The Prime Minister was heckled by reporters after she failed three times to answer questions on the controversial US Presidential order.
At a press conference in Turkey this afternoon, May finally said: “The United States is responsible for United States policy on refugees. The UK is responsible for UK policy on refugees.”
But she faced the embarrassment of Turkish PM Binali Yildirim lambasting Trump’s action, declaring that: “You can’t solve this refugee problem by putting up walls.” Turkey has taken three million Syrian refugees since the conflict began.
Standing next to May at the joint event, Yildirim added: “Nobody leaves their homes for nothing. They came here to save their lives. Our doors are open. This is the most holy, sacred thing, to save a life.”
May was immediately criticised by politicians back home in the UK. Jeremy Corbyn responded by telling the prime minister: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
Ed Miliband said May’s “refusal to condemn Trump Muslim ban is shocking, wrong and cannot stand. It flies in the face of the values of people across Britain”.
He added: “The PM needs to say now the Trump executive order targeting Muslims to block their entry into the US is abhorrent. Silence is complicity.”
May faced accusations of being supine to the new White House in her visit on Friday. Within hours of her departure Trump issued the executive order that sparked outrage around the world.
In contrast to May, France, Germany and Luxembourg have voiced concern about Trump’s action. German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel said of the ban: “The United States is a country where Christian traditions have an important meaning. Loving your neighbor is a major Christian value, and that includes helping people.”
The order, which Trump signed Friday afternoon, bans Syrian refugee resettlement in the US indefinitely, shuts down the entire refugee program for 120 days and bars all immigrants and visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US for at least 90 days.
Former Conservative Party chairman Baroness Warsi also hit out at May’s words.”The moment we once again lost a little more moral authority. The hypocrisy of the debate on British values becomes more stark by the day,” she tweeted.
Yvette Cooper, the Labour chair of the Commons home affairs committee, told The Huffington Post: “After having to be pushed to comment on Trump’s refugee ban, this was a shocking answer from our Prime Minister who completely failed to criticise it.
“This is not just a minor policy disagreement with an ally. It is a ban on refugees and a targeting of Muslims that goes deeply against all the democratic values that have underpinned our relationship with the United States for generations. Our Prime Minister has a responsibility to speak out on behalf of our country. Her silence is shameful.”
Cooper today also wrote to the prime minister to raise concern about the “deeply troubling” actions of the US government.
Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said May was “so desperate for a trade deal at any price after her decision to haul Britain out of the world’s largest market that she will turn a blind eye to anything”.
“At the press conference she contrived to make the Turkish government look liberal. They said it was wrong to build walls,” he said.
“Rather than fighting to build a world that is open, tolerant and united, Theresa May is dividing the world in a very dangerous way.
“The President’s actions have horrified the world, and this is a moment when she has to show what side she is on.”
Author: Paul Waugh, Ned Simons