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MP calls on Theresa May to apologise to Commonwealth

APOLOGY: Labour MP Emily Thornberry called on the prime minister to express regrets for historic failures

LABOUR MP Emily Thornberry has called on the prime minister to apologise to the Commonwealth for the UK government’s historic failures.

Writing on politicshome.com, Thornberry said: “The Commonwealth has never been more important than it is today – but it must be about far more than securing post-Brexit trade. If we are to address the great challenges facing each of our nations, Theresa May has to listen to our partners. She can begin by atoning for the UK’s historic mistakes.”

The shadow home secretary urged the prime minister to apologise for mistakes made in relation to the UK’s treatment of the Chagos Islanders. The majority of the 1,500 residents in the British territory were forced to leave so that the archipelago’s largest island, Diego Garcia, could be used as a US airbase in 1971.

Thornberry also called for May to acknowledge the UK’s response to Apartheid and express regret at its failure to support “urgent calls” from the Commonwealth to impose sanctions against South Africa.

She added: “I would like her to start it by saying sorry to the other heads of government, not just for the wrong done to the Chagos Islanders, but for the actions of Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.

“I believe Theresa May and the Conservative government in Britain also owe an apology to the Commonwealth as a whole – and indeed Her Majesty The Queen – for ignoring the efforts of every other member 30 years ago to bring Apartheid to an end.”

Thornberry said it was an appropriate moment in time for the UK to “signal to our Commonwealth cousins that we in the UK truly recognise that the days are gone when our union was described – in colonial terms – as the ‘British Commonwealth’”.

Ahead of next week’s Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, a meeting of all Commonwealth leaders in London between the 16 and 20 April, a dozen Caribbean high commissioners have united and called on the UK government to show compassion towards thousands of Caribbean-born British residents who are locked into battles with the Home Office over their immigration status.

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