisting that the US President should be afforded the “full courtesy” of a state visit.
But the Stop Trump campaign has denounced Theresa May for siding with a “bigoted megalomaniac” and has promised the “biggest demonstration in British history" if the state visit goes ahead.
In a statement, the Foreign Office responded to the 1.85m-strong petition against the visit, saying the Government "recognises the strong views expressed by the many signatories of this petition but does not support it".
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Backing for the call to downgrade Mr Trump's visit, because it would be "embarrassing" for the Queen, has snowballed after he imposed a controversial travel ban on nationals from seven mainly Muslim countries.
Such has been the concern within the corridors of power in Whitehall at the potential for mass protests during the state visit, reports have suggested top officials are looking at ways of making sure Mr Trump spends as little time in London as possible.
This has led to speculation that, during the four-day visit, the traditional state banquet will not be held at Buckingham Palace but away from the UK capital at Windsor Castle and that, to avoid the ongoing controversy over Mr Trump addressing both Houses of Parliament, his visit should take place during a parliamentary recess.
This has led to suggestions he could visit the UK during the Whitsun recess at the end of May or during the summer recess in August or early September.
The latter is when the Queen spends her summer holiday at Balmoral, prompting speculation that the US President will spend much of his state visit in his “beloved Scotland,” home to his late mother Mary Macleod and where the billionaire politician has two golf courses at Turnberry in Ayrshire and at Balmedie in Aberdeenshire.
The Government was compelled to reply to the petition because it garnered more than 10,000 signatures.
MPs will debate it in the House of Commons on Monday alongside a rival 300,000-strong petition in support of the state visit after they both reached the 100,000 signatures threshold to be considered for discussion in Parliament.
There have already been protests against the US President held across the UK, including in Scotland.
The Stop Trump campaign has called protest rallies around the country for Monday to coincide with the Commons debate; they are promising "the biggest demonstration in British history" if the visit goes ahead.
A campaign spokesman said: "Nearly two million Britons called on their Government not to roll out the red carpet for a man who has instigated a travel ban on Muslims and whose bigoted racist and sexist statements are well-known.
"Theresa May has shown her contempt for people asking for her to take a stand against racism and sided with a bigoted megalomaniac instead."
Responding to the anti-state visit petition, the Foreign Office said: "HM Government believes the President of the United States should be extended the full courtesy of a state visit. We look forward to welcoming President Trump once dates and arrangements are finalised.
"HM Government recognises the strong views expressed by the many signatories of this petition but does not support this petition.
"During her visit to the United States on January 27 2017, the Prime Minister, on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen, invited President Trump for a state visit to the UK later this year. The invitation was accepted.
"This invitation reflects the importance of the relationship between the United States of America and the United Kingdom. At this stage, final dates have not yet been agreed for the state visit."
Mrs May has been criticised for offering Mr Trump a state visit too soon into his already highly contentious presidency.
Barack Obama only received an invitation after 758 days, while it took 978 days before his predecessor, George W Bush, was offered a state visit, compared with just seven days for Mr Trump.
The backlash against the visit has also caused controversy at Westminster, where John Bercow, the Commons Speaker, faces calls to resign after branding Mr Trump "racist" and "sexist" and effectively banning him from addressing MPs and peers in Westminster Hall during the trip.
The travel ban, which sparked mass protests in the UK and around the world, has since been suspended after two states - Washington and Minnesota - sued and a federal court rejected a US government appeal.
Mr Trump has promised to take action "very rapidly" in response to the ruling, which he reacted to in customary style on Thursday, tweeting "See you in court, the security of our nation is at stake!”
Meantime, the President has been rocked by the resignation of Michael Flynn, his national security adviser, following reports that he misled White House officials about his contacts with Russia.
A US official said Mr Flynn was in frequent contact with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak on the day that Mr Obama imposed sanctions on Russia for Presidential election-related hacking.