Donald Trump should be granted the “full courtesy” of a state visit to the UK, the government has said in a statement sent to 1.8 million people who signed a petition against the invitation to the US president.
The petition, which is being considered for debate in parliament, called for Trump to be allowed to enter the UK but not be granted an official state visit “because it would cause embarrassment to Her Majesty the Queen”.
Trump was invited on a state visit to the UK by Theresa May as she visited Washington last month. Official invitations for such visits, which include meeting the royal family, are not usually extended to US presidents until several years into their terms.
In an email sent to petition signatories, the Foreign Office said the government “recognises the strong views expressed by the many signatories of this petition, but does not support this petition”.
Preparations would continue for the state visit, the statement said. “This invitation reflects the importance of the relationship between the United States of America and the United Kingdom. At this stage, final dates have not yet been agreed for the state visit.”
The visit has already been the subject of controversy in the House of Commons, after the Speaker, John Bercow, said he would refuse permission for Trump to address Westminster Hall because of parliament’s historic opposition to racisim and sexism.
Bercow’s remarks drew calls for him to quit from some Conservative backbenchers, and MP James Duddridge is collecting signatures for a vote of no confidence in the Speaker.
However, only a handful of Tory MPs have publicly supported plans to remove Bercow, including Andrew Bridgen, Karl McCartney, Daniel Kawczynski and Nadine Dorries.
On Friday, Westminster sources told the Guardian the government was seeking to avoid a snub by scheduling Trump’s visit for late August or September, when parliament would not be sitting. Officials are also said to be keen to reduce the president’s public exposure generally during the visit, in order to minimise the opportunities for protest.
The UK’s Stop Trump Coalition of anti-Trump MPs and activists included Owen Jones, who helped organise demonstrations against the president’s executive order, later overturned, banning entry to the US from seven Muslim-majority countries.
The group, backed by trade unions including Unison and celebrities such as singer Paloma Faith, says it is planning demonstrations on 20 February to coincide with the parliamentary debate on the state visit.
Unison’s general secretary, Dave Prentis, said: “There should be no open arms welcome for Donald Trump. Protecting him from the inevitable protesters will cost millions – something the cash-strapped UK can ill afford.”
Jones, a Guardian columnist, said: “Donald Trump’s state visit will be marked by the biggest protest against racism and hatred in our country’s history. It doesn’t matter where he goes. We will march in our millions against him, and our government’s collusion, in every town and city in Britain.”
Tim Farron, the Lib Dem leader, criticised the decision to reject the petition. “The desperation of this government knows no limits,” he said.
“Maintaining communication between the USA and UK is sensible, but rolling out the red carpet to a man who stands for everything that Britain doesn’t is disgusting. Millions of Brits have called for this visit not to happen, and millions more want nothing to do with a man intent on promoting sexism and racism in everything he does.”