Will UK left's rise threaten Morocco Sahara agreement ?

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On Thursday, July 4, a red wave swept across the United Kingdom as the Labour Party returned to power. The early general election results handed Keir Starmer's party a resounding victory, securing an absolute majority with 412 seats in the 650-seat House of Commons. Former Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has resigned as leader of the Conservative Party following the defeat.

From 2010 to 2024, relations between Rabat and London improved significantly, particularly after the UK's exit from the European Union (Brexit) in 2016. On October 26, 2019, the two countries signed a landmark association agreement, which included the Sahara. This integration was subsequently validated by the courts, sparking anger among Polisario supporters.

On December 5, 2022, the British High Court rejected an appeal by the NGO Western Sahara Campaign UK (WSCUK) to annul the Morocco-UK Association Agreement concerning products from the Sahara. The British government welcomed the decision at the time.

Emboldened by this support, Rishi Sunak's government publicly affirmed in April that it «does not consider commercial activity in Western Sahara to be illegal, provided it respects the interests of the Sahrawi people». In December 2022, Sunak appointed Conservative MP Rob Butler as the Prime Minister's trade envoy to Morocco, alongside Mexico and Pakistan.

Labour MPs, however, have consistently criticized the improvement in UK-Morocco relations over the Western Sahara issue. They have used written questions to the Foreign Office and spoken on behalf of the Polisario during meetings initiated by pro-Moroccan MPs advocating for recognition of Morocco's claim to the territory.

It's noteworthy that Jeremy Corbyn, the main defender of Polisario's position in Parliament, currently sits as an independent MP. He was expelled from the Labour Party in 2020 by the current Prime Minister over allegations of anti-Semitism.

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