During a spirited debate on Monday, the British Parliament took a long hard look at American presidential candidate Donald Trump while considering whether he should be barred from entering the country. Lawmakers were forced to take up the motion when a petition seeking to ban Trump garnered the requisite 100,000 signatures.
While many agreed that Trump's comments about Muslims and other groups were offensive, plenty of politicians in the country's ruling Conservative Party said that the value of protecting free speech outweighed his remarks. Ultimately, the impassioned two-hour debate ended without ever going to a vote.
"While I think this man is crazy," Member of Parliament Tom Tugendhat said, "I will not be the one to silence his voice," the Washington Post reported during live analysis. The sentiment was echoed by Tugendhat's colleague MP Edward Leigh who asked, "If we only allow freedom of speech for those we agree with, is that free speech at all?"
Dissenting voices came mostly from the left side of the aisle, with Labour MP Tulip Siddiq, who supported the ban, saying, "I draw the line at freedom of speech when it imports a violent ideology."
Ultimately, the decision whether or not to ban rests exclusively with British Home Secretary Theresa May; any resolutions from Parliament on the matter would be non-binding.
Much like a similar petition system in the United States, Britain has an official policy of welcoming citizen initiatives and is required to respond when they reach a certain threshold of signatures. Far outpacing the minimum requirement of 100,000, the petition to ban Donald Trump crossed the half a million mark just weeks after it was launched in December 2015.
The petition was initiated by Suzanne Kelly, an American-born contributor to citizen journalism website Aberdeen Voice. In December, Kelly told Mic that the times were too dangerous for the country to countenance Trump any longer.
"These are very inflammatory times that we're living in," she said. "The last thing that we need is somebody pouring fuel on a fire. What we need is more tolerance and more cultural understanding."
Still, given the considerable amount of personal investment Trump has poured into the British Isles, particularly in Scotland where he owns both Trump Turnberry and Trump International Gold Links resorts, the likelihood of such a ban passing is slim. In a statement, Sarah Malone, executive vice-president of Trump International Golf Links, roundly dismissed the proposal.
"It is absurd that valuable parliamentary time is being wasted debating a matter raised as part of the American presidential election," Malone said. "Our politicians would do better to debate how to solve the challenges facing our own country and its people, like the tens of thousands of job losses in the oil industry and the thousands more job cuts planned."
With Trump still dominating most national and state polls, the potential that a ban could result in the shunning of a sitting U.S. president is ever-growing.