Britain’s Shadow Minister for Peace and Disarmament Fabian Hamilton discusses Brexit, Yemen and Trump’s shedding of international arms treaties
JOHN BERCOW, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS: So the Nos have it; the Nos have it.
THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the House has spoken, and the government will listen. It is clear that the House does not support this deal.
JAISAL NOOR: A tumultuous moment in Britain, scheduled to leave the European Union on March 29, except there’s no agreement on how or if Brexit will actually happen. Parliament votes this week. And a new human rights report links British arms to over 1,000 casualties in Yemen. To discuss all this and more we sat down with British parliamentarian Fabian Hamilton, who serves as the Shadow Minister for Peace and Disarmament. We started off by talking about Brexit, and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s recent endorsement of a second referendum.
JEREMY CORBYN, LABOUR PARTY LEADER: If it somehow does pass in some form at a later stage, we believe there must be a confirmatory public vote to see if people feel that’s what they voted for.
FABIAN HAMILTON, : Not me, but many of my colleagues, represent constituencies where the majority voted to leave the EU in the referendum of 2016. And that poses an issue, because many of us also represent constituencies that voted strongly to remain in the EU, like Leeds Northeast, which is my area.
And so how do you square that circle? And that, I think, is why the leadership has been reticent to embrace a second referendum. But we’ve come to the stage now where the Prime Minister has run down the clock so that actually she wants it to be a choice between her very flawed Brexit deal and no deal at all. But we don’t accept that. So that’s why we and our leader have embraced the possibility of a second referendum.
JAISAL NOOR: We also asked about a new human rights report that found American and British arms are fuelling the conflict in Yemen and have caused over a thousand casualties.
FABIAN HAMILTON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR PEACE AND DISARMAMENT: Well, Britain doesn’t have a role in Yemen. But Britain does sell arms to Saudi Arabia, and Saudi Arabia is using some of those weapons. And there is evidence, as you rightly say, that those weapons we’ve sold the Saudis have been used in the terrible, catastrophic civil war in Yemen.
Now, the Labour Party has been working tirelessly through our Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry, and myself, as well, as the Shadow Minister for the region, to try and draw the British public’s attention to this, the shocking fact that British manufactured weapons are contributing to the death and destruction there. We’ve called upon the British government to stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia pending a proper inquiry by the United Nations. That hasn’t happened. They won’t do it. We’ve asked the Committee on Arms Export Control, a committee of members of Parliament of all parties, to look at this, to examine this, and to try and do an inquiry into it. That hasn’t happened yet, either.
So it’s really important that the British public is aware of what’s going on, and that they put pressure on their members of parliament of all parties to stop those arms sales pending a proper inquiry.
JAISAL NOOR: And his response to U.S. President Donald Trump withdrawing from international treaties like the Iran nuclear deal and nuclear arms control treaties with Russia.
FABIAN HAMILTON: My message is that we can only have a future as a human race with a rules-based international legal system. And that framework has to be perpetuated. And I’m afraid if countries as mighty as the United States, as powerful as influential as the USA, decide that they’re going to unilaterally withdraw from a treaty–which of course the Russians have violated. We know that. But if one party is violating a treaty, you don’t walk away from that treaty. You force them to abide by the terms that they’ve agreed to themselves, and they’ve agreed to voluntarily when they signed the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, for example, 30 years ago.
So I think it’s a great tragedy. The JCPOA, the Iran nuclear deal. You know, the fact is that Europe wants to keep that deal going. It was 15 years in the making. And it’s vital if we’re going to pull Iran away from its terrorist activities, if we’re going to bring it into the mainstream again, we’ve got to ensure that sanctions are ended and they rejoin the community of nations. But I’m afraid the USA’s action is not only going to damage that, but the lesson it shows, the lesson it teaches the international community and the Iranians, is if you abide by a set of rules that you voluntarily agree to and all parties agree to, then you are penalized. If you threaten and you build nuclear weapons against every treaty that’s going, and you’re called North Korea, then you’re rewarded. That cannot be right.
For The Real News, this is Jaisal Noor reporting from Bradford, England.