My comments will be relatively brief, but there are important issues to be discussed. This will certainly be part of ongoing discussions as the UK decides how to leave the EU. Helen Goodman, speaking from the Front Bench for the official Opposition, talked about that relationship and what would happen about the co-ordination of activities. We should not lose sight of that as developments take place, but it is entirely responsible to keep applying sanctions, particularly on chemical weapons and their use, and against proliferation, as the UK leaves the EU. It is important that we all use all our efforts to prevent the proliferation of these weapons and encourage the effective implementation of the convention on the prohibition of the development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons and on their final destruction.
On Zimbabwe, it is again entirely necessary for the UK to remain in support of, and to continue to apply, the sanctions put in place through the EU. We should always be ready to protect and promote human rights wherever they are denied, and these sanctions are very necessary in applying pressure to oppressive regimes, so that they improve their human rights record, whatever that may be.
The EU maintains a far-reaching and powerful sanctions regime, and we should be keen to align ourselves with our closest allies in the EU—albeit that the UK is leaving the EU very soon and will no longer be a member state, although I am sure that there are parts of the UK that have other ambitions in that regard.
The UK is Belarus’s third biggest trading partner after Russia and Ukraine, and the second largest investor in the country. It is important that the UK continues its actions on human rights and freedom of the press, and it is entirely necessary for pressure to be applied to keep a focus on human rights abuses.
In Syria, we have seen a regime that has used chemical weapons against its own people; 400,000 people have been killed there, and half of Syria’s population has been displaced. The EU imposed sanctions in 2011. As the Minister said, these sanctions include travel bans and asset freezing. We would expect sanctions to continue multilaterally to ensure that we work hand in glove with the EU, and our allies and partners. The Minister has mentioned co-ordination; I would like reassurance about the Government’s position in that regard.
It really is a huge disappointment that this is all about the UK Government taking a certain path while Scotland is dragged out of the EU against its will, and in contravention of the vote in Scotland, where people voted to remain in very large numbers. The UK has decided on its own path, which is why the Government are using parliamentary time now to unravel 40 years of co-operation across Europe, but they should not be surprised if Scotland takes her own path in the coming months and years. We perhaps see our future as the new 28th state of the EU, and I think it would be appropriate if Scotland was a direct replacement for the UK in that process. But whatever the outcome of any future referendum in Scotland, I hope that we can continue to work hand in glove, shoulder to shoulder, with other EU states to maintain the sanctions regime.