Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, spoke on Monday night in a parliamentary debate on “Global Britain” and the country’s future trade policy, voicing concern that the Government was signalling a retreat from international values by its actions. Mr Carmichael called for an international policy framed by support for human rights and the rule of law, while reducing tariff barriers.
Criticising the Government for holding a debate on “Global Britain” after cutting the international development budget, Mr Carmichael said:
“I wish the Secretary of State for International Development had come to boast that Britain was one of the handful of countries that had a commitment to spend 0.7% of its GNI on overseas aid. Of course, the Government have abolished the Department for International Development and now seek to walk away from the commitment to spend 0.7% of our GNI on aid. That commitment put us at the top of the world’s nations, rather than in the rather backward and downward-looking position we are now left in.”
“If the Government want the focus to be on trade, let us focus on the tariffs currently being imposed on Scotch whisky, which have cost us something in the region of £450 million in lost exports already. It is a pretty open secret that we were close to having a bilateral deal with the US last week but we did not get it over the line. Rather than having Ministers crow about the great achievements of cut-and-paste trade deals, they would do better to focus on the real challenges that face us as we now try to create these trade deals across the world, because that one issue of tariffs in one sector [whisky] shows just how challenging this is going to be.
“What is the narrative going to be as we create this Global Britain? Is it going to be one that is merely transactional—all about trade? Are we going to create a Global Britain that is actually rooted in values—rooted in support for human rights, wherever they are found, and the rule of law—or are we going to be looking at this just as a question of pounds, shillings and pence?”