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Britain's Place in the World

Part of Speaker’s Statement – in the House of Commons at 6:00 pm on 15th October 2019.

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Photo of Tommy Sheppard Tommy Sheppard Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Scotland), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (House of Lords) 6:00 pm, 15th October 2019

I very much agree, but I will move on to the wider global context. What has not been discussed so far in this debate is the fact that Britain is one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. I wonder how much longer that can continue, because I would think that being a permanent member of the UN Security Council brings with it an obligation to provide some sort of global political leadership, yet that has been frighteningly absent from this country’s foreign policy for a very long time.

In fact, for far too long this country has played second fiddle to the United States of America. That might have been good in the past, but US foreign policy is in a hopeless state of collapse and incoherence that leaves the United Kingdom looking like a hapless bystander on world events, unable to command any moral purpose or argument. There are so many examples, but let us look at the one happening this week.

The Turkish Government are engaging in ethnic cleansing in the northern part of another country, and we are simply observing the situation. In fact, this country was one of the last to cut and suspend its arms sales to the Turkish Government—arms that are currently being used to kill people in Kurdistan. That is a shameful situation.

I was one of the Members who visited the Rohingya refugee camps on the Myanmar-Bangladesh border last month. As I stood on those hillsides, I felt a sense of dread that the camps will still be there in 10, 20 or 30 years’ time because, in order for them not to be there, we need international political action to stand up to the Government of Myanmar and to make them act. That is sadly absent, but it is the sort of political leadership this country ought to be giving to the world, rather than standing back and simply being an observer.