Global Britain

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:35 pm on 30th January 2020.

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Photo of Fleur Anderson Fleur Anderson Labour, Putney 2:35 pm, 30th January 2020

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this important debate on the eve of our departure from the EU. I congratulate the many Members who have spoken. I say to Stuart Anderson, who is just leaving, that we share many things. Although we do not share a party, we share a surname; we share the experience of spending time in Bosnia; we share a faith; and we share a commitment to social justice, which was wonderful to hear about. His speech was very brave and very moving, and I thank him for it.

I congratulate Stephen Flynn on his speech and on the birth of his new baby. I congratulate Shaun Bailey on a lively, engaging and passionate speech, and I congratulate my near neighbour, my hon. Friend Bell Ribeiro-Addy, on her speech, which covered so many issues that are important for our constituents and local residents, but also for our place in Britain and the world.

Global Britain is important to the residents of Putney, Southfields and Roehampton. More than one in 10 residents are from other EU countries, and many more are from other countries around the world. As a constituency, we feel global and outward facing, so I am glad to hear many references to Britain being an outward-facing country even though we are leaving the EU.

I would like to distance myself from the scenes of the Brexit party waving their flags in the European Parliament yesterday. I thank Mr Baker for mentioning that this should be a time of kindness, and for the acknowledgement that some Members and residents feel sorrow at this time. I welcome his comments about healing our divisions, and I hope that we will share more such sentiments across the House. Many Members and residents in Putney feel that what is going to happen tomorrow is an act of self-harm. We hope that we will see better times, but we are feeling sad at the moment. I associate myself with the comments of the European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, who said:

“We will always love you”.

We will always love the EU, working closely together but in a different way, from tomorrow onwards.

Global Britain should not just be about enhancing the UK’s international prestige and influence on the world stage. A global Britain in 2020 needs to defend multilateralism and the rules-based international order from the threats posed by those who seek to refine them. We need to promote our core values and not use the act of distancing ourselves from protectionism as an excuse to move away from our values of human rights, democracy and environmental sustainability. We must not detach our discussions about global Britain from trade, trade democracy, trade justice and our leading role in international development and the achievement of the sustainable development goals. I want to focus on those areas.

On current evidence, the Government’s approach to trade does not take seriously our global responsibility to tackle the imminent threat of climate change, to defend human rights and to ensure trade democracy and transparency. Removing child refugee rights from the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill was not a good start, and I think doing so sent the wrong signals to the world. We have yet to see what will come up in the immigration Bill. I know that the Government say that that subject will be dealt with in the Bill, and I want to be optimistic. It is in that vein, and following that thread, that I will make my following comments.

I am concerned about our post-Brexit trade objectives. We still have next to no information on the Government’s trade objectives after Brexit. Despite repeated calls from organisations such as the CBI, the British Chambers of Commerce, the Federation of Small Businesses and the Trade Justice Movement, there has yet to be a sustainability impact assessment of post-Brexit trade deals, or any indication of how the Government see trade policy tying in to the broader industrial strategy and to environmental and social objectives. We have been given no clear indication of what the process will be for parliamentary scrutiny of post-Brexit trade deals.

There is already a huge democratic deficit in what is one of the most important processes in our country’s history. Future trade deals with the US leave us exposed to the risk of products being sold here that have been produced in the US under less environmentally friendly practices. We must take this opportunity to level up our game and not give in to a race to the bottom.

In a few weeks’ time the Government will attempt to roll the EU-Morocco association agreement over into UK legislation, despite widespread concerns about the ongoing Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara and the human rights of the Sahrawi people. Again, the Government are seeking to roll it over with as little scrutiny as possible. This is another example of trade agreements putting economic opportunism above human rights and international law. Is this what we want global Britain to look like? This cannot be the outcome of free trade.

What needs to be done? First, on fair trade, the Government need to work with organisations such as the Fairtrade Foundation and civil society organisations, co-operatives and trade unions to ensure a fair trade Brexit. For instance, future trade policy should ensure that economically vulnerable people do not find themselves paying new import duties on their sales to the UK; assess the impact on poorer countries of trade deals struck with wealthier countries; and make it easier for developing countries to sell their high-value products, not just base products, to the UK. We should also ensure that our trade policies are in line with our commitments to the sustainable development goals.