British MPs table a motion on Kurdistan Region referendum

WESTMINSTER, England - Senior British MPs have tabled a Commons motion on the Referendum in the Kurdistan Region. The motion 'That this House supports the right to self-determination of the people of the Kurdistan Region in Iraq; and recognises that a yes vote in their referendum on independence on 25 September 2017 would be a mandate for negotiating statehood and improved co-operation with Iraq.'

The cross-party motion is led by Jack Lopresti, Conservative MP and Chairman of the All Party Parliament Group (APPG) on the Kurdistan Region. He has won the support of Mike Gapes, the veteran Labour foreign policy specialist and a former Chair of the Foreign Affairs select committee, and a member of the influential committee when it produced a landmark report on Anglo-Kurdistani relations in 2015. 

Another supporter is Robert Halfon MP, a former Conservative Education minister who has recently been elected as the Chair of the Education select committee and has visited Kurdistan five times in recent years. Conservative MP Julian Lewis MP, the re-elected Chairman of the powerful Defence select committee has added his support. 

The other initial signatories are Labour MPs Mary Glindon, who recently spoke in the parliamentary debate on the Kurdistan Region, and former soldier Clive Lewis, who is a close supporter of the Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn as well as Jonathan Edwards, an MP for the Welsh nationalist Plaid Cymru party. 

The official motion indicates to MPs and the British public that there is support across the parties for the right of the Kurds currently in Iraq to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination. This is helped by support so far from MPs who command respect on all sides of the House. 

Such motions are expressions of opinion on the official record and can be used in parliamentary debates. Government ministers and shadow ministers are not allowed to sign such motions and others avoid using the mechanism. The APPG is also seeking to send observers to officially monitor the referendum and report back to the Commons and the British public.

New broom at head of British select committee on Foreign Affairs
MPs have elected a new Chairman of the influential Foreign Affairs select committee in a race between the former Chair, Crispin Blunt and several candidates including an MP from the 2015 intake, Tom Tugendhat, who won and may be a new broom.

His website biography says that he left the British Army in July 2013 after a career in which he served on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and, most recently, as the military assistant to the Chief of the Defence Staff. As a Territorial Army officer he worked on everything from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to establishing the Armed Forces Muslim Association. He also worked for the Foreign Office and helped set up the National Security Council of Afghanistan and the government in Helmand Province.' He also learned Arabic in Yemen, was a journalist in Beirut, and a commercial energy analyst.

Before his election as the Chair, he wrote in the (London) Times that he had spent 15 years on the front line of British foreign policy as a soldier in Iraq who questioned the invasion and in Afghanistan where he doubted whether the UK had the resources to do the job. He wrote 'my job then was to execute British foreign policy, not to question it.'

He added “my job now is to challenge the decisions. It’s the reason I got into politics and why I’m standing for the Commons foreign affairs committee. Too often I’ve seen the cost of failure.”

His article in the Times outlined his view of British foreign policy after Brexit, which he says is “the biggest strategic shift in British foreign policy in generations.' He argues that 'We need a handrail to guide our actions at a time when our position in the world has never been more in play.”

He posited some thoughtful observations: “We must shape our world, not just respond. So what are we doing to work with allies? How are we building our influence? How are we working with others to shape the future? The answer is: not enough. Embassies matter. Our allies are not just fair-weather friends or potential clients, they’re partners in a world of shared values. We need to respect their positions and look for co-operation, not confrontation. 

“Our influence isn’t in gunboats but culture. The BBC still shapes ideas in minds our diplomacy can’t reach, and our universities train those who build enterprise and wealth. Too often our stake in multinational institutions is belittled or ignored. Our interests aren’t just about money or limited by Brexit. We need a new strategic outlook and a parliament willing to shape it.”

The questions he laid out may now be answered by the select committee. 

Elections for the other places on the select committees take place soon but it is likely that the committees will only swing into action when parliament returns in September after the summer recess. The select committee may choose at some point to further examine foreign policy towards Iraq and Kurdistan.

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