The speech made by Lisa Nandy, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, in the House of Commons on 8 February 2021.
We are not a bystander to this conflict—UK arms, training and technical support sustains the war in Yemen and the worst humanitarian disaster in the world. More than 80% of Saudi’s arms imports come from the US and the UK. The US’s decision to end all support for offensive operations, including relevant arms sales, is welcome, but it leaves the UK dangerously out of step with our allies and increasingly isolated. What is worse is that the UK is the penholder for Yemen at the UN. We cannot be both peacemaker and arms dealer in this conflict.
It was the Foreign Secretary who said:
“human rights will be at the forefront of our leadership this year”—[Official Report, 12 January 2021; Vol. 687, c. 178.]
This is the first test since that statement just four weeks ago, and he has failed it. It is surprising, given the obvious panic in Downing Street about relations with the Biden Administration, that the Government were so reluctant to challenge President Trump’s decision to change the designation of the Houthis and are now determined to continue to be an outlier in arming Saudi Arabia. It puts us out of step with our US and EU allies, despite the compelling moral and diplomatic case to change course.
When the Foreign Secretary re-emerges, perhaps he could confirm that he will now take long overdue action to end arms sales and support to Saudi Arabia and explain what possible reason there could be for not doing so earlier. Can he tell us whether he spoke with Secretary Blinken about this announcement before it was made and whether the US Government have asked for UK support in this matter? Will he tell us what he will do to live up to our responsibilities to reinvigorate the peace process and help bring this appalling conflict to an end?