Theresa May has put the Queen in a 'very difficult position' over Donald Trump's UK visit

LONDON — Theresa May's government has put the Queen in a "very difficult position" by inviting US President Donald Trump to make a state visit to Britain later this year, a former head of the Foreign Office has said.

Lord Ricketts, who served as the permanent secretary at the Foreign Office during the premiership of David Cameron, criticised the "premature" decision to extend an invite to Trump in a letter to The Times newspaper.

Lord Ricketts believes it's debatable whether the President is "deserving of this exceptional honour," adding: "It would have been far wiser to wait to see what sort of president he would turn out to be before advising the Queen to invite him. Now the Queen is put in a very difficult position."

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WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 27: British Prime Minister Theresa May and U.S. President Donald Trump walk along The Colonnade of the West Wing at The White House on January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. British Prime Minister Theresa May is on a two-day visit to the United States and will be the first world leader to meet with President Donald Trump. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 27: British Prime Minister Theresa May and U.S. President Donald Trump walk along The Colonnade of the West Wing at The White House on January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. British Prime Minister Theresa May is on a two-day visit to the United States and will be the first world leader to meet with President Donald Trump. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 27: British Prime Minister Theresa May with U.S. President Donald Trump walk along The Colonnade at The White House on January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. British Prime Minister Theresa May is on a two-day visit to the United States and will be the first world leader to meet with President Donald Trump. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump escorts British Prime Minister Theresa May after their meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 27, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
British Prime Minister Theresa May and U.S. President Donald Trump participate in a joint news conference at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 27, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 27: U.S. President Donald Trump (R) and British Prime Minister Theresa May (L) participate in a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. Prime Minister May is on a visit to the White House and had a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office with President Trump. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 27: U.S. President Donald Trump (R) and British Prime Minister Theresa May (L) participate in a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. Prime Minister May is on a visit to the White House and had a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office with President Trump. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 27: U.S. President Donald Trump (R) and British Prime Minister Theresa May ,participate in a joint press conference at the East Room of the White House January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. Prime Minister May is on a visit to the White House and had a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office with President Trump. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 27: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a joint press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May in the East Room of the White House January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. Prime Minister May is on a visit to the White House and had a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office with President Trump. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 27: U.S. President Donald Trump (R) and British Prime Minister Theresa May ,participate in a joint press conference at the East Room of the White House January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. Prime Minister May is on a visit to the White House and had a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office with President Trump. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump meets with British Prime Minister Theresa May in the White House Oval Office in Washington, U.S., January 27, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
British Prime Minister Theresa May (L) and US President Donald Trump shake hands beside a bust of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in the Oval Office of the White House on January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 27: British Prime Minister Theresa May with U.S. President Donald Trump in The Oval Office at The White House on January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. British Prime Minister Theresa May is on a two-day visit to the United States and will be the first world leader to meet with President Donald Trump. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
British Prime Minister Theresa May (L) and US President Donald speak in the Oval Office of the White House on January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump listens while British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during a press conference at the White House January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 27: British Prime Minister Theresa May with U.S. President Donald Trump in The Oval Office at The White House on January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. British Prime Minister Theresa May is on a two-day visit to the United States and will be the first world leader to meet with President Donald Trump. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Theresa May, U.K. prime minister, smiles during a joint news conference with U.S. President Donald Trump, not pictured, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Jan. 27, 2017. The British prime minister is planning to pitch a free-trade deal to the new U.S. leader just as the reality of a new era of protection for American workers sinks in. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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May has been at the centre of a political storm over the perceived weak nature of her response to Trump's executive order banning people from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the US. The prime minister fell short of criticising the ban in strong terms, saying the UK takes a "different approach" to immigration policy.

Numerous MPs from across the House condemned the prime minister for failing to denounce the president's contentious travel ban, while tens of thousands of people gathered outside Downing Street on Monday evening, calling on the government to withdraw Trump's state visit invitation.

However, May said on Tuesday that the president's invite still stands. "The United States is a close ally of the United Kingdom. We work together across many areas of mutual interest and we have that special relationship between us... I have issued that invitation for a state visit for President Trump to the United Kingdom and that invitation stands," she said in a press conference on Tuesday.

This means that the president remains set for an official engagement, including a trip to Buckingham Palace, where he will meet and dine with the Queen. It is also worth noting that it is very unusual for a newly-elected US president to be offered a state visit less than a year into their first term. It was over two years before former President Bill Clinton was invited to visit the Queen, while George Bush senior was never offered one.

Officials at Buckingham Palace are reportedly unhappy because the Queen has been dragged into a political debate, something that she has consistently tried to avoid during her time on the throne. The Palace reported The Sun newspaper to the IPSO press regulator last year for reporting that the Queen wanted Britain to leave the EU.

One royal who would welcome a state visit from the US president is Prince Charles, sources close to him have told the Guardian. The Prince is reportedly keen to discuss inter-faith relations with Trump amid the global outrage surrounding the president's decision to ban people from seven majority-Muslim nations from entering the US.

"It is not his style to turn his back," a Royal source said.

Meanwhile, over 1.6 million people have signed a petition calling on Trump's planned state visit to be cancelled, meaning MPs are legally required to consider debating it in Parliament in the coming weeks.

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