With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the NATO summit in Brussels last week.
Transatlantic unity has been fundamental to the protection and projection of our interests and values for generations. At a time when we are facing dangerous and unpredictable threats—from state and non-state actors, and from the use of chemical weapons, terrorism and cyber-attack—NATO remains as vital to our collective security as it has ever been. So the focus of this summit was on strengthening the alliance, including through greater burden sharing, stepping up our collective efforts to meet the threats of today, and enhancing NATO’s capability to meet the threats of tomorrow. The UK played an important role in securing progress on all three.
The UK is proud to have the second largest defence budget in NATO after the United States and the largest in Europe. We are increasing our defence spending in every year of this Parliament. We are meeting our NATO commitments to spend 2% of our GDP on defence, and 20% of that on equipment. We are investing heavily in modernising our armed forces, with plans to spend £180 billion on equipment and support over the next 10 years. This morning I announced the publication of the UK’s combat air strategy, confirming our commitment to maintaining our world-class air power capabilities. This is backed by our future combat air system technology initiative, which will deliver over £2 billion of investment over 10 years and lay the groundwork for the Typhoon successor programme. We are deploying the full spectrum of our capabilities in support of the NATO alliance.
In the week in which we marked the centenary of our extraordinary Royal Air Force, I was proud to be able to announce at the summit the additional deployment of UK fighter jets to NATO air policing missions. We are also leading standing NATO maritime groups, contributing our nuclear deterrent to the security of Europe as a whole, and continuing our commitment to NATO missions, including in Estonia where we lead NATO’s enhanced forward presence. But as the UK plays this leading role in the security of the whole continent, it is right that we work to even burden sharing across the alliance and that other allies step up and contribute more to our shared defence.
The summit included an additional session in response to the challenge posed by President Trump on exactly this point. Non-US allies are already doing more, with their spending increasing by $41 billion in 2017 alone, and by a total of $87 billion since the Wales defence investment pledge was adopted in 2014. These are the largest increases in non-US spending in a quarter of a century. Over the decade to 2024, we are expecting that spending to have increased by hundreds of billions, but NATO allies must go further in increasing their defence spending and capability. During the summit, leaders agreed that all were committed to fairer burden sharing and that they had a shared sense of urgency to do more. That is in all our interests.
Turning to specific threats, there was an extensive discussion on Russia. The appalling use of a nerve agent in Salisbury is another example of Russia’s growing disregard for the global norms and laws that keep us all safe, and a further example of a well-established pattern of behaviour to undermine western democracies and damage our interests around the world. In recent years, we have seen Russia stepping up its arms sales to Iran, shielding the Syrian regime’s barbaric use of chemical weapons, launching cyber-attacks that have caused economic damage, and spreading malicious and fake news stories on an industrial scale.
Our long-term objective remains a constructive relationship with Russia, so it is right that we keep engaging, both as individual nations and as a NATO alliance. I welcome the meeting between President Trump and President Putin in Helsinki today, but as I agreed with President Trump in our discussions last week, we must engage from a position of unity and strength. This means being clear and unwavering about where Russia needs to change its behaviour, and for as long as Russia persists in its efforts to undermine our interests and values, we must continue to deter and counter them. That is exactly what we will do. In that context, in a separate discussion during the summit, the alliance also reaffirmed our unwavering support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia and Ukraine. We continue to support both Georgia and Ukraine in their aspirations for full membership of the alliance. The alliance also extended an invitation to the Government of Skopje to start accession talks following their historic agreement with Athens. This builds further on the progress made earlier in the week in London at the western Balkans summit, which took important steps to strengthen the stability and prosperity of the region.
For part of the summit we were joined by President Ghani, who provided an update on the situation in Afghanistan. There are encouraging signs of progress towards a peace process, and allies were united in our strong support for his efforts, but the security situation remains challenging, and is compounded further by Daesh fighters who have fled out of Iraq and Syria. So, as my right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary announced to the House last Wednesday, at this summit we increased our support for NATO’s mission Resolute Support with a further uplift of 440 UK troops for the UK-led Kabul security force. This will take our total troop commitment in Afghanistan to around 1,100.
Together with all allies, we also committed additional financial support for the sustainment of the Afghan national defence and security forces until 2024. As I discussed with President Trump at the summit, our commitment to Afghanistan began as NATO’s only use of article 5, acting in support of the United States following the attack on New York’s World Trade Centre. Our uplift will also enable the release of US personnel to conduct increased mentoring and counter-terrorism activity across Afghanistan. The summit also agreed to extend defence capacity building to Tunisia, Jordan and Iraq, and the UK’s contribution will play a vital role, particularly in increasing our support to the Iraqi Government in strengthening their security institutions and promoting stability for the longer term.
Facing today’s challenges is not enough. In the UK, our modernising defence programme will ensure that our capabilities remain as potent in meeting the threats of tomorrow as they are in keeping us safe today. NATO too must adapt to meet these challenges. This means delivering the reforms agreed at the Wales and Warsaw summits politically, militarily and institutionally. At this summit, allies agreed a stronger NATO command structure, including two new headquarters, and the UK is committing more than 100 new posts to that structure, taking our commitment to more than 1,000 UK service personnel. We also agreed to improve the readiness of our forces through NATO’s readiness initiative known as the “Four Thirties”. This is a commitment to have, by 2020, 30 mechanised battalions, 30 air squadrons and 30 combat vessels, all ready to use within 30 days. The UK will play its full part in delivering this.
We also agreed further work to help to counter cyber and hybrid threats by enhancing the capabilities of the alliance to respond quickly and effectively to these new challenges. This includes a new cyber-operations centre and new support teams that will be able to assist allies who want help, either in preparing to respond, or responding, to an attack. Again the UK is at the forefront of these efforts. For example, we were the first country to offer our national offensive cyber-capabilities to the alliance, and we have also committed to host the NATO cyber-defence pledge conference in 2019.
As I have said many times, the UK is unconditionally committed to maintaining Europe’s security. That is why I have proposed a bold new security partnership between the UK and the EU for after we leave. But in a world where the threats to Europe’s security often emanate from beyond its borders, and where we face an array of profound challenges to the entire rules-based international order, the strength and endurance of our transatlantic alliance is vital in protecting our shared security and projecting our shared values. That is why a strong, united and modern NATO remains the cornerstone of our security, and why our commitment to it is ironclad. As we have done across generations, we will stand shoulder to shoulder with our closest allies to defend the rules-based order and the liberal values of democracy, human rights and justice that define our way of life. I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Prime Minister for an advance copy of the statement.
At the heart of any military alliance is the aim that rogue players cannot derail established Governments. I wonder whether the Prime Minister has reflected on that as she deals with the present threat from the hon. Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg).
Protecting the British people will always be our first priority. From climate change chaos, cyber-attacks and acts of terrorism to perpetual conflicts in the most fragile parts of the word, it is the Government’s duty to ensure that their approach addresses the drivers of those security challenges. As one of the richest countries in the world and a member of NATO and of the UN Security Council, we have a real responsibility to ensure that our policy provides real security for our country and does not fuel insecurity beyond our borders. Last week’s NATO summit was an opportunity for the alliance to reset its approach to some of those challenges.
Once again, however, another global gathering has been dominated by the erratic statements of President Trump. Did the US President ask the Prime Minister and other NATO leaders to double defence spending to 4%? Did the President outline how threats to our security had doubled over the course of the past week? Are the Government seriously considering that increase? In 2014, NATO countries agreed to meet the 2% target by 2024. Does that remain the case? Labour is committed to spend the agreed target of 2%. Furthermore, does she agree with President Trump that Germany is “a captive of Russia”? Under no circumstances can our policies be outsourced to the whims of Washington. Of course, we all await the outcome of the Helsinki meeting between Presidents Trump and Putin. Will the Prime Minister condemn President Trump’s intervention on his preferred choice as her successor as Prime Minister of this country?
NATO states that seek to destabilise and undermine democracy and national independence, whoever they are—including, but not only Russia—must be held fully accountable under international law and collective engagement. In addition, the use of chemical weapons as a form of war, whether on the streets of Salisbury or in the cities of Syria, is deplorable and must not be tolerated. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg was right to say recently that NATO’s dialogue with Russia is not easy and that the more difficult Russia is, the more we need dialogue. However, democratic regression among NATO Governments makes that approach more difficult.
NATO prides itself as being the guarantor of freedom and security in the world, so it must be held to a higher standard. The rise in authoritarianism and the suppression of basic human rights in many countries should be of great concern. The Brussels declaration highlighted how arms control
“should continue to make an essential contribution to achieving the Alliance’s security objectives”,
so what steps is the Prime Minister taking to drive forward the effort on that? Does she agree that UK arms sales to countries with poor human rights records undermines their citizens’ freedom and security, and will she therefore finally suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia while bombs rain down on the people of Yemen?
On Europe, it is vital that Parliament fully understands what the Government are proposing for their future defence partnership with the EU after Brexit. However, on yet another fundamental issue, the Government’s White Paper is lacking. There is no substance on UK-EU co-operation over diplomatic collaboration, intelligence sharing, or defence and security policy. While the aspiration to strengthen ties with the EU and NATO on issues of cyber-security is welcome, the White Paper offers little clarity on how that might be delivered. Does the Prime Minister accept that her chaotic approach to the Brexit negotiations risks future security and defence co-operation with the European Union?
The “bomb first, talk later” approach to security has clearly failed, leaving a trail of destruction abroad and leaving us less safe at home. NATO talks of wanting to work more closely with the United Nations, but that means treating the United Nations with respect and ending double standards. In Libya, Sudan and South Sudan, this Government are the responsible penholder on the UN Security Council, yet they have failed to deliver long-term political settlements. Hopefully the new Foreign Secretary can succeed where his predecessor failed, or did not make sufficient effort to succeed.
The Government have deployed additional troops in Afghanistan to support the Government in Kabul. Can the Prime Minister be clear that those troops are there in a training capacity only and that there will be no mission creep?
Our security is collective—it cannot be achieved at the expense of others. Aggressive military intervention, destabilising democratic institutions, tearing up hard-won international agreements and disregarding human rights and international law are a new threat. Governments on that track must change course.
Labour in government will deepen our commitment to UN peacekeeping and will work with allies who strive for peace, diplomacy and real security for all people. That is how we will deliver real security in a changing world.
The right hon. Gentleman raises a number of issues. He talks about President Trump’s intervention at the NATO summit, and President Trump has made a difference. We share the President’s view that we want to see allies all stepping up to meet the commitment they gave at the summit here in Wales in 2014 to spend 2% of their GDP on defence, and to spend 20% of that on equipment. That is something we meet, as do a limited number of other NATO members, obviously including the United States of America.
President Trump’s making this point about burden sharing has made a difference. As I said in my statement, in just the last year we have seen an extra $41 billion added to defence budgets across the NATO allies. There was a real sense at this summit, following the discussion that he initiated, that we will see not just people stepping up to meet their 2% target, but an increased urgency in doing so.
The right hon. Gentleman asks about Germany and its relationship with Russia. Can I just say to him that Germany was one of the many countries in Europe and across the rest of the world that stood shoulder to shoulder with the United Kingdom after the attack in Salisbury? Germany did expel Russian intelligence officers and took a very firm view in relation to Russia.
The right hon. Gentleman talks about arms exports. Of course, as he knows, we have one of the strongest arms export regimes in the world, and all decisions are taken very carefully against the background of that. He talks about our future relationship with the European Union. We will have a fully independent defence and foreign policy, but we will work with our European Union allies where it is right to do so, just as we will continue to work within NATO.
The right hon. Gentleman talks about how we ensure that we have security around the world. Well, NATO has been the backbone of Europe’s security for the years in which it has been in place. We continue to support NATO, and it sounds as if he has changed his mind about NATO, because it was not that long ago that he said about NATO, “I’d rather we weren’t in it,” and, “Why don’t we turn it around and close down NATO?” Well, we are not going to close down NATO. The United Kingdom will continue to contribute to NATO as the backbone of European security and wider security around the world.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on what I think was for her a successful NATO summit. May I return her to the point of the Germans and the issue of energy? Exactly what discussions and conversations have taken place with the Germans concerning the Nord Stream 2 pipeline? If Germany insists on going ahead unilaterally with this pipeline, it will have the strategic effect of diminishing the likelihood of Ukraine and others being able to support themselves.
My right hon. Friend has, of course, raised an important issue. This subject has been discussed on a number of occasions around the European Council table and it will continue to be discussed around that table. Obviously, we recognise the concerns that have been raised in relation to Nord Stream 2 and, in particular, in relation to the impact it would have on Ukraine. We will continue to talk, not only with Germany, but with other European allies, about this issue, and we will contribute to that discussion around the European Council table. There is a growing recognition that this issue needs to be addressed and a growing recognition of the concerns that have been raised.
I thank the Prime Minister for advance sight of her statement. I thank the thousands of Scots who protested in peace over the weekend and of course the officers of Police Scotland, who did such an excellent job, working around the clock.
Last week, we witnessed extraordinary scenes at the NATO summit. The President of the United States flew to Brussels to lecture the NATO allies on their commitments to defence. These were embarrassing, shambolic scenes from a US President who takes a childish approach to foreign and security policy, rather than working with allies to tackle common security threats. What is more embarrassing is that, after this treatment, we witnessed the Prime Minister roll out the carpet to the President as he visited the UK. This is a President who went on to publicly criticise the Prime Minister’s Brexit plans after advising the Prime Minister to sue the European Union—you really couldn’t make it up. Can the Prime Minister tell the House whether she intends to use the President’s advice and does his advice not give her a real sense of reality of just how shambolic any trade deal with the US Trump Administration would be? I would advise the Prime Minister that, instead of seeking advice from the President of the United States on Brexit, she should seek it directly from the devolved Governments, who are directly affected by her Brexit chaos.
We are of course today witnessing historic scenes as the US and Russian Presidents meet in Helsinki. There are high stakes in this summit; China, nuclear weapons, Syria, Ukraine and US election hacking are all set to be discussed. I thank the Prime Minister for the remarks she made about Ukraine, as we should all make sure we stand up for the independence of that nation. Can the Prime Minister tell the House what discussions she had with President Trump on operations in Syria at the NATO summit last week?
First, let me say to the right hon. Gentleman that we continue to support Ukraine. As I said in my statement, we continue to support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and Georgia. Obviously, we are supporting the Government of Ukraine in a number of ways, but we also recognise that there needs to be reform in Ukraine.
We want to see the Minsk agreements fully put in place. Obviously, the failure of that is why we have been supporting, within the European Union, the continued imposition of the sanctions that were introduced in response to the action that Russia took in Crimea.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about President Trump and his approach to the NATO summit. As I said, President Trump has made a difference; he has focused the eyes of those around the table on the question of the 2% commitment. As I said in my statement and have just repeated, $41 billion of extra investment in defence has been seen across the allies just over the last year. In fact, the United States itself has increased its defence input into Europe over the last year or so—in capability terms and also in financial terms.
The right hon. Gentleman talks about the importance of working with devolved Governments. We continue to work with the devolved Governments on a whole range of issues, including the European issue that he referred to. I would hope that the Government in Scotland would be willing to work with us on these issues, because we will deliver something that is in the interests of the whole of the United Kingdom.
Order. There is considerable interest, which is to be anticipated, but I make two points to the House. First, there is a statement to follow, in which there may well be considerable interest. Secondly, we have a substantial debate on the remaining stages of the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill, necessitating brevity in this session, from Back Benchers and Front Benchers alike, and the non-participation of people who arrived after the Prime Minister had delivered her statement.
Although the opening of accession talks with the Government in Skopje is to be welcomed, will the Prime Minister also confirm that, irrespective of Russia’s views, future membership of the alliance is open to any other country that meets the membership criteria, including other countries in the western Balkans?
Yes, I am happy to give my right hon. Friend that confirmation. Indeed, we look forward to seeing others aspire to membership of the NATO alliance. It is important that they meet the criteria for membership. At the NATO summit, Montenegro was of course sitting around the table, having already become a member of the NATO alliance, and we were pleased to extend that invitation to Skopje. Other countries could follow, provided that they meet the criteria.
The Prime Minister rightly said in her statement that the United Kingdom is “unconditionally committed” to Europe’s security, but over the weekend President Trump described the European Union as a “foe” and the German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that Europe can no longer completely rely on the White House. Does the Prime Minister share that assessment and, if not, why not?
When everybody left the NATO summit that took place last week, what was felt was not only that people had stepped up and recognised the importance of burden sharing, but that there was indeed a unity around that table on the importance of us all working together in the future of Europe’s security. As I reminded President Trump, the one time that NATO has used article 5 has been in response to an attack on the United States.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s support for Ukraine and the recognition of the potential threat of Nord Stream 2. Will she confirm that there is absolutely no question of any NATO member country recognising the illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula by the Russian Federation?
We are very clear—as was, I think, everybody around that table—that an illegal annexation took place. Significant support was shown for Ukraine around that table. There are of course requirements on Ukraine and Georgia for their potential future membership of NATO, but we look forward to working with them to help them to meet those requirements.
I have often supported the Prime Minister on security and countering terrorism, because extremists must never divide us, but one of our NATO allies, President Trump, chose to single out London’s Mayor, who is Muslim, and attack him on terrorism. I know that the Prime Minister will not agree with President Trump and will understand what a vile and false attack that was, but has she said so to President Trump? Has she challenged him on it? We cannot pander when our democratic values are under attack.
I have made it clear to President Trump on a number of occasions that some of the views that he expresses about the United Kingdom on these issues are not shared by this Government. There are issues on which I disagree with the Mayor of London—for example, I want to see him building more homes in London than he is doing—but on the issue of fighting terrorism, the Mayor of London and this Government work together, as we did last year following what happened here in Westminster and at London Bridge and Finsbury Park. It is an issue on which we unite, because we all recognise the importance of ensuring that the terrorists can never divide us.
Given President Putin’s long-term goals of destabilising the European Union, seeking to restore Russian influence in eastern Europe and undermining NATO, is it not important—and was it not discussed at length during the NATO summit—that NATO’s strategic concepts continue to advance at pace, and that the British Government should therefore wholeheartedly support the 30-30-30-30 proposal, generated by our great friend General Mattis?
I can certainly give my right hon. Friend the assurance that we do support the four-30s approach that has been adopted by NATO. We will ensure that we are able to contribute to it as appropriate. He is also right that, as NATO looks at the threats that we face, it needs to modernise and reform itself and consider the capabilities that it needs for the future.
NATO has been the bedrock of our security since the second world war and a vital commitment to collective security, but at times during the summer President Trump’s behaviour was disruptive and undermining. Can the Prime Minister assure this House that she took action to impress on him that that is not acceptable in those circumstances?
What I have impressed on President Trump on a number of occasions now, starting with the very first visit that I made to the United States following his inauguration, was the importance of NATO and the importance of that transatlantic unity. That was a message that came through loud and clear at the summit.
We welcome the Prime Minister’s recommitment to the principle of NATO being the cornerstone of Europe’s defence policy, and she is absolutely right to talk about a close relationship with our current EU partners post Brexit, but will she exclude dedicating any Ministry of Defence resources or British taxpayers’ money to advancing the cause of a European army?
I think my right hon. Friend knows full well the views that the UK Government have taken for some time now on the concept of an EU army—a European army. There have been developments around the European Union table, and there continue to be, in the defence field. We have been very clear that those must be complementary to NATO and that is a view that is accepted.
Does the Prime Minister agree that peace and prosperity since the last world war have been secured by the United Nations, by NATO and by the European Union? Does she agree that she now has a real opportunity to be the real leader, reminding all our European allies that she has this responsibility?
The hon. Gentleman is right that we have a number of multinational organisations. As I said in my response to earlier questions, NATO has been the bedrock of European security. The unity of NATO and that continued transatlantic unity is important not just for Europe, but for the United States and the wider world, and we will continue to champion it.
Does the Prime Minister agree that any idea that Europe could defend itself conventionally against an aggressive Russia is a dangerous fantasy if the United States is not involved?
The United States obviously plays a very important role within the NATO alliance, but may I also remark—my right hon. Friend made the comment about defending conventionally against attacks from Russia—that, as we look at NATO for the future, we need to look not just at the conventional capabilities and the conventional threats. That is why I am proud that the United Kingdom was the first to put its offensive cyber-capability to the benefit of the alliance.
What assurances did President Trump give the Prime Minister that he would raise with President Putin the poisoning of the Skripals and the murder of Dawn Sturgess on British soil? It is unacceptable that Russia has put lives at risk, with poisonous substances being left to kill innocent people on the streets of our country. If President Trump is our ally, he will raise this. Will he?
The hon. Lady is absolutely right in the way that she describes the attack that took place in Salisbury and the use of a nerve agent on the streets of the United Kingdom. We know that an individual has died as a result of contact with Novichok. I did raise the severity of this issue with President Trump. The United States reacted alongside us after that attack. It expelled more Russian intelligence officers and more Russian diplomats than any other country. I raised this among other issues that I would expect President Trump to raise with President Putin.
Two per cent. must not be the measure. Rather, it should be the capability to deliver lethal effect, shouldn’t it?
My right hon. Friend makes an important point, which is that, while focus is often on the numerical figure for spending, capability is important as well. That is, of course, where the United Kingdom scores not just in terms of the spending that we make, but in ensuring that we have the capability necessary and that that is available.
I thank the Prime Minister for her statements so far. Was she successful in her attempts to secure additional funding for defence from other NATO countries—some of which consistently underfund their contributions to NATO—considering the war against terror that we, as NATO members, are supposedly fighting together?
Countries that do not meet the 2% target at the moment are stepping up and increasing their spending. They went away with a very real sense that this is not just a long-term plan, but that there is an urgency in them doing this.
Next year, more than 600 parliamentarians from across the NATO alliance will visit London. Does my right hon. Friend agree that this is a very important opportunity for Britain to show that we are absolutely a global nation, and that our commitment to the alliance moving forward is absolutely at the heart of what we believe?
My right hon. Friend makes a good and important point. He is absolutely right that this is an opportunity for us to show global Britain and to show our absolute commitment to NATO for the future.
Our NATO obligations are entwined with our other collective security arrangements. The Prime Minister has previously said:
“Thanks to the arrest warrant, more than 2,500 people wanted for crimes abroad are no longer roaming the streets of Britain…These include serious international criminals like murderers, paedophiles, human traffickers and terrorists.”
Can she tell us how she intends to defend us from these undesirables, as the White Paper does not commit to keeping us in the European arrest warrant system post Brexit?
Not altogether adjacent to the NATO summit.
“Parallel” says the hon. Lady optimistically from a sedentary position. We look to what might be called the geometrical dexterity of the Prime Minister to cope with the situation.
Although we did not discuss at the NATO summit the precise point that the hon. Lady raised, we did of course discuss our collective security. The hon. Lady can rest assured that in all our considerations on these matters we will be ensuring that we have the powers and tools necessary for our security.
NATO seems to enjoy spending large amounts of money on new headquarters. Its swanky new main HQs were opened last year, and I think that the Prime Minister announced that two further HQs will be opened. How can we persuade our NATO allies to spend less on HQs, and more on frontline troops and offensive cyber-capability?
Although I used the term headquarters, the point is that these are about personnel who will be situated and who will be able to ensure that the capabilities are where they need to be in relation to NATO. For example, they are looking at possibilities around various parts of Europe to do this, but this is not just about a building; it is crucially about NATO’s capabilities and ensuring that it has the capabilities in the right place.
We face not only chemical and cyber-attacks from Russia, but constant attempts to undermine our democratic and political processes. In the midst of last week, 12 Russian agents were indicted by the US Department of Justice for attempting to influence the US election. Can the Prime Minister say whether these matters were discussed at the NATO summit? Did she discuss them with President Trump or does she believe—like he said—that it was all part of a “rigged witch hunt” against Russia?
We have made very clear our concern at the way in which Russia has been seen in a number of countries to attempt to undermine the democratic processes in those countries. This matter was discussed not in specificity, but in the generality of the question of Russia’s interference and the malign state activity that is undertaken by Russia.
I welcome the NATO-Georgia commission declaration that was made following the summit, about the ongoing dialogue with Georgia. As Georgia has reaffirmed its determination to achieve NATO membership, does the Prime Minister know whether any progress was made on timetabling the delivery of the membership action plan to Georgia?
We did discuss the potential accession of Georgia. The President of Georgia was there and was able to update us on the moves that Georgia has been making. The issue raised by my right hon. Friend will be an important part of the process. I am happy to write to her on the specific issue that she raised regarding the date.
Trump looks more comfortable straddling the world stage next to Putin than he did beside the Prime Minister. How can she justify sabotaging our secure economic relationship with our friends in the EU and craving favours of a man who prides himself on shredding the rules-based order?
That is not a question that can be answered, for the precise reason that the basis of the question is entirely wrong.
With a looming and large predicted overspend on our defence budget, can my right hon. Friend assure me, the House and the country that she will maintain the NATO 2%—ideally 2.5%—which, as I understand it, will pay for the ongoing programme as laid out?
We are committed to maintaining the 2% of GDP spend on defence. Not just that, but we are one of the few countries that does the double-header, if you like, because the Wales summit committed not just to the 2% of GDP spend on defence but to 20% of that spending being on equipment, and we will continue to maintain that.
The post-war Labour Government played a pivotal role in the foundation of NATO because their Ministers understood the value and importance of collective security. As the Prime Minister said in her statement, article 5—its collective defence clause—has only ever been invoked once, in defence of the United States. Is she confident that the President of the United States is fully committed to article 5?
As I said earlier, what we had coming out of NATO was an absolute commitment to the unity and the collective action that is required in NATO. That was the unity around the table at the NATO summit, and it included President Trump and all the allies around the table.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is only right that we not only meet our NATO target but increase it in real terms, and that it is about time that all NATO members committed to the 2% target?
My hon. Friend asks about all NATO members committing to the 2% target. Of course, they have committed to reach the 2% target—the challenge is making sure that they actually get there. As I said earlier, there was a very real sense around the table that there is a growing urgency in meeting the 2% target. Obviously, NATO will be working, as we will be working with it, to encourage others to do just that and to ensure that they do so.
Is it not clear from President Trump’s interview with The Sun newspaper in the margins of the NATO summit that he envisages a trade deal with the UK only if we sacrifice our European alliances? May I urge the Prime Minister not to pander to President Trump’s view, or to the Trumpian view of the hard-Brexiteer European Research Group, which she always seems happy to roll over for whenever it makes any demands of her?
We are looking to do a trade deal with the United States of America. We will discuss that trade deal with the United States of America. We recognise that there are certain issues that will have to be addressed within that trade deal. Issues around agricultural products have been raised in this House before. There are issues about the single standards model as well. I am happy to sit down and listen to and hear concerns from my colleagues. We did that on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill and we continue to do it on other Bills.
What was my right hon. Friend’s reaction to the bold new security partnership with the European Union to which she referred, and to the possible cessation of the UK’s leadership of EU initiatives such as elements of the European Defence Agency, the Battlegroups, and Operation Atalanta?
We have so far had a constructive response to the proposals that we have put forward. Obviously, the specific sorts of operations and commitments that my hon. Friend mentions will need to be considered in the future as we look to see those areas where it does make sense for us to continue to be co-operating, and sometimes co-operating in a leading role.
Following from my husband’s service in the armed forces, I had the real privilege of visiting our RAF forces based with NATO in Romania this year. We heard at the time that cyber-security is absolutely crucial and key, so will the Prime Minister ensure that this is given adequate priority moving forward?
I am very happy to give that commitment to the hon. Lady. The President of Romania actually said to me during the summit how pleased they were with the work that the Royal Air Force has been doing there. We do recognise the importance of cyber capabilities, and that will be a clear focus for the future.
The Prime Minister needs to be far more robust on the issue of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is a genuine threat to our key NATO partners in eastern and central Europe. Is she willing to impose sanctions on companies involved in this project?
I made a response earlier in relation to Nord Stream II. There are, yes, considerable discussions that have to take place around the European Council table on this issue. A number of members of the European Union have concerns about this. It is a subject on which I think there will be those further discussions and appropriate action will be taken.
The American President seems to prefer unilateral action to multilateral action. He seems to want to be protectionist and inward-looking—to put America first, as he says—rather than to engage multilaterally. What implications does the Prime Minister think that approach has for the NATO alliance?
We sat around the table at NATO and, as I said, President Trump challenged those allies that are not meeting their 2% commitment. We agree—we have been raising that issue, and we continued to do so at the summit. Around the table, there was unity and recognition of the importance of transatlantic unity and of working through the NATO alliance.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that we should work with our allies in NATO to combat fake news and disinformation, especially after the incident in Salisbury?
That is very important. As I indicated in response to an Opposition Member, the whole question of attempts to interfere in democracy and of misinformation and propaganda was one of the elements we discussed at the summit, and it is one that we will ensure effort is put into.
The trouble is that Russian aggression continues unabated. Only last week, the Greek Government found that four Russian diplomats had been bribing officials in Greece to try to foment opposition to the deal with Macedonia—or North Macedonia. We wholeheartedly support that deal going forward. Do we not absolutely have to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Greek Government and consider further measures against the Russians—and for that matter, should we not stand alongside the Danish Government over Nord Stream 2?
I did indeed commend the Greek Prime Minister on the action that Greece has taken. As the hon. Gentleman says, we are very clear that we think an historic agreement has been reached between the Governments in Skopje and Athens. Obviously, processes need to be gone through in both countries. We hope those have a successful conclusion.
The UK is acknowledged to be at the forefront of defence modernisation. Is my right hon. Friend confident that other NATO members are ready to modernise, too?
We are certainly putting significant effort into modernisation, in recognising the need for new capabilities and the modernisation of NATO. I think it is fair to say that we are one of the countries at the forefront of that modernisation, but we are ensuring that other allies around the table recognise its importance and come along with it, too.
The Prime Minister rightly said that NATO and the EU are the dual cornerstones of our security. Why, then, does she keep dancing to the tune of the European Research Group? Does she see that by capitulating to its proposals on the customs and trade Bills, she is accepting that the Chequers deal is dead in the water?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely wrong in his reference to the agreement that was reached at Chequers. I would not have gone through all the work I did to ensure we reached that agreement only to see it changed in some way through these Bills. They do not change the Chequers agreement, and the Minister will make that clear from the Dispatch Box later today.
I do not wish to be unkind to the hon. Member for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock), but I think he is geographically more challenged than his hon. Friend the Member for Ealing Central and Acton (Dr Huq), who is sitting next to him.
The most visible sign of our commitment to NATO’s eastern partners is the deployment of our troops in the Baltic states. Were the Baltic states reassured at the summit that the United Kingdom and all other NATO countries view an attack on one as an attack on all?
I think the Baltic states have taken considerable reassurance from the approach of the allies around the NATO table. Obviously, we are very pleased to be playing a leading role in the enhanced forward presence in Estonia, which is an important commitment that we have going into the future. I know that not just the Estonians but the Lithuanians and the Latvians are very clear about the support that NATO is showing them.
Respecting Ukraine’s territorial integrity is about more than Crimea; we cannot forget about the illegally occupied east of Ukraine. Can the Prime Minister tell me what the support she talks of actually looks like and how it materialises on the ground in Ukraine? Exactly what is the Government’s policy on Nord Stream 2? Despite what she said, I cannot tell.
We have obviously been supporting the Ukrainian Government in a number of ways, one of which is in the reforms that we believe are necessary there, as well as supporting their capability to deal with what has happened in parts of the country. As I have said, we will continue to discuss Nord Stream 2 with allies.
My constituents voted overwhelmingly to leave the EU because they believe that, as a sovereign country, we can make our own policies in the world. Can the Prime Minister explain how we can have a security partnership with NATO in the EU after we have left the EU?
We will indeed be able to have that independent policy, but I think it is important, because of the capabilities that we share with European Union countries on various security issues, that in future we do have a partnership that enables us to maintain operational capability. Of course, the bedrock of European security is NATO. We are a leading country within NATO, and we will continue to be so.
On the margins of the NATO summit, what did the Prime Minister say to Donald Trump when he advised her to sue the European Union?
First, that comment was not actually made at the NATO summit. Secondly, the hon. Lady might have seen that we have not sued the European Union; what we are doing is going into negotiations.
The Prime Minister has spoken about the impressive advances in cyber-capability being made across the alliance. How is thinking developing over how the principles of collective security enshrined in article 5 would be applied in the event of a cyber-attack, because I know that work on that has been ongoing within NATO for some time?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise this issue. It is fair to say that we have been pressing for reform of NATO for some time, as has the United States, recognising these issues. NATO does recognise the issue and it is still working on that question. It is important that we have made our offensive cyber-capabilities available to the alliance. One or two other countries are now doing that as well, and I look forward to seeing others do the same.
The Brussels declaration highlighted how arms control should
“continue to make an essential contribution to achieving the Alliance’s security objectives”.
Can the Prime Minister confirm what steps the Government are taking on that, particularly with regard to small arms, which can be so devastating?
We have one of the most robust and rigorous arms export regimes in the world. The hon. Gentleman mentions small arms, and some work on that is being led by the French. It is something that we have looked at previously, to try to ensure that firearms are not transported for criminal purposes, particularly across Europe. We continue to work on that.
I am very pleased to hear that the Prime Minister has agreed that we will be improving the readiness of our forces through the NATO readiness initiative. Does she agree that the Royal Marines, such as 40 Commando in my constituency, exemplify the essential expertise and modern approach that we can offer?
I am very happy to commend the Royal Marines based in my hon. Friend’s constituency. They do indeed provide that great example of readiness, as do other armed forces here in the United Kingdom, and I am pleased that we are able to contribute to the NATO readiness initiative.
About these issues, the Prime Minister has said that
“we must engage from a position of unity and strength.”
Who does she think has done most to put that unity at risk: Donald Trump, who calls our friends foes, or the hard Brexiteers who have now left her Cabinet? Who, when it comes to British diplomacy, has taken incompetence to new heights?
Around the NATO table we are all working together to ensure the security of Europe, and indeed the wider security, because the security of Europe has an impact beyond its borders. Indeed, NATO is working beyond the borders of Europe, as we see with the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan. I am pleased that, as we recently announced, we are not only continuing to contribute to that mission, but enhancing our contribution.
My right hon. Friend rightly said today that we face a profound challenge to the entire rules-based international order. Does she agree that, in deploying troops to the Baltic to support our allies there and in Scandinavia, we are defending that rules-based order and not, in the words of the Leader of the Opposition, simply escalating tensions?
I absolutely agree. It is important that we show that commitment to the Baltic states, and that we also show that commitment with, for example, the Joint Expeditionary Force that we have recently established with some of the Nordic countries. Those are important symbols of our defence of the values that we share in Europe.
Does the Prime Minister accept that without the tough words from President Trump before and during the NATO summit, many of those who have been freeloading on the US and the UK would not have made the 2% commitment to defence spending? More importantly, what monitoring will there be to ensure that they honour those promises?
Of course, they made the commitment in Wales. The question is meeting it, and I think that the President’s intervention has made a difference, and that NATO itself will ensure that it monitors that commitment and looks at the timetables to which those allies will work to meet it.
Does the Prime Minister support Nord Stream 2?
As I have said, we recognise that there are real concerns about Nord Stream 2. There are concerns about its impact on Ukraine, and we will discuss the matter further with our allies.
The fact remains that President Trump is a NATO-sceptic, who really responds only to individual strongmen around the world. Does the Prime Minister agree that NATO’s strength is many countries coming together and putting their collective security in the single organisation of NATO? Did she explain to Donald Trump where that strength comes from?
It was very clear around the NATO summit table—it was a point that I and others made—that our unity and collective strength have made NATO the bedrock of European security over the years.
A strong Royal Navy is vital to countering Russian aggression in the north Atlantic and on our northern flank. What discussions did the Prime Minister have at the NATO summit about preserving our amphibious capabilities as part of that NATO effort, especially protecting HMS Albion, HMS Bulwark and the Royal Marines?
Obviously, discussions take place about our particular capabilities and how we ensure that we protect them. We have made a significant commitment to our Royal Navy in terms of the equipment that we are providing. The fact that we have two new aircraft carriers and the new frigates that will come forward shows that we have made a very real commitment to our Royal Navy for the future.
The splendid formations of Typhoons and Tornadoes flying over London last week surely exemplify the fruits of previous co-operation with European countries. The Prime Minister used the interesting phrase, “where it is right to do so in the future”. Does that mean that it is conceivable that there might not be such co-operation in future?
We have said that we will have an independent foreign and defence policy, and that there will be occasions when we co-operate with the European Union on those matters, just as there are occasions when we co-operate on a bilateral basis with individual countries in Europe, for example, the very good co-operation that we have with France on defence matters, and the co-operation that we now have with some of the Nordic states on the Joint Expeditionary Force. We will ensure that we do what is in our national interests and the interests of maintaining European security.
The Prime Minister helpfully outlined just how disregarding Russia is of international rules and order, but having engaged with our NATO allies, does she believe that military confrontation with Russia is more likely, less likely or the same?
We have seen that malign state activity from Russia across a whole range of activities and capabilities. What is important for us sitting around that table and in NATO is ensuring that we have the capabilities to deal with that threat in whatever form it comes.