Rachael Maskell MP
Rachael Maskell MP

The events this summer have ricocheted through Government to demand serious questions of its priorities.

UK Governments have spent around £37bn on a war, which has resulted in a shattered country, now on the edge of a humanitarian crisis, with crop failure due to climate failure, or should I say human failure, and a country so fragile with fear that right now to talk about human rights seems somewhat understated since the rights of humans to just exist is the only focus that can be brought.

The equivalent of just 10% was spent on development aid in this country. If the balance between development and defence were reversed, if we chose to use our soft power to support the region – not destroy it, spent our time building bridges not conflict, and instead of provocation, reconciliation, what difference we could have made. Trade in ethics and ethical goods not arms and aggression. What lasting good we could do alongside others.

The term Global Britain, in itself, imposes a colonial superiority, as a nation that has used its influence to extract wealth, resources and even people to its own economic advantage over centuries. When we examine our shameful history, we soon realise our part in driving global destitution, climate degradation and inter-national instability.

Our export portfolio hardly causes us to lift our heads from this shame. Trade has been at the expense of rights and the climate not in aid of it. Transactional not relational and transformational. Arms sold into nations like Saudi Arabia neither protecting human rights or the climate is such an example. You see trade, rights and climate are interwoven.

We should harness a different approach. One that seeks to advance equality and reparation, economic and climate diplomacy and lead a new dialogue on peacemaking and trade justice. Collaborating alongside others not exerting power over them.

Hardwiring simple principles will demand a different emphasis on our trading priorities, but will leave a more stable and equal planet. Take a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, a border tax, this ensures that we drive to minimalise carbon use through trade. Instead of off-shoring climate destructive activity while keeping our country clean, it ensures we take responsibility for sub-standard practices on all we purchase.

Fundamentally, it shifts us from a consumerist approach to a collaborative approach to advancing values and enhance the people and planet we interact with.

In a post Afghanistan world, the UK must never again return to its hard imperial routes, but instead find its soft power in being one of many collaborators not as Global Britain, but as Britain, humbly repaying the debt we owe this planet and all who inhabit.


This is published directly from a speech given on Tuesday 7 September in Westminster Hall.

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