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President of Belarus

Volume 682: debated on Tuesday 13 October 2020

What comparative assessment he has made of the ability of the (a) UK and (b) EU to impose sanctions on the President of Belarus. (907447)

The UK does not accept the results of the rigged presidential election in Belarus. We have worked with our international partners to promote a peaceful resolution. We have condemned the actions of the Belarusian authorities, and we hold those responsible for human rights abuses to account.

Everybody’s favourite continental politician Guy Verhofstadt expressed his huge frustration with the European Union recently, surprisingly enough, when he said that unlike the United Kingdom and Canada, which have imposed sanctions on Belarus for the very reason that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has just cited, the European Union has been unable to do so because of the unanimity rules. What assessment has my right hon. Friend made of the EU foreign policy ability to impose things such as sanctions, and does he share my relief that the United Kingdom has now left the EU?

I thank my hon. Friend. He makes a powerful point about the agility and the autonomy that we have with our new Magnitsky sanctions regime, and also some of the latitude we will have now we have left the EU. Equally, I co-ordinate closely with our European partners. He is right to say that the UK, with Canada, proceeded first, on 29 September, to impose targeted sanctions on Lukashenko’s son and six other senior Belarusian officials. I can, though, reassure my hon. Friend that the EU has followed our lead and, at the latest Foreign Affairs Council, announced that it will now follow that lead and impose sanctions on Lukashenko.