Changes in Us Immigration Policy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:02 pm on 30th January 2017.

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Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee, Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee 7:02 pm, 30th January 2017

I congratulate Edward Miliband and my hon. Friend Nadhim Zahawi on securing this debate. It was of course your decision to allow it, Mr Speaker. If the emotion we have already heard in the British House of Commons is anything to go by, what on earth will the effect of the order be right around the world, particularly in those nations on the list or in those that might be on any future list?

The right hon. Member for Doncaster North and the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, Yvette Cooper, carefully put forward the more obvious and ludicrous consequences of such an ill-thought-out measure. I very much want to compliment my fellow member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon, on combining what was undoubtedly an emotional speech with calm rationality and reasonableness in making an immensely powerful case to the American Administration. I want to use the rest of my speech to turn to the case that our country should make to the American Administration as a whole.

I did not agree with the critique of the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee about the actions of the Prime Minister. I am not entirely sure that her suggestion that the Prime Minister was aware of this and had a chance to make her views known during her visit to the United States can be substantiated. As far as I understand it, that is not the case, but the Minister will be able to confirm that in his winding-up speech.

We need a strong voice into the White House, and we have secured it, although it may have taken the prospect of a state visit to ensure that the Prime Minister was the first foreign leader to visit the White House. During that visit, she was able to secure the pre-eminent European requirement of the visit, which was the President of the United States overturning—audibly and verbally, in answer to her challenge at the press conference—his purported position on NATO. That is of immense importance not just to the United Kingdom, but to the whole security of Europe.

This goes to the heart of what we are to do about this particularly unwise Executive order. On the previous day, the Prime Minister had addressed the Republican caucus in Philadelphia, where she was very warmly received. My hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon has already referred to the values that she spoke to in her remarks to the caucus. We have to remember that the Administration is not just the President. One of the failures of the order was the failure to consult the other Departments in the United States. There is a separation of powers in America: the President is not the whole Administration. The effect of our Prime Minister’s early visit is that she is in a place to ally herself with the Secretaries of the various Departments that make up the Cabinet in the United States and to be an important ally in internal debates in the Administration. Such a debate ought to have taken place on the order and there should have been proper consideration, but that process plainly did not take place.

We also have allies on the Hill. The success of her speech in Philadelphia is shown by the position taken by Senators McCain and Graham. They have made an outstanding joint statement, which ends:

“Ultimately, we fear this executive order will become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism. At this very moment, American troops are fighting side-by-side with our Iraqi partners to defeat ISIL. But this executive order bans Iraqi pilots from coming to military bases in Arizona to fight our common enemies. Our most important allies in the fight against ISIL are the vast majority of Muslims who reject its apocalyptic ideology of hatred. This executive order sends a signal, intended or not, that America does not want Muslims coming into our country. That is why we fear this executive order may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security.”

Those arguments were eloquently made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon in his very remarkable speech.

It is not only in Congress that we have allies. The legal system of the United States is already cranking into action, and judges are already ruling against the legality of the Executive order. I very strongly suggest to right hon. and hon. Members in the House, as well as to the wider public, that we need to be effective in advancing the interests of the United Kingdom and the values of the liberal democracies that both we and the US are. Such values—of the rule of law and, in the United States, of the separation of powers—are already beginning to make themselves felt.

Our Prime Minister is to be congratulated on the fact that she will now be listened to by President Trump because of the actions she has taken, as our Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary have plainly already been listened to as well. There is very much more work to do to get the order rescinded and recast in an intelligent, sensible way so that it advances the interests of both us and the United States, and we need the kind of relationship that will enable that to happen.