Britain in the World

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:30 pm on 13th January 2020.

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Photo of Andrew Bowie Andrew Bowie Conservative, West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine 8:30 pm, 13th January 2020

He may have been two years out, but we got there eventually.

The United Kingdom is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, a founder member of NATO, a member of the Commonwealth and is the EU’s closest friend and ally. No one country is better positioned to influence the world for the better than the United Kingdom. We have a proud history in this regard. As we leave the European Union, we have the opportunity to mould a new, ambitious and long-term foreign policy with a moral compass and direction. I use the phrase “moral compass” because I believe that more than any other country Britain has a record to be proud of in terms of using its influence overseas and its clout for good. The Government’s 2017 humanitarian reform policy was designed to uphold the UK’s commitment to international humanitarian refugee and human rights law, and the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. The Government’s conflict stability and security fund also facilitates Whitehall Departments to work together on national security priorities such as helping to train and equip the Syria civil defence, known as the White Helmets, to carry out humanitarian operations during the Syrian civil war. The Government estimate that that has saved more than 85,000 lives during that bloody conflict.

The UK is one of only six countries to meet its OECD commitment to spending 0.7% of its gross national income on international aid and it was the first of the G7 countries to meet that commitment. I believe our development budget, especially during international humanitarian crises, is a crucial part of securing Britain’s place in the world and building a truly global Britain. However, there are occasions where aid spending and non-military humanitarian assistance are simply not enough to defend human rights and prevent morally intolerable levels of suffering. That is why I was so supportive of the decision in 2018 to authorise the RAF to participate in co-ordinated targeted strikes, along with our French and American allies, to degrade the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability and deter their further use in the conflict. We are one of very few countries in the world capable of taking such action. That we did so was important not only because it sent a signal that we would not stand idly by as chemical weapons were used on innocent civilians, but because it signalled our intent to remain and our determination to retain a globally deployable, flexible military, working with our allies to defend our values and interests across the globe.