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British lawmakers debate banning US presidential candidate after Muslim comments

Members of parliament said Trump should be allowed into Britain where his views could be challenged, that a ban would give him more publicity or that it was not for Britain to get involved in U.S. affairs.

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British lawmakers on Monday debated a petition to ban U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump from Britain over remarks on Muslims, but while describing his comments as "crazy" and "offensive", most said the ban would go against free speech.

Trump caused outrage last month with his comments that Muslims should be banned from entering the United States. He spoke after 14 people died in a shooting spree in California by two Muslims whom the FBI said had been radicalized.

His comments prompted more than half a million Britons to sign a petition calling for him to be barred from entering the country, where he has business interests.

The three-hour debate saw lawmakers from all sides criticize Trump's comments. While it was not followed by a vote, many more lawmakers spoke against a ban than for it.

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"I want to see Donald Trump come to this country ... I want him to get a sense of the fury and the frustration with his xenophobic remarks," said Gavin Robinson, a lawmaker from Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party.

Only interior minister Theresa May can issue an order banning entry into Britain and Prime Minister David Cameron has said while Trump's comments were "divisive, unhelpful and wrong", he does not back the idea of barring him.

Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said the government did not comment on who it was considering for exclusion but said "a frank and open exchange of views" was the most effective way to influence Trump.

"The U.S. remains our most important bilateral partner. It is in the UK's interests that we engage all presidential candidates, Democratic and Republican, even though we may disagree profoundly on important issues," he said.

Some spoke passionately in favor of banning Trump however, saying he should not be treated differently from others who have been banned for similar views.

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