U.K.’s Johnson Narrowly Defeats Tory Revolt Over Trade, Genocide

Boris Johnson narrowly defeated a second rebellion by members of his Conservative Party after they pressed for U.K. courts to have the power to outlaw trade deals with countries found to be committing genocide.

Members of Parliament voted 318-303 in favor of a government compromise to use the House of Commons foreign affairs committee -- not the judiciary -- to consider evidence of the crime and make non-binding recommendations.

The House of Lords voted last month to insert a clause into the government’s trade bill that would let courts rule on genocide cases and veto any related trade agreements. Rebel Tory MPs, whose focus is on the plight of Uighur Muslims in China, planned to support the measure during Tuesday’s votes in the House of Commons.

But after the rebels lost to the government on the same issue by only 11 votes last month, ministers moved to stave off the risk by blocking a yes-no vote on the measure, putting forward their own plan and urging Tories to back it.

The government argues courts should not be involved in trade policy and that genocide should be decided by the International Criminal Court -- though the rebels counter that China’s seat on the United Nations Security Council prevents that. Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith called for a “straight vote” on using British courts to decide cases.

China denies any accusations of human rights abuses against its Uighur minority.

“Last week we all remembered the atrocities of the Holocaust, vowed to learn the lessons of the past and all stood up to say ‘never again’,” Tory MP Bob Blackman said in an email. “Today was Parliament’s chance to make ‘never again’ a reality, yet instead the government has chosen to deny a clear majority of the House of Commons a chance to vote.”

Tuesday’s vote is unlikely to be the end of the issue for Johnson’s government. Peer David Alton, who sponsored the genocide amendment in the House of Lords, said he will propose it again when the bill returns to the upper chamber.

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