Foreign secretary Dominic Raab has been accused of throwing human rights campaigners in repressive states “to the wolves” after he said the UK will seek trade deals with countries which do not meet international standards on the issue.
In a leaked video call with staff in the Foreign Office (FCDO), Mr Raab said that Britain would miss out on trade with future “growth markets” if it insisted on dealing only with countries which meet the standards of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Amnesty International said his comments would “send a chill down the spine of embattled human rights activists right across the globe”.
But the Foreign Office insisted his words had been taken out of context, and that he had gone on to speak about the importance of exerting influence to secure a change in behaviour.
The foreign secretary’s comments emerged shortly after the release of a new foreign policy document which set out Boris Johnson’s plans for an “Indo-Pacific tilt” away from traditional partners in Europe and was criticised by senior Tory backbenchers for failing to take a tough enough line with China over abuses in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.