The comments made by Emily Thornberry, the Shadow International Trade Secretary, on 5 December 2020.
This is welcome news for UK firms trading with Egypt, but that cannot be the sole consideration when reaching an agreement with a regime like President Sisi’s, which has jailed, executed and disappeared hundreds of political opponents and human rights activists, brutally persecuted the country’s LGBT+ population, and seen Egypt become one of the world’s 10 worst countries for workers’ rights.
In negotiating this rollover agreement to maintain Egypt’s current trade arrangements with the UK beyond Brexit, the government had both an opportunity and a responsibility to replace the toothless platitudes on human rights in the 2001 EU-Egypt agreement and its total silence on workers’ rights with meaningful, binding commitments on those issues, and serious, enforceable penalties.
We wait to see what the signed agreement says on these points, but it would be a shameful abdication of responsibility if it simply replicates the 2001 deal, and would illustrate why we desperately need the Human Rights amendment to the Trade Bill that the House of Lords will debate on Monday. As President-Elect Biden has said, there should be no more blank cheques handed to a dictator like Sisi, and it would shame Boris Johnson’s government if that is what they’ve handed him today.