Theresa May, the Prime Minister, let it be known that she was ‘very happy’ about having extended an invitation from the Queen to Donald Trump to make a state visit to Britain. An online petition calling for its cancellation had attracted more than 1.7 million signatures and a rival petition supporting it also gained enough signatures to warrant a Commons debate, scheduled for 20 February. Mrs May had left Washington in a brief interlude of happy achievement after being the first head of government to meet President Trump formally at the White House. The day before, in Philadelphia, she made a well-regarded speech on foreign policy to Republican congressmen, in which she said: ‘The days of Britain and America intervening in sovereign countries in an attempt to remake the world in our own image are over.’ At a press conference with Mr Trump she announced that he was 100 per cent behind Nato and he said that, although he thought torture worked, he would defer to James Mattis, his defence secretary, who opposed it. Mrs May and Mr Trump were photographed hand in hand as he negotiated a declivity in the West Wing colonnade; the press suggested that he suffers from bathmophobia, a fear of steps.
But while Mrs May was in the air speeding towards Turkey it became known that Mr Trump had signed an executive order under the heading ‘Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals’ that suspended for 90 days the entry of citizens of seven countries: Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It also blocked admittance for refugees from Syria indefinitely and the entry of all refugees for 120 days. On the first day 109 people in transit were denied entry and 173 were stopped by airlines from boarding an aircraft to the United States.