Rupa Huq – 2021 Speech on Global Britain

The speech made by Rupa Huq, the Labour MP for Ealing Central and Acton, on 11 January 2021.

Global Britain—a lofty ideal, but with recent months witnessing a dramatic reduction of the UK’s international aid and a hard Brexit, I want to strike a note of realism into the Government’s one-way triumphalism.

Less than two weeks ago, we saw our relationship with our biggest and closest trading partner, five decades after a Tory Government took us into the European Economic Community in a 12-year process, fizzle out in another of these constrained debates—so much for the sovereignty of Parliament. The Committee on the Future Relationship with the European Union then began examining the detail of the 1,256 pages of trade and co-operation reduction downgrades. That Committee, too, is now having the plug pulled, when there is so much to scrutinise.

Erasmus—gone, with its replacement set to foster British uniglotism. Touring musicians, facing ruinously costly obstacles for themselves and gear to get in the van and go—gone. Eighty per cent. of our economy is services, the biggest chunk being financial services. It got 90 mentions while fishing, 1% of the economy, featured 368 times. Too much of this is left “TBC”, and other horrors are only now coming to light. There is no end to red tape, as previously promised, for export/import firms that are reporting untold VAT complications and costs.

The access to criminal databases enjoyed the week before last through the EU arrest warrant—gone. There is no more EU co-operation on defence, the environment, international aid—it is the opposite of global Britain as we shrink on the world stage socially, culturally, and in security and prosperity terms. It is better than no deal, yes, but it is a downgrade none the less, and with no guarantee of keeping up on employment protections and the environment. That is the opposite of levelling up.

On international aid, Cameron, Brown, Blair, Major and even the last Prime Minister—every living Prime Minister —have condemned the cutting of the 0.7% contribution to the world’s poorest as morally unjustifiable and practically short-sighted, particularly at a time when the world faces the common enemy of coronavirus. It seems that we are going it alone when collective action would be wise. On having the courage to condemn old friends and allies when necessary, the past PM was the first to hold Trump’s hand, but now it is time to hold him to account.

This Government have made a habit of U-turns—they occur daily nowadays. The next one must be to start off with reinstating the International Development and Brexit Committees and then go further, because otherwise, global Britain just becomes a mere Bozza buzzword.