We need your support to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can continue to hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Britain's Place in the World

Part of Speaker’s Statement – in the House of Commons at 5:09 pm on 15th October 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Stewart McDonald Stewart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Defence) 5:09 pm, 15th October 2019

It is a pleasure to follow the fine words of Rehman Chishti, who I am sure will do great things in the role he has been given by the Prime Minister. He marked himself out early on with his campaign to use the term “Daesh” as opposed to “ISIL” or “ISIS” at the time when we were both elected, so all the best from me to him for that. However, I do fear that the Government have become somewhat complacent, in different theatres around the world, in trying to uphold many of the values that he spoke of.

I want to focus on defence and security, primarily security. I start with what is happening right now in Syria with regard to Turkey. This morning, we had one of the most pressing urgent questions answered by the Foreign Secretary in the most languid and complacent fashion. I think I am being charitable in saying that when met with such criminal behaviour on the part of Turkey, the Government can only go so far as to say that they will ban new arms exports where that infrastructure may be used by Turkey in northern Syria and that they will keep a rolling eye on the matter. They will not even go so far as to argue muscularly for any sanctions on Turkey. Worse, the Defence Secretary appeared to lend support to the Turkish claim of legitimacy in moving into northern Syria. What a disgrace that is.

Then we look at Hong Kong, from where we can all take some inspiration. Thirty years on from the Baltic Way, that amazing signature of human triumph for freedom and liberty and the rule of law over the iron fist of the then Soviet Union has been emulated beautifully, in the most grotesque circumstances, by the people of Hong Kong standing up to one of the world’s most authoritarian and brutal regimes. If we ask ourselves what on earth the UK Government are doing in that regard, it sounds like a lot of warm and feisty words on their part but very little when it comes to any meaningful action. Another example is Saudi Arabia—a country that saw the chopping up of a journalist in one of its own embassies earlier this year. The Crown Prince said only last week that it was down to him that that happened, and we have had barely a finger raised by the British Government.

Of course, as the Minister and other Members might expect me to, I come on to the issue of Russia and Ukraine. December this year marks 25 years since the signing of the Budapest memorandum on security assurances, to which the Government are a signatory. That memorandum, frankly, lies in complete and utter tatters. I do not say that to diminish what the UK Government do to support Ukraine, of which they do a lot and of which they can be proud, but let us think about what is going on in that country—an illegal annexation in Crimea and the overtaking of its eastern border, in the Donbass region, by its neighbour, Russia.

Given all the things I have mentioned so far, whether it is what is happening in Hong Kong, in Syria, in Ukraine or in Saudi Arabia, the Kremlin must be licking its lips and be unable to believe its luck in the way the international order that so many Members speak about here week in, week out is falling apart—and it is falling apart. I say to Members of this House, particularly to Members whom I often disagree with but respect none the less, that what we have seen happen in this country and elsewhere with the attacks on the rule of law and on the norms that keep us safe and secure will continue to happen. If they think that the unravelling of the European Union was enough for these people, I can tell them that it was not. If they think that NATO is not a future target for unravelling by Russia and others who would buy into that agenda in this country, they should believe me that it is. I urge them to step out of the complacency that they find themselves slumbered in.

The Prime Minister spoke yesterday at the Dispatch Box about how much he admires the capitalist free market and the rules-based system, which has delivered peace and prosperity across Europe, but the Queen’s Speech undoes the very instruments that underpin that prosperity, such as freedom of movement. Where once stood closed economies in closed societies under communism and Nazism now stands free markets, which this Government are walking away from. For shame, I say to that.

It is hardly a global Britain that anyone can be proud of. If it was a real global Britain, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe would not be perishing in an Iranian dungeon. If it was a real global Britain, the wives of US military personnel would not be hiding under the terms of diplomatic immunity, having run over a British citizen here on UK soil. It is not global Britain in my name.