British MPs have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a Commons motion urging the government to recognise Palestine as a state.

The vote will not affect government policy, but the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, supported the motion.

This suggests that a future UK government may recognise the Palestinian territories, currently occupied by Israel, as a country.

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What happened in the vote?

The motion, proposed by Labour MP Grahame Morris, stated: “This house believes that the Government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel, as a contribution to securing a negotiated two state solution.”

It was carried by 274 votes to 12, with hundreds of MPs abstaining.

Mr Miliband and other Labour frontbenchers voted in favour, while both Lib Dem and Conservative ministers were obliged to abstain, as is the convention with a backbench motions.

Conservative MP Mike Freer, whose Finchley and Golders Green constituency is home to a large Jewish community, quit his junior ministerial post so he could vote against the motion.

Of the other 11 MPs who voted against, six were Conservatives and five were Northern Irish MPs from the Democratic Unionist Party.

Sir Alan Beith was the only Liberal Democrat to vote against the motion. The party’s policy is to support the recognition of Palestine as a state and 28 Lib Dems voted in favour of the motion.

The motion is not binding on the government.

What is Britain’s position on the Palestinian territories?

Britain does not recognise Palestinian as a sovereign state.

The government says it will only do so when the Israelis and Palestinians negotiate the end of the Israeli occupation through the Quartet peace process.

In 2011 the then-foreign secretary, William Hague, said: “The UK judges that the Palestinian Authority largely fulfils criteria for UN membership, including statehood as far as the reality of the situation in the occupied Palestinian Territories allows, but its ability to function effectively as a state would be impeded by that situation.”

He added: “We reserve the right to recognise a Palestinian state bilaterally at a moment of our choosing and when it can best help bring about peace.”

In 2011, along with more than a dozen European countries, the UK decided to upgrade the status of Palestinian diplomats.


In the same year, Britain abstained when the United Nations voted on upgrading Palestine’s status from “observer entity” to “non-member observer state”.

Some 138 countries voted in favour of the upgrade. Britain was among 41 nations that abstained, including Germany and the Netherlands. But most EU states voted for the resolution and it was carried.

Only nine countries voted against it, including Israel, the United States, Canada and Israel’s closest ally in the EU – the Czech Republic.

Some commentators saw the status upgrade as de facto UN recognition of Palestine’s sovereignty.

But Palestine is still not a full member of the UN. That would require a recommendation by the Security Council, which would probably be vetoed by the US.

Which other countries recognise Palestine?

Some 133 of the UN’s 193 member states have individually recognised Palestine as a state.


That represents 69 per cent of members and covers almost exactly 80 per cent of the population of the world at time of writing.

Of those, 17 countries explicitly say that they recognise a Palestinian state with the borders that existed before the 1967 Six Day War. In other words, they back Palestinian claims to the whole of the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem.