Members of the British Parliament began to debate a petition Monday calling for U.S. Republican candidate and billionaire businessman Donald Trump to be banned from the country, CNN reported Monday. The debate is scheduled take place at 11:30 a.m. EST in the U.K. Parliament’s Westminster Hall. A live stream of the debate can be viewed here.
The petition, penned by Scottish freelance journalist and activist Suzanne Kelly, was a result of controversial statements made by Trump last month in which he called on the U.S. to temporarily ban all Muslims from entering the country. The comments drew a strong public backlash, and the petition calling to bar Trump from the U.K. quickly garnered thousands of signatures. As of Monday morning, the petition had 574,493 signatures. The petition easily cleared the 100,000 signature threshold for it to be considered by Parliament’s Petition Committee, which has passed it along to the full Parliament for debate.
“The U.K. has banned entry to many individuals for hate speech. The same principles should apply to everyone who wishes to enter the U.K.,” the petition reads. “If the United Kingdom is to continue applying the 'unacceptable behavior' criteria to those who wish to enter its borders, it must be fairly applied to the rich as well as poor, and the weak as well as powerful.”
Members of Parliament are also expected to debate a counter-petition calling for Trump not to be banned from the U.K., which has collected 40,000 signatures.
“We had two petitions, one which said ban Trump from the country and another which said let him in,” Petitions Committee member Steve Double told BuzzFeed News. “It’s a very interesting point — how do we, as an open democracy, deal with people who say things we perhaps don’t agree with. My personal view is that we shouldn’t ban people like Donald Trump, but we should have the confidence to stand up for what we believe in, have an open debate and defeat the views in open debate.”
Prime Minister David Cameron previously characterized Trump's comments as "stupid and wrong,” BBC reported, but did say that he does not support the ban, arguing that Trump would "unite us all against him" if he visited the U.K. Home Secretary Theresa May has the power to prevent people from visiting the U.K. over things they have said and has done so in the past. Florida pastor Terry Jones, white supremacist Don Black and Safwat Hegazy and a provocative Egyptian preacher have all been barred from the country in recent years.