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UK MPs to vote on Gaza ceasefire as Rafah assault looms

UK MPs to vote on Gaza ceasefire as Rafah assault looms
4 min read
21 February, 2024
Ahead of tonight’s vote on the UK’s stance in calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, amendments to the latest Gaza may determine on the outcome.
A sign reading 'Ceasefire Now' is pictured among pro-Palestinian protesters attending an Emergency Rally for Palestine [Getty]

British MPs are set to vote on Wednesday night on a Gaza ceasefire motion of the Scottish National Party (SNP), in a move set to determine the UK’s position for a second time. 

As both the UK government and the Labour Party have also tabled amendments to the SNP motion, votes will decide which proposal among the three parties will be backed in facilitating the end of the war on the besieged Palestinian territory.  

This comes as the Labour Party, under the leadership of Keir Starmer, has called for an immediate ceasefire — a change of policy that seeks to avoid another parliamentary rebellion over an issue that has caused deep internal divisions. 

In November of last year, the Commons last rejected calls for a ceasefire- with the first Scottish National Party (SNP) motion receiving 293 votes against it. 

Only 125 voted in favour of the motion calling on the government for an immediate ceasefire, which resulted in the resignation of eight of Labour leader Keir Starmer's frontbenchers after supporting the amendment and the leader’s initial refusal to back a ceasefire. 

House of Commons speaker Lindsey Hoyle had since selected both the government and Labour amendments for the latest SNP debate on a permanent ceasefire. 

Stephen Flynn, SNP's leader, said in an interview with Sky News, that his party will support Labour’s amendment to the SNP motion- reiterating a permanent ceasefire. 

"I similarly hope that when it comes to a vote on the SNP motion, which of course is indeed also in favour of an immediate ceasefire but recognises the collective punishment of the Palestinian people, that the Labour Party will support us as well," Flynn told the British news publication. 

Flynn told Sky News that the Speaker’s decision to choose the government and the opposition party’s amendment "appears to have broken significantly from precedent". 

However, there were notably distinct differences in language with both the SNP and Labour amendments. 

While the SNP’s and Labour’s amendments call for a ceasefire, Labour’s proposal included arguably more pro-Israel sentiment. 

The Labour amendment had specifically outlined as a condition for its backing of a ceasefire that “Israel cannot be expected to cease fighting if Hamas continues with violence.”  

It also supports further efforts to deliver a two-state solution in the region and the recognition of Palestinian statehood as a "contribution to rather than the outcome of" the Middle Eastern peace process. 

Unlike the SNP, Labour’s amendment additionally did not highlight the “collective punishment of the Palestinian people”.  

Labour pressure group Momentum, cited by The Standard, had responded to Labour’s position, stating that the party had made "its call for a ceasefire so conditional and caveated, the Labour leadership is giving cover for Israel’s brutal war to continue".

Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, has criticised at what she believes could become an imminent rejection for a ceasefire in Gaza.

"The Liberal Democrats have been calling for an immediate bilateral ceasefire for months now. We need to see an end to the violence, to get aid into Gaza, and to get the hostages safely home. Today we will be voting for any amendments which bring us closer to peace," Moran told The New Arab.

“But a ceasefire is not an end in and of itself. It must pave the way for an enduring peace, which can only be achieved by a political solution, with Hamas out of Gaza, and two states based on 1967 borders.

“It's likely that the headline that comes from Parliament today will be that an immediate ceasefire was rejected because of a lack of coordination. We could and should have done better."

As the debate ensues, thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters have taken part in a demonstration in favour of a ceasefire in Parliament Square. 

As it stands, Israel's campaign in Gaza has killed at least 29,313 people, mostly women and children, according to the latest count by the territory's health ministry.