3 min read
David Lammy has said foreign office ministers were exhibiting “pettiness” by not working more openly with the European Union as conflict between Ukraine and Russia looms.
But Labour’s shadow foreign secretary offered praise for his government counterpart Liz Truss, and said that he was “grateful” that the pair had been able to “share information and work closely on this issue”.
In an interview with The House magazine, Lammy also stressed the importance of staying “united right across Europe” in the face of Russia aggression against Ukraine.
“We’re reminded of the importance of a united front in Europe, suddenly, when we’re faced with the prospect of war in Europe, a war which could be — in the scale and devastation it could cause, the loss of life it could cause — the biggest event of that kind since the Second World War,” Lammy said.
He suggested, however, that recent “spats” with French president Emmanuel Macron over the handling of migrants crossing the Channel were a sign that the UK still had a poor relationship with many European countries post-Brexit.
“We’ve left the European Union, we know we’ve left the European Union,” Lammy continued.
“But, being in a situation where one doesn’t even hear the words EU leave government ministers’ mouths when they’re in the Foreign Office, I’m afraid, is indicative of a sort of pettiness that doesn’t match the scale of the moment that we are in.”
The UK’s diplomatic efforts to stop Russia invading Ukraine have also been heavily criticised by a senior Tory who believes their approach is a sign of the country’s diminishing global influence.
Tobias Ellwood, chair of the Defence Select Committee said the Foreign Secretary Liz Truss had been dispatched to Moscow for a “photo-op” by the Prime Minister and had been unable to get Russia to retreat from amassing troops on its border with Ukraine.
But a foreign office source robustly defended Truss’ meeting in Russia, claiming she “delivered a clear message” and that nobody had “expected a decisive diplomatic breakthrough”.
Elsewhere in his interview with The House, Lammy echoed recent calls by Labour leader Keir Starmer for the government to do more to tackle Russian finance passing through the UK.
“Why any government would be slow at dealing with this is a huge concern. I don’t think these are partisan issues. I think these are issues of national security. That ought to be the lifeblood of whoever is in power,” Lammy said.
On Tuesday Starmer warned that a failure to act now on illicit Russian money “will only further strengthen Vladimir Putin in his attempts to stalk and menace his neighbours and democracies around the world”.
Earlier this month, Lammy and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves wrote to their government counterparts urging them to act on Russian money moving through London.
The pair warned in their letter that “openness to illicit finance has begun to damage our diplomatic efforts, with the Biden administration being warned that the widespread presence of suspect Russian money in the UK could jeopardise Britain’s response to this crisis”.
They also urged the Conservative Party to return millions of pounds in donations from individuals linked to Putin’s regime, a call repeated by Starmer on Tuesday.
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