G20 Summit

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:42 pm on 3rd December 2018.

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Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party 3:42 pm, 3rd December 2018

Thank you, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister told the media she would sit down and be robust with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the chief architect of the brutal war in Yemen, which has killed 56,000 people and brought 14 million to the brink of famine. The Crown Prince is believed to have ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Rather than be robust, as she promised, we learn that she told the dictator, “Please don’t use the weapons we are selling you in the war you’re waging,” and asked him nicely to investigate the murder he allegedly ordered. Leaders should not just offer warms words against human rights atrocities; they should back up their words with action. Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and others have stopped their arms sales to Saudi Arabia. When will the UK do the same?

On Ukraine, as NATO has said, we need both sides to show restraint and to de-escalate the situation, with international law adhered to, including Russia allowing unhindered access to Ukraine’s ports on the sea of Azov.

Britain’s trade policy must be led by clear principles that do not sacrifice human rights. The International Trade Secretary claimed last summer that a trade deal between the UK and the EU would be easiest in human history, but all we have before us is 26 pages of vague aspirations. It seems that neither has he got very far on the 40 trade deals he said he would be ready to sign on the day we leave next year, unless the Prime Minister can update us in her response. In the light of last week’s report from the Foreign Affairs Committee, how does she intend to ensure that the 240 export trade negotiators she promised by Brexit day will be in place, given that the Government have had two years and only 90 are currently in post?

Did the Prime Minister speak again to President Trump at the G20? He seems to have rejected her Brexit agreement because it does not put America first. The International Trade Secretary claimed that bilateral US and UK trade could rise by £40 billion a year by 2030,

“if we’re able to remove the barriers to trade that we have”.

She claims that under her deal we can and will strike ambitious trade deals, but this morning we learned that Britain’s top civil servant in charge of these negotiations wrote to her admitting that there was no legal guarantee of being able to end the backstop.

It is clear, however, that some in the Prime Minister’s Government do want to remove barriers. Just this weekend the Environment Secretary said, with regard to the Brexit deal and workers’ rights, that

“it allows us to diverge and have flexibility”.

Our flexible labour market already means that the UK has the weakest wage growth of all the G20 nations. Did the Prime Minister ask the other leaders how they were faring so much better?

UK capital investment is the second worst in the G20. The previous Chancellor slashed UK corporation tax to the lowest level in the G20, telling us—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] In doing so, he told us it would boost investment. It did not. Did the Prime Minister ask other G20 leaders why, despite having higher corporation tax, they attracted much higher investment?

Given that the G20 is responsible for 76% of carbon dioxide emissions, I welcome the fact that building a consensus for a fair and sustainable development was a theme of the summit. Why then did her Government vote against Labour’s proposal to include the sustainable development goals as a reference point when the Trade Bill was put before Parliament earlier this year? If present trends continue, many G20 nations will not meet their Paris 2015 commitments, so I am glad that the Government will be pursuing this agenda at next year’s UN climate summit, and I hope that they will also pursue it this week in the talks in Katowice, Poland.

Given that climate change is the biggest issue facing our world, it is imperative that a sustainable economic and trade model be put forward that puts people and planet over profit. Our country has the lowest wage growth in the G20, the lowest investment and poor productivity. Ten years on from the global financial crisis, this Prime Minister and too much of the G20 have simply failed to learn the lessons of that crash.