‘This is about China, right?’ Tory rebel IDS confronted on bid to stop future trade deals

Iain Duncan Smith discusses Genocide Amendment to trade bill

The Prime Minister is under pressure to control a potential rebellion led by former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith against the Government’s plan to reverse key amendments to the Trade Bill passed by the House of Lords when the legislation returns to the Commons on Tuesday. 

They include one which would force the Government to withdraw from any free trade agreement with any country which the High Court rules is committing genocide.

However, ministers face opposition from some Conservative MPs led by Sir Iain concerned about China’s treatment of its Uighur minority.

BBC Politics Live host Jo Coburn confronted the Tory backbencher ahead of the vote as he made his case in favour of the controversial amendment. 

Ms Coburn asked: “This is squarely aimed at China, isn’t it?”

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Sir Iain replied: “It’s aimed at anybody who commits genocide.

“At the moment, there are a couple of areas that I think would be relevant.

“One is the treatment of the Uighur in the Shinjang Provence or region.

“And the other may be the Rohingya in Burma.

“But the key issue here is we’re asking the Government to look at this as and when they decide to give preferential treatment to another country. In this case perhaps China.

“But the point is that this then triggers the question as to whether or not we should give preferential treatment in the form of a free trade deal.”

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Senior Conservative backbencher Tobias Ellwood, the chair of the Commons Defence Committee, said he will back the Lords “genocide amendment” and predicted the Government will be defeated in the vote.

He told the PA news agency: “I would encourage as many MPs as possible to support this. We are just crafting the definition of what global Britain means and this must be front and centre in what we stand for and what we believe.”

Asked if he thinks the rebels will win, he said “I do” and pointed towards all opposition parties supporting the amendment and other Tory MPs planning to abstain.

Labour has urged Conservatives to defy the whips and “vote with their consciences” and a rebellion of around 40 Tory MPs would put the Government at risk of defeat.

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Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt is also said to be among the rebels considering to vote in favour of the amendment or abstain.

In the Commons last week, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab dismissed the amendment as “well-meaning” but also “rather ineffective and counter-productive”.

However, Sir Iain said that if the Government did not like the amendment, it should come forward with “better” proposals of its own.

Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani, who supports the amendment, said the UK must not be “complicit” with genocide.

“Britain must be on the right side of history. This is our first chance outside the EU to show what our values really mean and what global Britain stands for,” she said.

“Why would we want to use our newfound freedom to trade with states that commit and profit from genocide? Britain is better than that.

“As we form trade deals with new partners, we must honour our sacrosanct responsibility never to let economic concerns trump ethical ones by dealing with genocidal states.”

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