Chagos Islands: International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons on 14th May 2019.

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Photo of Patrick Grady Patrick Grady SNP Chief Whip

What recent discussions he has had with counterparts at the UN on the International Court of Justice advisory opinion on the Chagos Islands.

Photo of Harriett Baldwin Harriett Baldwin Minister of State (Department for International Development) (Jointly with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

The Foreign Secretary spoke to Mauritian Prime Minister Jugnauth about the British Indian Ocean Territory on 27 April. The Prime Minister met Prime Minister Jugnauth and the Mauritian permanent representative to the United Nations in New York in March to discuss a range of issues, including the British Indian Ocean Territory.

Photo of Patrick Grady Patrick Grady SNP Chief Whip

It must be difficult for Foreign Office Ministers to find the UK’s colonial legacy landing inconveniently in their laps, but what is at stake here is not just Chagossian justice, but the UK’s standing in the new post-Brexit world order. The UK must get on board and work with, not against, the UN, the ICJ and the rules-based order. It has to recognise that it cannot throw its weight around anymore. Will the Department engage constructively with the UN to determine where sovereignty really lies for the Chagossians and, ultimately, accept that sovereignty should lie with the people?

Photo of Harriett Baldwin Harriett Baldwin Minister of State (Department for International Development) (Jointly with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

As the hon. Gentleman knows, that has never been the UK Government’s position. In fact, the Chagos archipelago has been under continuous British sovereignty since 1814. But he can deduce from my earlier answer that conversations are ongoing and that we are making strong representations. The whole world benefits from the security provided by having this base in the Indian ocean.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Chair, Finance Committee (Commons)

Whatever the outcome of the sovereignty situation, another issue is that the marine preservation zone has made it possible to protect fish stocks for large parts of the eastern coast of Africa. Wherever we end up, we must preserve the marine preservation zone.

Photo of Harriett Baldwin Harriett Baldwin Minister of State (Department for International Development) (Jointly with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

We are proud of the UK’s record in creating not just that zone, but others around the world. They are incredibly important for the world’s oceans and demonstrate the importance of working together both globally and through the Commonwealth to preserve oceans and fish stocks.