Guidance on Boycotts
There are strong views on this issue, and I appreciate that my position will not please everyone. The UK is a close friend of Israel and we enjoy an excellent bilateral relationship, built on decades of cooperation between our two countries across a range of fields.
The UK’s position on settlements is clear. They are illegal under international law, present an obstacle to peace, and threaten the physical viability of a two-state solution. The UK regularly raises its concerns on this issue with the Israeli authorities and urges them to reverse their policy of settlement expansion. However, the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is deeply complex: settlements are not the only obstacle to peace. The people of Israel deserve to live free from the scourge of terrorism and antisemitic incitement, which gravely undermine the prospects for a two-state solution.
While the UK should not hesitate to express disagreement with Israel wherever necessary, I know ministers believe that imposing sanctions on Israel or supporting anti-Israeli boycotts would not support efforts to progress the peace process and achieve a negotiated solution. I agree. Imposing local level boycotts can damage integration and community cohesion within the United Kingdom, hinder Britain’s export trade, and harm foreign relations to the detriment of Britain’s economic and international security.
I welcome plans to bring forward legislation to ban universities and local councils from organising boycotts, sanctions and disinvestment against other countries. Foreign policy is rightly the reserve of national government. I believe that councils should prioritise securing long-term returns from their investment rather than dividing communities and making political statements. It cannot be right for councils to have the power to make divisive decisions which set different parts of the community against each other.
Human trafficking and modern slavery are abhorrent crimes. The Government is committed to ending this terrible crime, having legislated for the first Modern Slavery Act in Europe in 2015. As you will be aware, the Government also established the National Referral Mechanism to identify and refer potential victims of modern slavery and ensure they receive appropriate support. Unfortunately, some illegal migrants and Foreign National Offenders do take advantage of the system and seek these referrals in order to avoid immigration detention, frustrating their removal from the UK.
This is why I support a thorough system in order to determine if a case is genuine. The Home Office has published its New Plan for Immigration which sets out landmark measures to support the victims of modern slavery. A key element of this plan is to ensure that these victims have the support they need to engage in the criminal justice system to ensure the perpetrators are rightly prosecuted. The new policies ensure that victims are provided with specific mental health support to aid their recovery from their traumatic experiences. For the first time in primary legislation, the Nationality and Borders Bill will set out the circumstances in which confirmed victims will receive temporary leave to remain. This approach provides victims and decision makers clarity as to entitlement, in line with the UK’s international obligations. Crucially, this includes providing clarity that temporary leave to remain will be provided for any length of time necessary to enable victims to engage with authorities to help to bring their exploiters to justice. It is, however, right that the system is protected from abuse.
I therefore welcome the Home Office's decision to put the current statutory guidance related to protection from removal for potential victims of modern slavery on a legislative footing. This will set out where the recovery period (during which time potential victims can access support) and protection from removal may be withheld, specifically on the grounds of public order, improper claims and multiple recovery periods – in specific circumstances. Of course, it is right that victims of Modern slavery should be entitled to certain protections and support to enable their recovery. Any decision to withhold protections from an individual will be balanced with the priority to safeguard vulnerable victims.
Following an urgent review of the UK's development activities in Myanmar, new safeguards are now in place to prevent UK aid from indirectly supporting the military regime. Support for government led reforms has been axed and planned programmes will close. I am reassured that the UK is working on further measures to ensure that aid can still – and only – reach the most vulnerable people in Myanmar.
The UK has repeatedly demanded that the military allow unfettered access to humanitarian aid in order satisfy the critical needs of vulnerable populations, including in a Joint Statement of the Foreign Ministers of the G7 in May 2021.
The UK has imposed sanctions, most recently on 31 January, against senior members of the military regime in Myanmar in response to the coup and gross violations of human rights. These sanctions stop these individuals from travelling to the UK, and prevent businesses and institutions from dealing with their funds or economic resources in this country.
Along with the State Administration Council, the junta’s governing body, the UK has also sanctioned many of its economic interests, including:
Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd
Myanmar Economic Corporation
Myanmar Gems Enterprise
Myanmar Timber Enterprise
Myanmar Pearl Enterprise
By sanctioning these entities, the UK is cutting off key revenue streams used to finance brutal human rights violations and the repression of the civilian population. These sanctions send a clear message that the UK will not allow financial support that props up the illegitimate military regime.
Finally, the UK has sanctioned key military components of the regime, all of which are complicit in the repression of the people of Myanmar, including the:
Quarter Master General’s Office, which procures equipment for the military;
Directorate for Defence Industries, which manufactures arms for the military;
Directorate for Defence Procurement, which procures arms abroad for the military; and
Myanmar War Veterans Organisation, a quasi-reserve force for the military.
Israel: Amnesty International Report
I appreciate your concerns and can assure you that my ministerial colleagues are aware of the issues raised in the report. Indeed, Israel and the OPTs are a human rights priority for the UK. As befits this, the UK repeatedly calls on Israel to abide by its obligations under international law and has a regular dialogue with Israel on issues relating to the occupation.
The UK's position, which I support, is clear and longstanding. There should be a negotiated settlement leading to a safe and secure Israel living alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state, based on 1967 borders with agreed land swaps, Jerusalem as the shared capital of both states, and a fair and realistic settlement for refugees. HM Government consistently calls – both bilaterally and via the UN – for an immediate end to all actions that undermine the viability of the two-state solution. This includes many of those raised in the report in question.
The UK remains committed to a just peace between a stable, democratic Palestinian State and Israel, and will continue to do all it can to bring about a more peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians alike.
The UK is a close friend of Israel and we enjoy an excellent bilateral relationship, built on decades of cooperation between our two countries across a range of fields. It is not only the world’s only Jewish state, but the only democracy in the Middle East.
While the UK should not hesitate to express disagreement with Israel wherever necessary, the Government believe that imposing sanctions on Israel or supporting anti-Israeli boycotts would not support efforts to progress the peace process and achieve a negotiated solution. Imposing local level boycotts can damage integration and community cohesion within the United Kingdom, hinder Britain’s export trade, and harm foreign relations to the detriment of Britain’s economic and international security.
I welcome plans to bring forward legislation to ban universities and local councils from organising boycotts, sanctions and disinvestment against other countries. Foreign policy is rightly the reserve of national government. Local councils should prioritise securing long-term returns from their investment rather than dividing communities and making political statements. It cannot be right for councils to have the power to make divisive decisions which set different parts of the community against each other.
The response I am looking for is not here
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