Tory leadership runner Matt Hancock has vowed to take a “hard look” at human rights of allies if he gets the top job.
Mr Hancock said he would “determinedly champion” women’s and gay rights, in the UK’s relationships with other countries, which he said would be particularly important following Brexit.
Setting out his foreign policy plans in a speech at the Policy Exchange, the Health Secretary pledged to protect “advances” on the issue.
“A government I lead would also take a hard look at all our bilateral relationships to make sure the balance is right on crucial decisions affecting human rights,” he said.
“At a time when we see concerted efforts to roll back gains made in women’s rights and LGBTQ rights internationally, any British government must rally like-minded nations to protect and preserve the advances that have been made and go further.
“As Health Secretary I’ve seen the critical importance of universal access to healthcare as part of the advancement of women’s rights and this would be something I would continue to determinedly champion as prime minister.”
Mr Hancock said British values must be protected in post-Brexit negotiations, adding any trading away of those values would be a failure.
Economic interests should not come “at the expense of our values,” he said, adding: “If in order to deliver Brexit we were to change who we are as a country we would have failed.”
When asked by the Press Association whether a woman’s right to abortion would be taken into account in negotiations over a trade deal with the US, Mr Hancock said he was “reluctant” to politicise the issue.
He said: “I’m a very strong supporter of the laws we have here in England and I’m reluctant to go further than that because I’m also very proud that in England this is not a matter of political debate… I think that is one of the remaining virtues in British politics.”
Mr Hancock said abortion rights in England should be retained and were “medically, scientifically, clinically led” and “above politics”.
He said: “If we think about how the British political discourse has become more rough and more focused at the extremes and probably exacerbated by social media, one of the areas where we retain a strong consensus that is above politics is in our support for abortion laws as they stand.”
Dear Mr President. The NHS isn’t on the table in trade talks – and never will be. Not on my watch.
— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) June 4, 2019
But Mr Hancock celebrated US President Donald Trump U-turning on comments the NHS would be “on the table” in post-Brexit trade negotiations, which the Health Secretary had immediately condemned.
And he claimed not to be bothered to have been excluded from Mr Trump’s meetings and phone calls with rival leadership candidates, including Boris Johnson.
“I’m delighted the president has agreed the NHS won’t be on the table during trade talks,” he said.
“Everybody knows that president Trump makes his views clear.
“I didn’t seek a meeting with president Trump and I’m not having one and that’s fine by me.”