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Transatlantic Alliance

Volume 655: debated on Tuesday 26 February 2019

The UK works closely with Europe and the US to promote a strong transatlantic partnership. It is vital for our security and prosperity that we work with the Trump Administration to promote transatlantic unity through NATO. Since July’s NATO summit, we have urged allies to increase defence spending and have encouraged the US to recognise the significant allied progress.

May I welcome the efforts my right hon. Friend has made in his role to strengthen those ties and ask in particular what assessment he has made of the security and intelligence co-operation between our two countries on which so much of our peace and security depends?

The intelligence co-operation between our two countries is enormously valuable. It proceeds regularly on a basis of complete trust and adds importantly to the security of the wider world.

Later this year, the UK will host a NATO summit that will mark the 70th anniversary of the organisation’s founding. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, as America’s closest ally in Europe, we need to be willing to make the argument to our European partners that the financial burden of defending our continent needs to be shared fairly and that other countries need to follow the UK’s example by meeting the NATO defence spending pledge?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right—indeed, that is exactly what my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has been doing over the past week in his travels around the capitals of Europe—and I fully agree with her, as do Her Majesty’s Government, that burden sharing is important. We have been making that point with European partners—NATO partners in Europe —and I am pleased to say that there is progress, but there is still more to be done.

A strengthened transatlantic alliance could lead to more action in Sri Lanka to tackle human rights abuses. Will the Minister of State urge the Trump Administration to join him and the Foreign Secretary in putting pressure on the Sri Lankan Government to tackle human rights abuses and to respect international calls for a war crimes inquiry?

As the hon. Gentleman appreciates, I do not personally cover Sri Lanka. However, I am confident that, across the world, we work very closely together on all issues of human rights, and we will continue to do so in countries as appropriate.

The Minister knows that, after two world wars, we set up the United Nations, we set up NATO and we set up the European Community in an early form to stop our ever having wars again. Is he not concerned about some of the words and some of the actions coming out of the White House under President Trump at the moment?

It is a strong pillar of our foreign policy that we believe in multilateral organisations and participate in them fully. Obviously, we will soon be leaving one of them, but that will not diminish our co-operation with the EU27 thereafter.

What assessment has my right hon. Friend made of the impact on the transatlantic alliance of the recent talks in Vietnam between North Korea and America? Does this have the potential to strengthen our security in the west?

My understanding is that those talks are happening today, so it is not easy for me to comment on something that has not quite yet taken place. However, my skills of foresight are well recognised in this House, as I well appreciate. I hope that these conversations and discussions will lead to a more peaceful world and are as successful as we would wish.

Yesterday, the International Court of Justice found that the UK’s control of the Chagos islands is illegal and wrong. This damning verdict deals a huge blow to the UK’s global reputation. Will the Government therefore heed the call of the ICJ to hand back the islands to Mauritius, or will they continue to pander to the United States military?

The hon. Lady is labouring under a serious misapprehension: yesterday’s hearing provided an advisory opinion, not a judgment. We will of course consider the detail of the opinion carefully, but this is a bilateral dispute, and for the General Assembly to seek an advisory opinion by the ICJ was therefore a misuse of powers that sets a dangerous precedent for other bilateral disputes. The defence facilities in the British Indian Ocean Territory help to keep people in Britain and around the world safe, and we will continue to seek a bilateral solution to what is a bilateral dispute with Mauritius.