Exiting the European Union (Sanctions)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:26 pm on 29th April 2019.

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Photo of Alan Duncan Alan Duncan Minister of State 6:26 pm, 29th April 2019

In general terms, the answer is yes, I very much hope so. That is what sanctions are designed to do. However, as the House will appreciate, we are today just looking at the framework within which specific sanctions regimes can fit, rather than at the actual sanctions regimes or indeed their efficacy and effect in the countries we are discussing. We are looking at a legal framework under these SIs; we are not really looking at the full operation of the sanctions that may form part of the framework we are setting up today.

I assure colleagues that the 2018 Act does indeed provide the necessary powers in UK law to allow us to develop our own regime. However, these SIs were laid on a contingent basis to provide for the continuation of sanctions should we leave the EU without a deal. As such, our priority has necessarily been to ensure the transfer of existing EU measures by laying SIs such as these. We will give consideration to new regimes as circumstances suggest and as parliamentary time allows. Approving these regulations would ensure that we have the necessary powers to impose sanctions in respect of Zimbabwe, Belarus and Syria, and in respect of the proliferation and use of chemical weapons, from the date of our EU exit. In the event of a deal, EU sanctions would continue to apply during the implementation period, and these instruments would not immediately be needed. As a member of the EU, or during the implementation period, EU sanctions will apply in the UK. We will look to use the powers provided by the 2018 Act to the fullest extent possible during this period, but there will be some limitations on the measures we can impose autonomously. I wish quickly to describe the purpose of each regime.

The chemical weapons sanctions regulations aim to deter the use and proliferation of chemical weapons, and encourage the effective implementation of the chemical weapons convention, by imposing immigration and financial sanctions on those involved in their use and proliferation.

The Zimbabwe sanctions regulations aim to encourage the Government of Zimbabwe to respect democratic principles, the rule of law and human rights, and to deter the repression of civil society. The regulations impose an arms embargo and other financial, immigration and trade restrictions, including on the trade in goods and technology that may be used for internal repression.

The Belarus sanctions regulations aim to address human rights abuses and threats to the rule of law, and to encourage the proper investigation and institution of criminal proceedings against those responsible for the disappearance of four individuals. The measures include an arms embargo, financial and immigration sanctions, and restrictions on goods or technology that may be used for internal repression.

The Syria sanctions regulations aim to deter the Syrian regime from actions, policies or activities that repress the civilian population, and to encourage a negotiated political settlement to end the conflict. The regulations include asset freezes and/or travel bans on designation persons, together with financial, sectoral and aircraft sanctions; and wide-ranging trade restrictions, including on goods and technology that may be used for internal repression and the interception and monitoring of telecommunications, but also in respect of other goods and technology, such as crude oil, jet fuel, luxury goods and items that can contribute to chemical and biological weapons.

These four SIs transfer into UK law well-established EU sanctions regimes that are in line with the UK’s foreign policy priorities. They encourage respect for human rights, the rule of law and security and stability in very difficult environments—