Emily Thornberry – 2020 Speech on the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action

Below is the text of the speech made by Emily Thornberry, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, in the House of Commons on 14 January 2020.

I thank the Foreign Secretary for advance sight of his statement. For all of us who regard the Iran nuclear deal as one of the crowning diplomatic achievements of this century and a path towards progress with Iran on other issues of concern, it is deeply distressing to see Iran join the United States in openly flouting the terms of the deal, as the Foreign Secretary has described.

I firmly agree with the action that has been taken today alongside our European partners. I welcome every word of the joint statement issued at the weekend by Britain, France and Germany in relation to the JCPOA. I agree with their commitment to uphold the nuclear non-proliferation regime. I agree with their determination to ensure that Iran never develops a nuclear weapon. I agree with their conclusion that the JCPOA plays a key role in those objectives. I would have been stronger in my wording. Although I agree with their “regret” and “concern”, I would have said “revulsion” and “condemnation” over the Trump Administration’s attempted sabotage of the JCPOA and their re-imposition of sanctions on Iran.​

I agree with the E3’s attempts to preserve the agreement despite the actions of Donald Trump and the reciprocal actions of the Iranian regime, to which the Foreign Secretary referred in his statement. I also agree that Iran must be obliged to return to full compliance with its side of the agreement. That was a sensible and balanced statement on the JCPOA, stressing the international unity around the importance of retaining and restoring it, and accepting that both sides have breached it in terms and that neither has any justification for doing so.

That is what makes it all the more remarkable that this morning we heard from one of the signatories to that statement—our very own Prime Minister—telling “BBC Breakfast” the following:

“the problem with the JCPOA is basically—this is the crucial thing, this is why there is tension—from the American perspective it’s a flawed agreement, it expires, plus it was negotiated by President Obama…from their point of view it has many many faults. Well, if we’re going to get rid of it let’s replace it—and let’s replace it with the Trump deal. That’s what we need to see…that would be a great way forward. President Trump is a great dealmaker by his own account, and by many others…Let’s work together to replace the JCPOA and get the Trump deal instead.”

In the space of two or three days, the Prime Minister has gone from signing a joint statement with France and Germany calling for the retention and restoration of the JCPOA, to calling for it to be scrapped and replaced by some mythical Trump deal. The Foreign Secretary did not refer to any of that in his statement, and we could be forgiven for thinking that he and the Prime Minister are not exactly on the same page, but perhaps in his response he could answer some questions about the Prime Minister’s remarks.

First, will the Foreign Secretary confirm that in his discussions with his American counterparts, they have said that one of the problems with the JCPOA is that, to quote the Prime Minister,

“it was negotiated by President Obama”?

We all suspect that that is Trump the toddler’s main issue with it, but can the Secretary of State confirm that the Prime Minister was correct?

Secondly, can the Foreign Secretary tell us how this supposed alternative Trump deal, which the Prime Minister is so enthusiastic about, differs from the current JCPOA—or, like his mythical middle eastern peace plan and his mythical deal with the North Koreans on nuclear weapons, is it simply another Trump fantasy?

Thirdly, can the Foreign Secretary tell us why on earth Iran would accept a new deal negotiated with Donald Trump, with new conditions attached, when he has shown his readiness to tear up the existing deal and move the goalposts in terms of what it should cover?

Finally, based on what the Prime Minister said this morning, are we now to understand that—despite everything the Foreign Secretary said in his statement just now and everything contained in the joint statement at the weekend—it is now the official policy of the UK Government to replace the JCPOA and get a Trump deal instead, and that that would represent a “great way forward”? If that is not official Government policy, why did the Prime Minister say it, and why is he walking all over the Foreign Secretary’s patch?