'Waving a flag and saying "Great Global Britain" is an empty gesture' - Emily Thornberry

7 April 2021, 23:26 | Updated: 7 April 2021, 23:43

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Waving a flag and saying "Great Global Britain" is an empty gesture, Labour's Emily Thornberry told an LBC caller who had asked if the UK was turning its back on the world.

The shadow international trade secretary gave an impassioned response to a caller who had rung in to speak to Iain Dale's Cross Question panel.

Tony from Doncaster asked whether "this government is turning its back on the world" given that, in his words, the UK "has no relationship with Russia, we're involved in a slanging match with China, we've set our face against Europe, and we have an arms-length relationship with the USA".

Waiting patiently for the other panellists to reply, Ms Thornberry jokingly warned Iain that she had "a great deal to say" in her answer and may have to be "cut off" before the break.

The shadow cabinet minister first took umbrage with Tory MP for Bracknell James Sunderland's response, who said the UK was "a newly sovereign, newly independent nation, having broken free from the shackles of the European Union," that was doing "the complete opposite" and striking up "fantastic new trade deals".

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Emily Thornberry gave an impassioned response when asked if the UK had turned its back on the world
Emily Thornberry gave an impassioned response when asked if the UK had turned its back on the world. Picture: LBC

Ms Thornberry replied to the Conservative panellist, saying: "I don't want to disappoint you James, but you do need to know the truth, which is that when it comes to trade deals, we have not had a trade deal that has earned us one extra, single penny more than we had than when we were in the European Union, as things stand".

She said the government has "various fantasies", including a belief that the UK "might get a deal with the United States", which, she added, "is not going to happen in the near future".

"I heard the business secretary saying that he thought we were going to get one in a few months - that is simply not true."

The Labour MP continued, saying Britain has "always been a great, internationalist nation and we must maintain our position as that".

"We have a position on the (UN) Security Council; we are given various jobs to do as being part of the Security Council.

"For example, we're supposed to be there helping to sort out Myanmar. How's that going? We're supposed to be helping to sort out what's happening in Yemen. Well, what are we doing there? We're selling arms to Saudi Arabia."

But, she said, the UK needs to work multilaterally with, and stand up for, "our friends who have similar values to ourselves".

"For example, if you look at what's happening in Australia at the moment, they are simply getting a public punishment beating by the Chinese, in what the Chinese are doing in relation to trade there.

"Have we said anything in support of that? Have we done anything to support the Australians? No. Are the Australians finding any other friends? No they're not.

"When it came to Canada, when all Canada said to Saudi Arabia was 'It's all very well you letting women drive, but would you like to let all the women, who were in demonstrations to let women drive, out of the prisons?' and what happened? The Saudi Arabians came down heavy on them. Did we stand with Canada? No we didn't.

"So simply waving a flag and saying 'Great International Britain, Great Global Britain', is actually somewhat empty. It's what you do is what's important."

Watch Emily Thornberry's full passionate response at the top of the page.