Global Britain and the International Rules-based Order

Part of Brexit, Science and Innovation – in the House of Commons at 4:32 pm on 6th September 2018.

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Photo of Emily Thornberry Emily Thornberry Shadow Foreign Secretary 4:32 pm, 6th September 2018

Dead is dead. Whether a person has been killed because those with the bombs have been behaving recklessly or doing it intentionally, they are still dead, and it is still in breach of international humanitarian law to do either. I understand what the hon. Gentleman is saying, but we should strive to apply international law to countries equally. The idea of balancing one above the other is a slippery road.

In the end, the rule of law is one whereby we treat everyone equally before the law. If people have breached international law, they have breached international law and they should be held to account for that. That is my view and indeed it is our policy.

I was talking about Myanmar and the Rohingya, but then I wanted to move on to talk about Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Honduras and Sudan. The list goes on and on, and always with the same common factor: under the former Foreign Secretary, if there was a trade deal to be done, any concern for human rights and international rules would go out of the window. Above all, we saw it in his consistent policy, and that of the Prime Minister, towards Donald Trump: every abuse of human rights has been tolerated; every effort to destroy international treaties has been indulged; every attack on the UN has been pampered; and every mild criticism of him by this Government has had to be forced out of them, usually after 48 hours. Whatever Trump has done, this Government’s hand has remained outstretched, all in the hope of some mythical free trade deal to solve the almighty mess they are making of Brexit.

Even though the new Foreign Secretary has not taken part in today’s debate, I genuinely hope he will usher in a change of approach from that of his predecessor. The test will be whether he can show, through his actions rather than his words, that “global Britain” is about more than trade and that it is also about morality, values and principles. If we want to have a world order based on international rules, we must apply the same rules not just to Russia, but equally to every country, whether or not we have military alliances with them, whether or not we trade with them and whether or not Donald Trump wants us to. That is the only way we can restore what Kofi Annan called for, which was “moral truth”, “moral passion” and “moral persuasion”, to our country’s foreign policy. If this Government cannot do that, it is about time they made way for a Government who will.