A unionist member of the House of Lords has said an England cricketer cannot properly be considered English due to his Asian roots.
Lord Kilclooney, a former UUP MP who is now a crossbench peer, made the remarks on Twitter in response to a BBC sports report about the place of Moeen Ali on England’s Ashes team.
Numerous media outlets all state that Mr Ali was born in Birmingham.
The peer wrote: “Times have changed! The England team now needs non English people in order to win test games!”
When one web user pointed out Mr Ali was born in England, Lord Kilclooney said: “Moeen Ali is proud to be British but racially he is not English. There is a difference between being English and being British!
“Yes, if you are born in the UK you have the right to be British but it certainly does not make one English. English is a race and not a nationality.
“You fail to know the difference. A Chinese baby born in England has the right to be British but it is not English!”
The remarks drew heavy criticism online, including from transatlantic television presenter Piers Morgan.
Contacted by the News Letter Lord Kilclooney said: “Be careful here – there was a lot of support. There was some criticism, but a lot of people agreed.
“If you’re born in England you have the right to be a British citizen, but not an English citizen.”
He indicated there was not such a thing as an “English citizen”.
He added: “It’s amazing how ill-informed many of the English people are about the UK. They think England is the UK. They don’t realise that England is only part of the UK.
“There’s no country called England. England is one of the four nations in the UK, and the country is the UK.”
He added: “The English test team is no longer entirely English. There are people in it who are of other races.
“I welcome that of course. But I’m saying really it should be called the British test team. Because they’re not all English on it any more.”
Lord Kilclooney’s remarks come after he described Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar as “the Indian” last month. Mr Varadkar was born in Ireland to an Irish mother and a father from India.
He later withdrew the remark, saying he had used the term as a “shorthand” for Varadkar to save space when writing a Twitter message.