Exiting the European Union (Sanctions)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:10 pm on 9th April 2019.

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Photo of Alan Duncan Alan Duncan Minister of State 2:10 pm, 9th April 2019

If we are looking at individual cases such as that, we are straying slightly outside the terms of this debate, which is about the framework for the operation of sanctions in these four areas. We work closely with our European allies on the operation of the joint comprehensive plan of action, and we will continue to do so. However, we will of course look at all sanctions under the terms of the Act that we passed last year.

The four statutory instruments under consideration transfer into UK law the EU sanctions regimes on Burma, Venezuela, Guinea-Bissau and Iran—the human rights element of Iran, rather than the anti-nuclear side. In each case, the instruments seek to substantially mirror the measures in the corresponding EU regime, which include financial, immigration and trade measures.

These SIs were laid on a contingent basis to provide for the continuation of sanctions should we leave the EU without a deal. This would ensure that we have the necessary powers to impose sanctions on the countries in question from the date of exit. If we reach a deal, sanctions would continue to apply under EU law during any implementation period, and these SIs would not immediately be needed.

As I said at the beginning, should we leave the EU without a deal, we will publish the list of those sanctioned under these SIs and all our new sanctions SIs on exit day. We will seek to transfer EU designations in each case, but as I said earlier these decisions will be subject to the legal tests contained in the sanctions Act. Any EU listings that do not meet the tests would not then be implemented.

Hon. Members may recall that review and reporting requirements were incorporated into the sanctions Act. Hence, alongside these statutory instruments, we have published reports on the purposes of each regime and the penalties contained in them—these are known respectively as section 2 and section 18 reports. These reports, plus an explanatory memorandum for each SI, are available in the Vote Office should Members wish to read them in detail. The Government will also review each sanctions regime on a regular basis.

I would now like briefly to describe the purposes of each regime. The Burma sanctions regulations seek to encourage the Burmese security forces to comply with international human rights law and to respect human rights. The corresponding EU sanctions were established in their present form in April 2018, in response to systematic human rights violations by Burmese security forces since the summer of 2017.

The EU sanctions regime designates members of the Burmese security forces who were involved in human rights violations or abuses, or in the obstruction of humanitarian assistance activity or an independent investigation into the atrocities in Burma.