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UK-US Co-operation

Volume 684: debated on Tuesday 24 November 2020

What recent discussions he has had with President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team on future co-operation between the UK and the US. (909187)

We send our warmest congratulations to President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on winning the election. Whether it is on trade, security or defence, we do more together than any other two countries and we see huge opportunities in the months ahead.

As President-elect Biden embarks on building his internationally focused team, including, as Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who said that Joe Biden would bring aid back to the centre of foreign policy, does the Foreign Secretary regret that the UK Government’s disgraceful plans to change the law to cut aid spending below 0.7% not only sends the wrong message to the rest of the world, but gets the relationship with the new Administration they did not want to see off to a bad start?

Actually, we consistently showed that we are a leading, if not one of the leading countries, on aid. That will continue. We also—this will matter to the United States—indicated the increase in defence spending, which shows what a dependable ally we are. All the soundings that we have had—that I have had—with the incoming leadership show that there are huge opportunities on climate change and covid to strengthen the relationship even further.

I echo the Secretary of State’s congratulations to President Biden and, in particular, to the Vice President-elect on this historic election. However, the spectacle of democracy under attack in the United States has sent shock waves around the globe. Even after the transition announcement yesterday, the President has continued to say that he will

“never concede to fake ballots”.

Ron Klain says that the President has “set back” the democratic norms of the United States. Does the Foreign Secretary now regret emboldening those who attack democracy by refusing to assert that all votes should be counted and that processes need to play out, or will he stand with me and the incoming White House chief of staff in defence of free and fair elections?

First, I warmly join the hon. Lady in paying tribute to and welcoming the historic election of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Frankly, the stuff that the hon. Lady said about emboldening critics of the US elections could not be further from the truth. What we have said consistently—[Interruption.] She might want to listen to the answer to her question. What we have said consistently is that the US has the checks and balances in place to produce a definitive result. It has. We warmly welcome the new Administration. We look forward to working with them.

Global alliances are based on shared values: democracy, the rule of law and human rights. Human rights will be a key pillar for the Biden Administration. They rightly recognise that Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe, sustained by US and UK support. The war has gone on for more than five years, with a dangerous rocket attack in Jeddah just yesterday. Does the Secretary of State agree with the incoming US Secretary of State, the National Security Adviser and the ambassador to the UN that it is time to end participation in, or any form of support for, the disastrous Saudi-led campaign? Will he now commit to playing the UK’s part by ending arms sales to Saudi Arabia?

I certainly agree with the hon. Lady that we have to pursue every effort to get peace in Yemen, both on the humanitarian side and on the political track. That is why we have been fully supportive of the UN special envoy, Martin Griffiths. I have been out to Saudi to encourage, promote and cajole the Saudis into doing the right thing. Of course, the Houthis need to move. Actually, the most important thing is a concerted regional push for a political end to this wretched conflict.