David Lammy – 2022 Speech on the NATO Accession of Sweden and Finland

The speech made by David Lammy, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, in the House of Commons on 6 July 2022.

I thank the Minister for advance sight of her statement. The accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO is an historic decision that is wholeheartedly welcomed by the Labour party. Finland and Sweden will be valuable members of this alliance of democracies that share the values of freedom and the rule of law and that seek peace through collective security.

Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine is a turning point for Europe. As we strengthen UK and European security, it is more important than ever to do so alongside our allies. The great post-war Labour Government was instrumental in the creation of NATO and the signing of the North Atlantic treaty in 1949. Seven decades later, the alliance remains the cornerstone of our defence, and Labour’s commitment to NATO is unshakeable.

I have visited both Finland and Sweden in recent months to discuss the consequences of Russia’s attack on Ukraine. I have seen the careful, considered and democratic approach that the Governments of both countries have taken to this new security context. They saw the need to think anew and to reassess the assumptions of the past. I pay tribute to the Swedish and Finnish Foreign Ministers, Ann Linde and Pekka Haavisto, for their roles in stewarding this process. It is a remarkable illustration of the dangers that Putin poses that Sweden and Finland have reversed their long-held policies of non-alignment. But is it also a demonstration of the way that Russia’s attack on Ukraine has had the opposite effect from what was intended—strengthening rather than weakening NATO, unifying rather than dividing the alliance. As the recent Madrid summit demonstrated, NATO is responding resolutely to the threat Russia poses and adapting to the challenges of the future.

I do note, though, that although Finland and Sweden and many other NATO allies, including Germany, have reassessed their defence planning in this new context, the UK has not. Labour, in government, did exactly that after the 9/11 attacks, introducing the longest sustained real-terms increase in spending for two decades. We believe that the Government should reboot defence plans and halt cuts to the Army, as we have been arguing for months. We also believe that it is important to deepen our security co-operation with our European allies and the EU, as a complement to NATO’s role as the bedrock of Euro-Atlantic security.

Turning to the mechanism of ratification, in normal circumstances we would rightly expect the House to have appropriate time to consider and consent to the ratification of an international treaty of this importance. But these are not normal circumstances, and there are clear risks to both countries from a drawn-out accession process, so we recognise the need for the Government to act with haste in these exceptional circumstances.

I thank the Foreign Secretary for keeping me up to date on that particular matter, and for the Government’s decision to come to update the House today. It provides an opportunity for the whole House to send a united message of support to our new allies and I hope it will encourage other NATO partners to move swiftly in the ratification process too. Putin has sought division, but has only strengthened Europeans’ unity and NATO’s resolve. We stand together in defence of democracy and the rule of law.