David Lammy has warned that the government is starting a row with the EU over the Northern Ireland protocol “at the worst possible time” as the continent faces increasingly serious security threats, a war and a refugee crisis.
Addressing the annual Progressive Britain conference this morning, the Shadow Foreign Secretary told attendees that it is “wrong, short-sighted and ill-judged to seek divisions with our European allies as we face this common threat”.
His comments followed Boris Johnson warning earlier this week that the UK could ditch the protocol, which forms part of the UK’s Brexit withdrawal agreement with the EU, unless the European bloc agrees to significant changes.
Ministers have alleged that the requirement for checks on goods moving from Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK, in order to keep the border with Ireland open, is damaging businesses. The EU, however, has said it will respond with retaliatory measures if the UK government decides to abandon the protocol unilaterally.
Lammy accused the Conservative Party of being “in hock to Russian oligarchs allowing their dirty money to pollute the UK economy, our politics and institutions” and said ministers should be “dragged through the lobby” to pass legislation to clean up politics.
“We must finally shut down the London laundromat. Ending the age of impunity not only for Russian oligarchs but for all the corrupt elites that use Britain as a base for hiding stolen money,” the Shadow Foreign Secretary said.
“It is inexcusable that the government still has not acted on the recommendations of the Russia Report or fixed Companies House which allows criminals to shield their ill-gotten gains.”
He also outlined Labour’s approach to Russia and the conflict in Ukraine, saying: “A progressive foreign policy means standing unshakably with NATO allies. Against dictatorship. Against imperialism. In defence of freedom. Ready to provide the military, economic, diplomatic and humanitarian assistance Ukraine needs.
“Keir Starmer’s Labour is clear. There is no place in our party for false equivalence between Putin’s aggression and NATO’s desire for peace through collective security and common defence.”
Following the invasion of Ukraine by Russia earlier this year, 11 Labour MPs pulled their signatures from a Stop the War statement that criticised NATO after being told to do so by the chief whip. The declaration urged a diplomatic resolution to the conflict and argued NATO should “call a halt to its eastward expansion”.
Labour MPs Diane Abbott, John McDonnell, Richard Burgon, Ian Lavery, Beth Winter, Zarah Sultana, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Apsana Begum, Mick Whitley, Tahir Ali and Ian Mearns had all signed the Stop the War statement.
Keir Starmer said earlier this month that he would take action against MPs who challenge the party’s “unshakeable support for NATO” and those drawing a “false equivalence” between the military alliance and Russia invading Ukraine.