Boris Johnson says Donald Trump's 'bark is worse than his bite'

Alan McGuinness, News Reporter

Boris Johnson has said Donald Trump's "bark is considerably worse than his bite", as he criticised the US President's controversial travel ban.

Answering questions in the Commons, the Foreign Secretary told MPs he shared their "disquiet" over the policy, and stressed it was "not an approach we would take".

Mr Johnson acknowledged the measure, which temporarily bans refugees and citizens from seven mainly-Muslim countries coming to the US, was "divisive and wrong", but stressed the "vital importance" of the transatlantic alliance to the UK.

"Where we have differences with the US we will not hesitate to express them," he said.

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"We also repeat our resolve to work alongside the Trump administration in the mutual interest of both our countries."

Later he was asked by one MP what conclusions he had drawn about Mr Trump so far.

Mr Johnson responded: "I think the conclusion that anybody looking at the President's electoral rhetoric and what he is in fact doing … any reasonable person would conclude that his bark is considerably worse than his bite and I think we have every opportunity to do a very, very good deal with him on all sorts of things, not least a free trade deal."

His remarks come amid growing calls for President Trump's upcoming state visit to be scrapped and as tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets across the UK to protest against the measure.

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Mr Johnson said Britons "remain welcome to travel to the US" and the country's embassy in London had confirmed Mr Trump's executive order would make "no difference" to British passport holders.

He said: "We have received assurances from the US embassy that this executive order will make no difference to any British passport holder, irrespective of their country of birth or whether they hold another passport."

Mr Johnson's statement came after the US Embassy earlier suggested UK citizens with dual nationality from one of the seven countries covered by the temporary ban - Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen - should not try to obtain a visa.

Foreign Office sources have suggested the UK has secured a "special carve out" from Mr Trump's policy, which was put in place when the President signed an executive order on Friday.

But the Foreign Secretary was criticised by opposition MPs, who accused the Government of failing to take a tougher line with the new administration.

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said: "When it comes to human rights, when it comes to women's rights, when it comes to torture and the treatment of minorities, President Trump is already descending down a very dangerous slope.

"When that happens we need a prime minister who is prepared to tell him to stop, not one who simply proffers her hand and silently helps him along."

Mr Johnson refused to comment on reports Mr Trump's advisers had briefed Theresa May on the executive order when the Prime Minister was in the White House.

He was speaking before former Labour leader Ed Miliband had his request granted for an emergency debate on the travel ban, meaning MPs continued to discuss the issue into Monday evening.

Meanwhile, Number 10 has insisted Mrs May was "very happy" to invite the US President to make a state visit to the UK later this year, despite a petition against such an honour gaining more than 1.5 million signatures.

Speaking alongside the Irish Prime Minister in Dublin, Mrs May stood by that position, saying: "I have informally issued that invitation for a state visit for President Trump to the United Kingdom and that invitation stands."

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