A UK government minister has said he is “deeply uncomfortable” about the prospect of Donald Trump’s state visit, amid controversy over his tweets.
Justice Minister Sam Gyimah said on BBC One’s Question Time the US President would be “divisive at a time when we are trying to unite our country”.
Mr Trump’s decision to retweet posts from a far-right group has prompted calls to scrap the planned visit.
Theresa May has criticised the tweets but rejected calls to cancel.
The prospect of Mr Trump’s visit – which would see him being hosted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle – was first raised by Theresa May in January 2017, soon after the president took office.
No date for the visit has been set. It is at the invitation of the Queen.
The Question Time panel, made up of Conservative MP Mr Gyimah, Labour’s Chuka Umunna, UKIP leader Henry Bolton, Economist Yanis Varoufakis and journalist Sarah Baxter, were critical of Mr Trump’s retweets.
But they were split over whether the visit should be cancelled.
‘Stand up to your friends’
Mr Gyimah, a junior minister, said it was “above my pay grade in terms of what happens” but he thought the US president had “definitely crossed a line”.
He said: “In terms of whether or not Donald Trump comes to this country, I am personally deeply uncomfortable about it.
“I am deeply uncomfortable because he is deliberately divisive, and this would be divisive at a time when we are trying to unite our country.”
But he praised the prime minister for her “rebuke” of Mr Trump.
Labour MP Chuka Ummuna said that the US was “bigger than Donald Trump” and many Americans found the president “abhorrent”.
Economist Yanis Varoufakis said while the UK would have to deal with Mr Trump, it did not have to honour him with a state visit.
But UKIP Leader Henry Bolton said that a state visit was not a “personal invitation” and the US and UK had a long history.
“Like any family”, he said, there would be disagreements. But it was important to “take care” of the relationship.
The UKIP leader said Britain First members were banned from his party. But he said people had concerns about changes in their communities – to criticism from other panel members.
Sunday Times deputy editor Sarah Baxter accused Mr Bolton of “talking nonsense” but agreed that Mr Trump’s state visit should not be cancelled.