Why we shouldn’t intervene in Libya

Views from the five countries that abstained on UN Resolution 1973.

When last week's UN Security Council Resolution 1973 was passed – enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya and authorising member states to "take all necessary measures" to "protect civilians and civilian-populated areas under threat of attack" – only five countries chose to abstain, rather than support it.

Given the consensual nature of the exchanges in this afternoon's Commons debate, it's worth seeking out the views of Brazil, Russia, India, China and Germany, whose early reservations may soon become more commonplace. Whilst it could be argued (with the exception of Germany) that they have an anti-west foreign policy agenda, or corrupt regimes to protect, many of the points they make are being echoed throughout the general populace.

So, here is our rundown of who abstained, and why.

Brazil

Brazil's permanent representative to the UN, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, said:

We are not convinced that the use of force as provided for in operative paragraph 4 of the present resolution will lead to the realisation of our common objective – the immediate end of violence and the protection of civilians.

Russia

UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin stated:

We participated actively in the discussions on the draft resolution. Unfortunately, work on this document was not in keeping with the Security Council's standing practice . . . In essence, a whole range of questions raised by the Russian Federation and other Security Council members remained unanswered, questions which were both concrete and legitimate, questions regarding how the no-fly zone would be enforced, what the rules of engagement would be, and limits to the use of force would be. Furthermore, the draft was morphing before our very eyes, transcending the League of Arab States' initial stated concepts . . . Introduced into the text were provisions potentially opening the door to large-scale military intervention. Through the negotiations of the draft, statements claiming an absence of any such intention were heard. We take note of these.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has since said that he is "concerned about the ease with which it has been decided to use violence" and that the resolution reminded him of "medieval calls for crusades".

India

Deputy Ambassador to the UN Manjeev Singh Puri said:

We do not have clarity about details of enforcement measures, including who and with what asset will participate and how these measures will be exactly carried out . . . The financial measures that are proposed in the resolution could impact, directly or through indirect routes, ongoing trade and investment activities of a number of member states thereby adversely affecting the economic interests of the Libyan people and others dependent on these trade and economic ties . . . Moreover, we had to ensure that the measures will mitigate – and not exacerbate – an already difficult situation for the people of Libya. Clarity in the resolution on any spillover effects of these measures would have been very important.

Of the supposedly indiscriminate air attacks that have been taking place over the past few days, a New Delhi statement said:

India views with grave concern the continuing violence, strife and deteriorating humanitarian situation in Libya . . . It regrets the air strikes that are taking place. The measures adopted should mitigate and not exacerbate an already difficult situation for the people of Libya.

China

UN Ambassador Li Baodong stated:

In the Security Council's consultations on Resolution 1973, we and some other council members asked some specific questions. However, regrettably, many of those questions failed to be clarified or answered. China has serious difficulty with part of the resolution.

China, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, could have blocked the resolution altogether, but because it attached "great importance to the relevant decision by the 22-member Arab League on the establishment of a no-fly zone over Libya" (the League initially supported the motion), the Chinese chose merely to abstain instead.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Jiang Yu, explained:

We oppose the use of force in international relations and have serious reservations with part of the resolution.

However, now that the Arab League has criticised the air strikes, claiming they are beyond the remit of the resolution, China could step up the rhetoric. Jiang Yu has already said that "China has noted the latest developments in Libya and expresses regret over the military attacks on Libya".

Germany

This is the most interesting case, as Germany was the only EU member state to abstain. It would seem that memories of war and imperialism are still too contentious when handling a situation that actually or potentially involves both.

UN Ambassador Peter Wittig said:

We should not enter a military confrontation on the optimistic assumption that quick results with few casualties will be achieved.

Whilst Wittig stated that Germany recognised the plight of the Libyan people, he also argued that Berlin sees "the danger of being drawn into a protracted military conflict".

Guido Westerwelle, the German foreign minister, defended his country's position:

The impression that Germany is isolated in Europe or the international community is completely wrong . . . Many other countries in the European Union not only understand our position, not only respect it, but also share it.

Liam McLaughlin is a freelance journalist who has also written for Prospect and the Huffington Post. He tweets irregularly @LiamMc108.

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As a Conservative MP, I want Parliament to get a proper debate on Brexit

The government should consider a Green Paper before Article 50. 

I am very pleased that the government has listened to the weight of opinion across the House of Commons – and the country – by agreeing to put its plan for Brexit before Parliament and the country for scrutiny before Article 50 is triggered. Such responsiveness will stand the government in good stead. A confrontation with Parliament, especially given the paeans to parliamentary sovereignty we heard from Leave campaigners during the referendum, would have done neither the Brexit process nor British democracy any good.

I support the government’s amendment to Labour’s motion, which commits the House to respecting the will of the British people expressed in the referendum campaign. I accept that result, and now I and other Conservatives who campaigned to Remain are focused on getting the best deal for Britain; a deal which respects the result of the referendum, while keeping Britain close to Europe and within the single market.

The government needs to bring a substantive plan before Parliament, which allows for a proper public and parliamentary debate. For this to happen, the plan provided must be detailed enough for MPs to have a view on its contents, and it must arrive in the House far enough in advance of Article 50 for us to have a proper debate. As five pro-European groups said yesterday, a Green Paper two months before Article 50 is invoked would be a sensible way of doing it. Or, in the words of David Davis just a few days before he was appointed to the Cabinet, a “pre-negotiation white paper” could be used to similar effect.

Clearly there are divisions, both between parties and between Leavers and Remainers, on what the Brexit deal should look like. But I, like other members of the Open Britain campaign and other pro-European Conservatives, have a number of priorities which I believe the government must prioritise in its negotiations.

On the economy, it is vital that the government strives to keep our country fully participating in the single market. Millions of jobs depend on the unfettered trade, free of both tariff and non-tariff barriers, we enjoy with the world’s biggest market. This is absolutely compatible with the result, as senior Leave campaigners such as Daniel Hannan assured voters before the referendum that Brexit would not threaten Britain’s place in the single market. The government must also undertake serious analysis on the consequences of leaving the customs union, and the worrying possibility that the UK could fall out of our participation in the EU’s Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with non-EU countries like South Korea.

If agreeing a new trading relationship with Europe in just two years appears unachievable, the government must look closely into the possibility of agreeing a transitional arrangement first. Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s chief negotiator, has said this would be possible and the Prime Minister was positive about this idea at the recent CBI Conference. A suitable transitional arrangement would prevent the biggest threat to British business – that of a "cliff edge" that would slap costly tariffs and customs checks on British exports the day after we leave.

Our future close relationship with the EU of course goes beyond economics. We need unprecedentedly close co-operation between the UK and the EU on security and intelligence sharing; openness to talented people from Europe and the world; and continued cooperation on issues like the environment. This must all go hand-in-hand with delivering reforms to immigration that will make the system fairer, many of which can be seen in European countries as diverse as the Netherlands and Switzerland.

This is what I and others will be arguing for in the House of Commons, from now until the day Britain leaves the European Union. A Brexit deal that delivers the result of the referendum while keeping our country prosperous, secure, open and tolerant. I congratulate the government on their decision to involve the House in their plan for Brexit - and look forward to seeing the details. 

Neil Carmichael is the Conservative MP for Stroud and supporter of the Open Britain campaign.