Minister risks blazing row with Australia and Canada after saying historical ‘genocide’ could scupper trade deals

A MINISTER risked a blazing row with Britain’s closest allies by suggesting historical genocide would scupper trade deals with Australia and Canada.

Trade minister Greg Hands warned MPs that historic treatment of indigenous people in the Commonwealth nations could be used to stop future trade deals if rebel MPs get their way.

Canada and Australia have both admitted settlers attacks on First Nations and Aboriginal people respectively could amount to genocide.

But furious rebels say this "grossly misrepresents" the proposed amendment to the Trade Bill which is being voted on today.

The amendment – if it passes – will give the High Court the power to define acts of genocide dropping the bar significantly from the UN.

Supporters of the amendment are confident they have the numbers to defeat the government who oppose the amendment.

But they say they will not apply to historic acts of genocide.

But Mr Hands told MPs in a WhatsApp group: “There are many problems with the Lord Alton amendment, including the fact that past genocides might be in scope (which could mean Turkey, could even mean Canada or Australia).”

The Rebel MPs want the clause inserted into the Trade Bill to stop a future deal with China – over their treatment of Uighur muslims in Xinjiang province.

Last week Foreign Secretary Raab told the House of Commons of the raft of abuses committed in the Chinese region on the minority muslim population being forced into internment camps for political re-education and forced labour.

He also said torture and forced sterilisation was happening to the population “on an industrial scale.”

But the government warn it hands too much power to judges as well as scuppering potential new deals and they have already slammed Beijing's treatment of the Uighurs.

In the WhatsApp Mr Hands said: “Clearly, we wouldn’t be negotiating any trade deals with any countries which are committing genocide.

“It just isn’t something a British Government would do. And you will have seen the Foreign Secretary’s robust position on China and Xinjiang this week.”

He added: “There are many problems with the Lord Alton amendment, including the fact that past genocides might be in scope (which could mean Turkey, could even mean Canada or Australia) and the fact that it’s a court which decides, not the Government or Parliament.

“I don’t myself like this kind of judicial activism, nor courts opining on foreign policy.

“Clearly, trade is one lever one can use when dealing with countries which are behaving very badly – but that’s properly a matter for the Government, held to account by Parliament, I think, not the courts.”

But a source close to rebellion’s leadership said: “We appreciate that the Government is growing desperate but accusing Canada and Australia of genocide is not just offensive to our closest allies but grossly misrepresents the effect of the amendment which only applies to current genocides.  

“The Government must consider the damage that their ill-fated opposition to this legislation is doing to their reputation for honesty and to our allies." 

A Whitehall source said: "Australia and Canada are obviously both vital allies who share our values and strong commitment to human rights

"Greg was trying to make a technocratic point, basically, but hasn’t been delicate in the way he’s tried to make it."

It comes as holocaust survivor urged MPs to "do the right thing" today on trade deals involving nations with dodgy human rights records.

Dorit Wolff, 85, called on them to vote for a Bill amendment handing judges powers to block such deals.

Her online appeal spoke of the "genocide that is happening now in China against the Uighur humans".

She added: "Please do not trade with those people."

Tory MP Nusrat Ghani – one of the rebels has predicted victory for the rebel MPs.

No10 said Britain's trade policies mitigate sufficiently against genocide.

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