Yesterday Theresa May stood on HMS Ocean, in the middle of the Persian Gulf, and called for a ‘red, white and blue’ Brexit.
The ridicule that followed was well deserved. But judging from the human rights records of her hosts, the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), the direction of travel for this country when it comes to our future trading partners is no joke.
At a time when we are increasingly turning our back on our liberal European partners, the contrast with the leaders of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, could not be starker.
Gulf versus Europe on human rights
EU laws protect 500 million citizens from being sacked on the grounds of their sexuality. By contrast Saudi Arabia blocked a UN resolution that condemns the use of torture by law enforcement. Why? Because it contained 65 references to sexual orientation.
Every EU member state must sign up to the European Convention on Human Rights – allowing discriminatory domestic laws to be challenged. But Saudi Arabia has carried out acts like the beheading of three homosexual men in 2002.
EU Foreign Affairs Ministers adopted binding guidelines to promote and protect human rights by LGBTI people across the world in 2013. Meanwhile Kuwait boasted it was of developing a medical test to ‘detect’ homosexuals and prevent them entering GCC member’s borders.
And the European Court of Justice was instrumental in giving same-sex couples our rights. They ruled civil partnership entitles you to the same benefits as heterosexual marries couples.
Saudi courts couldn’t be more different. Saudi prosecutors have been handing out harsher penalties because they think social media turns people gay. They sentenced a gay man to three years imprisonment and 450 lashes for meeting guys on Twitter.
Should we sign trade deals with countries that execute gay men?
Mrs May has defended her visit. She claims Britain is better placed to uphold its values and human rights by engaging with these countries.
I understand the necessity of dialogue around issues of war, peace and security. But I find it very hard to justify signing lucrative trade deals and selling arms to states that continue to persecute women and execute gay men.
If Theresa May’s ‘Red, White and Blue’ Brexit means selling out on our values and the human rights, I want nothing to do with it.
Seb Dance is a Labour Member of the European Parliament for London