The British Parliament engaged in a sharp debate Monday over a proposal to ban Donald Trump from the U.K., as the combative U.S. presidential candidate counter-punched by threatening to walk away from a lucrative deal in Scotland.
Sarah Malone, executive vice president for Trump International Golf Links, Scotland, said Monday that the real estate magnate, if barred, would abandon plans for an additional $1.1 billion investment in Scotland’s golf-and-leisure industry.
“It is absurd that valuable parliamentary time is being wasted debating a matter raised as part of the American presidential election,” Malone said.
U.K. lawmakers took up the lively debate after receiving a petition calling for the British ban on Trump. The petition, started by activist Suzanne Kelly, garnered nearly 600,000 signatures, far more than the 100,000 needed under British law to force Parliament to debate it.
Parliament, though, does not plan to vote on the request. Further, Prime Minister David Cameron has voiced opposition to the proposal, and only Home Secretary Theresa May, a member of the British Conservative Party, can issue such a directive.
But that hasn’t stopped the Republican presidential candidate from punching back with his vow to hit the U.K. in the wallet, to try to end the largely symbolic effort.
Malone, in a written statement, argued that debating the online petition is “sending a terrible message to the world,” and British lawmakers should instead spend their time on more pressing domestic issues like job losses from the declining oil industry.
The petition was launched after Trump called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, in the aftermath of the terror attack last month in San Bernardino, Calif., in which a Muslim husband-wife team fatally shot 14 people and wounded 21 others at a holiday office party.
The wife, Tashfeen Malik, entered the U.S. in July 2014 on a fiancée visa. And the FBI has said she and American-born husband Syed Farook had been “radicalized” before the attack.
Kelly, who started the petition, has a long history of opposing Trump and his presence in the United Kingdom, including criticism of the Trump International Golf Links in her hometown of Aberdeen, Scotland.
On Monday, the high-profile debate in the historic Westminster Hall was led by the British Labor Party’s Paul Flynn. He and others used the forum to slam Trump’s rhetoric but largely stopped short of endorsing a firm visa ban.
He argued Trump’s comments are “extremely dangerous” and praised the petition effort, saying, “the vox pop is so tremendous that the petiton was signed by a half-a-million people.”
However, Flynn argued against the ban by saying it would be disrespectful to America, as a world leader in democracy, and the United Kingdom has “already given [Trump] too much attention.”
The members of Parliament were limited to six-minute speeches as a result of the overwhelming interest to be part of the debate, which included considerable discussion about inviting Trump to visit to show him how Muslims are welcomed in the United Kingdom.
“Secretary May has already banned 84 people,” said Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh of the Scottish National Party, arguing for a ban. “I don’t think anybody would have imagined this man would have made such a horrible statement.”