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UK will strike trade deals with nations failing human rights standards – Raab

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Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has told officials the UK should strike trade deals with nations that do not meet European standards on human rights, according to a leaked video call.

He suggested Britain would not reach many trade pacts in growth markets if it only dealt with nations that meet the level of standards set out in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said the leaked audio, published by the HuffPost website, had been “deliberately and selectively clipped to distort” Mr Raab’s comments.

Amnesty International UK said the remarks were “shocking” and fitting of a “depressing pattern on human rights from this Government”.

The comments emerged as the Government comes under pressure not to strike deals with countries suspected of committing genocide.

And it came as ministers published a major review of post-Brexit foreign policy, which includes plans for a “positive trade and investment relationship” with China

During a question-and-answer session with FCDO staff, Mr Raab said: “I squarely believe we ought to be trading liberally around the world.

“If we restrict it to countries with ECHR-level standards of human rights, we’re not going to do many trade deals with the growth markets of the future.”

But, arguing the remarks had been misrepresented, the FCDO shared more of the Foreign Secretary’s response.

“There will be moments, and I can think of behaviour that would cross the line and render a country beyond the pale,” he was said to add.

“But fundamentally I’m a big believer in engaging to try and exert positive influence even if it’s only a moderating influence, and I hope that calibrated approach gives you a sense that it’s not just words – we back it up with action.”

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