On Friday, President Trump signed an Executive Order banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen) from entering the US for the next 90 days, giving his administration time to introduce additional as yet unspecified security precautions. The order also suspends the US Refugee Admissions Programme for 120 days, puts an indefinite ban on the admission of Syrian national refugees and introduces a cap of 50,000 refugees to be accepted in fiscal year 2017, against a limit of 110,000 set by former President Barack Obama.
The first job of our Government is to look after the interests of British citizens. The Foreign and Home Secretaries and their officials have held conversations with the US Government and as a result it is now clear that:
• The Executive Order only applies to individuals travelling from one of the seven named countries.
• If you are travelling to the US from anywhere other than one of those countries (for instance, the UK) the Executive Order does not apply to you and you will experience no extra checks regardless of your nationality or your place of birth.
• If you are a UK national who happens to be travelling from one of those countries to the US, then the order does not apply to you - even if you were born in one of those countries.
• If you are a dual citizen of one of those countries travelling to the US from one of the seven countries - for example a UK-Libya dual national travelling from Libya to the US - you may experience extra checks.
But we don’t just have responsibilities to our own citizens; we also have a wider responsibility to stand up for what is right and I agree with the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson that it is “divisive and wrong to stigmatise because of nationality”. It would be equally wrong to do so because of religion. The policy has been described as a “Muslim ban”. That’s misleading because it doesn’t apply to lots of Muslim-majority countries, but clearly the vast majority of the people it will affect will be Muslims. Not only is the policy morally wrong, it is also likely to be counter-productive: the way to defeat Islamist terrorism is to build the widest possible coalition against it including the vast majority of Muslims who oppose this peversion of their religion. Stigmatising everyone from these seven countries makes building that coalition harder, not easier.
There are lots of issues on which it is in our national interest to work closely with the Trump administration. On defence, intelligence and security, the US and the UK work together more closely than any other two countries in the world and that relationship is overwhelmingly to our benefit. And having taken the decision to leave the EU, we need to negotiate our own trade deals with major economies of which the US is clearly the largest. But there are other issues where we are going to disagree. This is one of them and it is right that we say so clearly and unequivocally.