A few people have been asking today about the petition to deny President Trump* a state visit during his trip to the UK later this year.
One slightly smug response is along the lines of ‘better not pack that suitcase just yet’, well unfortunately, or maybe fortunately (I’m not sure of how wise it is to refuse access to a foreign head of state, even if one disagrees with them – you’re just abdicating what influence you may have had) this won’t prevent a visit to the UK, only force a Parliamentary debate as to whether or not he should get to meet the Queen. It’s pretty much symbolic, on one level.
Which leads to the other common question: ‘how many signatures would this take to be enacted?’ (At time of writing the petition has 728,000 signatures.)
Well, it’s not a yes/no thing. The system is that if an official petition to parliament reaches 10,000 signatures then the government has to respond in some manner, usually a slightly terse statement from some MP’s assistant.
If it gets to 100,000 then it has to be ‘considered for a debate’ in the House of Commons. So technically they wouldn’t actually have to debate this no matter the number of signatories, but with 700k+ names now it would be somewhat politically difficult for them to avoid it.
In the case of this particular petition the intention was really to force a debate and keep the pressure on the UK government, to make it clear that we’re not going to make things comfortable for this guy.
It won’t necessarily prevent a state visit, and frankly I doubt there are many people who care whether a President they dislike meets an unelected Monarch of whose role they may not approve, but there are a lot of Brits at the moment who are keen to let our government know that we’re not cool with the cosiness of our PM and the US President*. So this is one way of both sending that message and allowing dissenting members of the Commons to pitch into a debate and ask questions on behalf of their constituents.