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Speech in response to Prime Minister’s statement on the G20 Summit


Angela Smith speech in the House of Lords, Monday 3rd December 2018

I thank the Noble Lady, the Leader of the House for repeating today’s statement.

Aboard her flight to Buenos Aires, the Prime Minister told waiting reporters that she was off to sell UK trade to world leaders.

It is hard to understand what exactly the Prime Minister means by this considering we have no idea what our trading status will be after March.

The Government’s withdrawal agreement looks set be voted down. A third of the Prime Minister’s own trade envoys opposed her plans for future trading arrangements. And with the Attorney General refusing to publish his full legal advice on the backstop – it’s fair to say that we are a long way off from negotiating any kind of trade policy.

Yet we are told that from Canada to Japan, one by one, the Prime Minister sat down with world leaders to set out future trade deals.

I hope the Noble Lady, the Leader of the House can detail to the House exactly what the Prime Minister could have discussed in these bilaterals?

We are told at least that trade was not on the cards during the Prime Minister’s bilateral with the Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. Did she have a frank discussion over the UK’s sale of arms for the use in the brutal Yemeni Civil War?

My Lords, the UK isn't a spectator here. As long as we are selling arms to be used in that war, we are very much involved. The Prime Minister in her statement says one of the reasons for the meeting was to "urge an end to the conflict" in Yemen. Surely, we can do better than that?

Crucially, the Prime Minister needs to put an end to the flow of British arms for use in this civil war. And I have to say to the Noble Lady, it’s now time for action. We have a moral obligation to help the people of Yemen.

Ahead of the Stockholm talks in the coming days, the Government should be doing everything possible to bring about a permanent end to the barbaric bombardment of Hodeidah. As an urgent priority, she should fully support humanitarian relief to find a route to allow food and medicine to reach the 14 million starving Yemenis.

Can the Noble Lady the Leader tell us if any of these issues were raised by the Prime Minister in the bilateral meeting?

We welcome the confirmation that the Prime Minister raised the murder of Jamal Khashoggi with the Crown Prince. During the summit, President Macron told the Crown Prince that international experts must be part of the investigation. Turkey called for a full UN-led investigation into the incident. And we are told that the Prime Minister asked for transparency.

Can the Noble Lady the Leader expand on this and clarify what are the Prime Minister’s exact demands for the Khashoggi investigation?

Prior to the summit, it was well-briefed that the Prime Minister would use the trip to engage in new security partnerships as part of her preparations for the UK’s new Satellite System, that would rival Galileo. Now that raises several immediate concerns. 

What will be the cost of creating a separate UK system?

And will it be as effective – will we have full access by 2026, as was the plan with Galileo?

So can she confirm that it was discussed at the summit?

The Prime Minister told the summit that the UK was determined to: “lead the way on the serious threat this poses to our planet”. A worthy aim, but it needs more than just words.

For example, in her informal discussions with President Trump, did she urge him to reconsider his rejection of the Paris Agreement?

Aside from the bilateral meetings, after hours of negotiations, it emerged on Saturday that the G20 had agreed a joint communique, reaffirming the commitment to a ‘Rules Based International Order’, which I am sure is welcomed by all.

However, we only need scratch the surface of the declaration and we see that the actions of some of the signatories are at odds with the spirit of the agreement. The UK has a responsibility to support and defend these values of multi-lateralism, and the Prime Minister must encourage our international partners to do the same.

Against the back drop of the communique, the US and China agreed a trade war truce which the White House has labelled “a wonderful humanitarian gesture”.

However, this apparently “wonderful humanitarian gesture” includes support for the expansion of the death penalty in China for those importing the opiate drug fentanyl to the US. Meanwhile, in the face of Russia’s arrest of Ukrainian soldiers, Kiev has suggested that democratic elections could be suspended. 

Neither of these is consistent with a Rules Based International Order.

The Prime Minister must seek to use any influence the UK has to encourage all countries to genuinely and honestly abide by this agreement in both domestic and international policy.

My Lords, there has to be real value to these important summits and the Communique cannot just be warm words to be discarded when inconvenient.


Baroness Angela Smith is Shadow Leader of the House of Lords. She tweets @LadyBasildon

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