US presidential hopeful Donald Trump has hit back at the UK by threatening to withhold property investments totalling more than $1bn if the House of Commons banned him from entering the country.
Members of Parliament will hold a debate on 18 January after a petition calling for Trump to be barred from the country received more than half a million signatures from people angry at the tycoon’s December call for Muslims to be banned from entering the US.
Trump owns the Turnberry golf course in South Ayrshire, as well as Trump International Golf Links near Aberdeen, both in Scotland.
A statement issued yesterday by his company, the Trump Organisation, claimed that it had planned to invest more than £200m ($291m) at Turnberry and a further £500m ($728m) at the Aberdeen course.
The statement warned that any action to restrict travel would force it to "immediately end these and all future investments we are currently contemplating in the United Kingdom".
"Westminster would create a dangerous precedent and send a terrible message to the world that the United Kingdom opposes free speech," George Sorial, executive vice president and counsel for the Trump Organization, told Fox News.
However, the threat by Trump, who enjoys a substantial lead over rivals in the race to win the Republican nomination, is seen as mostly for show since the Parliamentary debate on 18 January will not be followed by a vote.
"As with any decision to schedule a petition for debate, it simply means that the committee has decided that the subject should be debated. A debate will allow a range of views to be expressed," said Helen Jones MP, chair of the Petitions Committee of the House of Commons, in a statement.
The irony of a man who wants to ban Muslims from entering the US throwing a temper tantrum over being similarly banned himself is apparent to everyone except the tycoon himself– Suzanne Kelly, Aberdeen resident
That committee provides a platform for petitions which the UK government pledges to consider debating in Parliament if they gather 100,000 signatures or more.
On 7 December Trump called for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States", adding, "until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on".
His statement claimed that there is "great hatred towards Americans by large segments of the Muslim population".
The following day Aberdeen resident Suzanne Kelly lodged the petition to have Trump blocked from UK entry. It now has just over 570,000 signatures.
‘Threatening Scotland again’
"He’s threatening Scotland once again, as he did over the offshore wind farms," Kelly said, according to the BBC.
Trump had previously threatened to pull investment from his Aberdeen resort if an offshore wind farm was approved, the BBC said.
Kelly continued: "The irony of a man who wants to ban Muslims from entering the US throwing a temper tantrum over being similarly banned himself is apparent to everyone except the tycoon himself."
MPs will also discuss a separate petition opposing such a ban, even though it only gained about 40,000 signatures.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron condemned Trump’s remarks about Muslims as "divisive, stupid and wrong", but he has said that he does not support banning him.
However, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon last month joined the calls for Trump to be considered for exclusion from the UK.
Photograph: Republican nomination hopeful Donald Trump after signing his party’s allegiance pledge, New York, September 2015 (Michael Vadon/Wikimedia Commons)