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Online petition forces UK Parliament to debate banning Donald Trump from country

An online petition in the UK calling for Donald Trump to be banned from entering the country has proved so popular that lawmakers there have now decided to debate the issue.

The petition, started by Scotland resident Suzanne Kelly, took off following Trump’s controversial remarks last month calling for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S.

30,000 names an hour

At its peak, the petition was collecting 30,000 names an hour, and now has almost 600,000 signatures.

The UK government said Tuesday the debate will be held on January 18 to discuss whether to close the door on the Republican presidential candidate should he try to enter the country. All 650 Members of Parliament can take part in the debate, which’ll be broadcast live online.

“The more I looked at Donald Trump and the remarks he has made before entering the presidential race, the more my hackles were rising,” Kelly told the Guardian recently.

“This man is no longer a joke in the corner, but someone who is aiming to become leader of one of the most powerful nations in the world.”

Kelly said the petition system, which forces a government response if more than 100,000 signatures are gathered, “gives all those people who agree with me a platform to say we also disagree with hate speech.”

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The Scot’s petition states that as the UK has banned entry to a number of individuals in the past for hate speech, the same principles should apply to everyone who wishes to visit the country.

“If the United Kingdom is to continue applying the ‘unacceptable behaviour’ criteria to those who wish to enter its borders, it must be fairly applied to the rich as well as poor, and the weak as well as powerful,” Kelly says in her petition.

In its response, the UK government said exclusion powers “are not used lightly,” adding that the Home Secretary only calls on them “when justified and based on all available evidence.”

George Sorial, EVP and Counsel for the Trump Organization, highlighted Trump’s business interests in the UK, saying that a travel ban would “immediately end these and all future investments we are currently contemplating in the United Kingdom.”

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Prime Minister David Cameron earlier condemned Trump’s remarks, describing them as “divisive, stupid, and wrong,” but added he should be allowed to enter the country if he wishes to do so.

The U.S. government has operated a similar petitioning system for American citizens since 2011. The system, called We the People, usually offers an official response if a petition reaches 100,000 signatures within 30 days.