The British Parliament is scheduled to debate later this month whether to ban often-controversial Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump from entering the country, the United Kingdom government said Tuesday. The debate was scheduled for Jan. 18 after a petition to bar Trump from entering the U.K. earned more the 550,000 signatures, following the candidate's December call for a ban on Muslims entering the United States.
The petition started in December 2015 and easily cleared a 100,000 signature threshold that put it up for immediate consideration for debate. Tuesday marked the first time officials signaled they would debate the petition, reported the Hill. Members of Parliament are also scheduled to discuss another petition to allow Trump into the U.K. during that debate. That petition has garnered nearly 40,000 signatures.
NEW: UK Parliament to debate banning Donald Trump on January 18, after petition reaches nearly 600,000 signatures.
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) January 5, 2016
“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.”
The British government said Home Secretary Theresa May has the power to block non-European Economic Area nationals from entering the U.K. "The home secretary has said that coming to the U.K. is a privilege and not a right, and she will continue to use the powers available to prevent from entering the U.K. those who seek to harm our society and who do not share our basic values," the government wrote, prior to the debate date being set, via U.S. News and World Report.
Trump has been steadfast about his call to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the U.S. amid increased fears of terrorism. British Prime Minister David Cameron was among those who condemned the GOP presidential candidate but did not support the idea of banning the billionaire. It might be unlikely a Trump ban actually comes to fruition in the U.K.; however, BuzzFeed News noted that Westminster Hall debates are "largely symbolic."