British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Tuesday accused opposition Labour Party MPs of “anti-Americanism” for their criticism of the decision to invite President Trump to the U.K. next month on a state visit.
Hunt was asked in Parliament about the government’s decision to extend a state visit invitation to Trump, who will be in the U.K. at the beginning of June to mark the 70th Anniversary of D-Day.
“In this country, when a bully worms their way to the front of the queue, we might remonstrate in a politely British way, but we certainly don’t reward that bad behavior by inviting them back for tea,” MP Daniel Zeichner said in remarks first highlighted by Channel 4 News.
Zeichner went on to ask if the Foreign Secretary could tell Washington that “we’re all going to be rather busy in June” and reschedule for a later date: “Preferably long after he’s slung out.”
Hunt shot back, accusing the Labour Party of dabbling in anti-Americanism.
“Can we just deal with this ridiculous anti-Americanism on the benches opposite?” he said. “One million jobs in this country depend on U.S. inward investment, over 400,000 American troops died in the Second World War and the president is coming here to mark the anniversary of D-Day.”
“We should honor that relationship which goes far beyond differences in American politics,” he said.
He later told lawmakers that the “freedoms we enjoy in this House, that we exercise on a daily basis, are because America was prepared to stand by our side at a critical moment and that eclipses all other short-term considerations.”
His remarks were greeted with approving cheers of “hear, hear” from the Conservative Party benches.
The decision to extend the invitation to Trump has been controversial with left-wing MPs and activists, similar to the anger that Trump’s working visit was met with last year. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn announced last month that he had turned down an invitation to a state dinner featuring President Trump.
“Theresa May should not be rolling out the red carpet for a state visit to honor a president who rips up vital international treaties, backs climate change denial and uses racist and misogynist rhetoric,” Corbyn said in a statement.
“Maintaining an important relationship with the United States does not require the pomp and ceremony of a state visit,” he said. “It is disappointing that the Prime Minister has again opted to kowtow to this U.S. administration.”
He added that he would “welcome a meeting with President Trump to discuss all matters of interest.”
Prime Minister Theresa May has had a sometimes rocky relationship with Trump, but both sides have repeatedly expressed their commitment to a strong Anglo-American relationship. Last month, Trump doubled down on his support for a U.S.-U.K. trade deal after Britain eventually leaves the European Union.
“The potential is unlimited,” he tweeted.
Trump will visit the U.K. from June 3-5, before traveling to France.