Before I turn to the European Council, I am sure the whole House will join me in sending our very best wishes to the former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott. All our thoughts are with him and his family at this time, and we wish him a full and speedy recovery.
Last week’s European Council focused on climate change, disinformation and hybrid threats, external relations and what are known as the EU’s top jobs. The UK has always been clear that we will participate fully and constructively in all EU discussions for as long as we are a member state, and that we will seek to continue our co-operation on issues of mutual interest through our future relationship after we have left. That was the spirit in which I approached this Council.
Earlier this month the UK became the first major economy in the world to commit to ending its contribution to global warming by 2050, and I am pleased that the regulations to amend the Climate Change Act 2008, which are being debated in this Chamber later today, have received widespread support from across this House. Ultimately, we will protect our planet only if we are able to forge the widest possible global agreements: that means other countries need to follow our lead and increase their ambitions as well.
At this Council the UK helped to lead the way in advocating for our European partners to follow suit in committing to a net zero target by 2050. While a full EU-wide consensus was not reached, “a large majority” of member states did agree that
“climate neutrality must be achieved by 2050”,
and I hope we can build on this in the months ahead.
In the margins of the Council I met Prime Minister Conte and discussed the UK’s bid to host next year’s UN climate summit, COP 26, in partnership with Italy. This will continue to put the UK at the heart of driving global efforts to tackle the climate emergency and leave a better world for our children.
Turning to disinformation and hybrid threats, we agreed to continue working together to raise awareness, increase our preparedness, and strengthen the resilience of our democracies. I welcome the development of a new framework for targeted sanctions to respond to hybrid threats. This sends a clear message that the UK and its EU partners are willing and able to impose a cost for irresponsible behaviour in cyber-space.
We must make more progress in helping to ensure that the internet is a safe place for all our citizens. That is why we are legislating in the UK to create a legal duty of care on internet companies to keep users safe from harm, and this will be backed up by an independent regulator with the power to enforce its decisions. We are the first country to put forward such a comprehensive approach, but it is not enough to act alone, so, building on the Christchurch Call to Action summit, the UK will continue to help to drive the broadest possible global action against online harms, including at the G20 in Japan later this week.
In the discussion on external relations, the Council expressed its concern over Russia’s issuing of passports in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and reiterated its call for Russia to release the Ukrainian sailors and vessels captured in the Kerch strait in November last year.
Russia has consistently failed to deliver its commitments under the Minsk agreements and continues its destabilising activity, so with the UK’s full support the Council agreed a six-month roll-over of tier 3 sanctions, which include restrictions on Russia’s access to EU capital markets, an arms embargo and restricting co-operation with Russia’s energy sector.
In marking the fifth anniversary of the downing of flight MH17, we welcomed the announcement from the Netherlands that criminal charges were being brought against four individuals, and offered our continued support in bringing those responsible to justice.
The Council expressed serious concerns over Turkey’s drilling activities in the eastern Mediterranean, and the UK has made it clear to Turkey that drilling in that area must stop. Our priority must be to see the situation de-escalated.
In the margins of the Council, I raised the issue of Iran. We call on Iran urgently to de-escalate tensions, and our priority remains finding a diplomatic solution to the current situation in the region.
A substantial part of the Council focused on what are known as the EU’s top jobs—the appointments of the next presidents of the EU’s institutions and of the EU’s High Representative. This is of course primarily a matter for the 27 remaining EU member states, and I have been clear that the UK will engage constructively and will not stand in the way of a consensus among the other member states, but it is also in our national interests that those appointed are constructive partners for the UK as well as successful leaders of the EU’s institutions.
The UK supports President Tusk’s approach to create a package of candidates across the top jobs that reflects the diversity of the European Union. As there was no consensus on candidates at the meeting, the Council agreed to meet again after the G20 this coming Sunday, as well as holding further discussions with the European Parliament. I had originally anticipated that this would be my final European Council as Prime Minister, but I will in fact have one more.
Finally, President Tusk and President Juncker updated the remaining 27 member states on Brexit. This scheduled update was part of the agreement I reached in April to extend the article 50 deadline for our departure from the EU to 31 October. The Council repeated its desire to avoid a disorderly Brexit and committed to work constructively with my successor as Prime Minister. I commend this statement to the House.
Mr Speaker, I understand that it is 10 years this week since you assumed the Chair of the House. May I just say congratulations on the first 10 years and thank you for being such a popular Speaker and for taking the role of Parliament out to the public in a meaningful way, particularly to schools and colleges all over the country? That has made a big difference.
I thank the Prime Minister for her kind words about John Prescott. We all obviously wish John all the very best. I cannot wait to see him return to full activity and to hear that voice booming out of loudspeakers all over the country exciting people in the cause of Labour, which is what John does so well.
I thank the Prime Minister for giving me an advance copy of her statement.
Last week, we came within minutes of the USA launching a military attack on Iran. Britain and other European nations must play a role in defusing, not raising, tensions, and that needs to start with the restoration of support for the Iran nuclear deal.
We note that there will be continuing EU-Morocco trade discussions. I hope that the United Kingdom Government will recognise that there is an ongoing territorial dispute over the Western Sahara and that those issues will be borne in mind during the negotiations.
I echo the European Union’s call on Turkey to cease its illegal drilling in the eastern Mediterranean; I welcome what the EU Council said on that.
I also welcome the EU Council’s discussion of climate change, which emphasises how important it is to continue to work with progressive forces to tackle the climate emergency, which this House declared on 1 May. I welcome the EU’s continued commitment to the Paris climate agreement and to deliver a practical plan of action to meet its obligations, and I also welcome the fact that COP 26 will be jointly hosted by Britain and Italy, with some events being held in London.
Yesterday marked three years since the EU referendum —three wasted years in which the Government’s deal has been rejected three times. We have endured three separate Brexit Secretaries, and we will soon have our third post-Brexit Prime Minister. It has been three years of chaos, in-fighting and incompetence. For too long, the Prime Minister allowed herself to be held to ransom by the wilder extremes in her party, instead of trying to find a sensible majority across this House—[Interruption.] Some of the wilder extremes have absented themselves today, but they are no doubt making their views known elsewhere. By the time the Prime Minister finally did reach out, it was a bit too late, and she was unable to deliver meaningful compromise or change.
Does the Prime Minister now regret that she continued to legitimise the idea of no deal instead of warning of its disastrous implications? The two Tory leadership candidates still say that if they cannot renegotiate the backstop, which EU leaders last week said was not possible, they would pursue a no-deal exit. Will the Prime Minister tell us whether she believes that no deal should be on the table as a viable option? What would be worse: crashing out with no deal in October, or putting this issue back to the people for a final say? Given the—[Interruption.] Mr Speaker, it is normal for the Leader of the Opposition to ask questions of the Prime Minister, and that is exactly what I am doing.
Given the shambolic no-deal preparations so far, which were paused in the spring, will the Prime Minister confirm that the Government will not be ready to crash out in October? Neither of the Tory leadership candidates has a credible plan. One even claims that we can crash out on WTO terms and still trade without tariffs, which is interesting. The Governor of the Bank of England was clear when he said:
“Not having an agreement with the EU means that there are tariffs automatically because the Europeans have to apply the same rules to us as they apply to everyone else”.
Will the Prime Minister confirm whether the Bank of England Governor is correct on no deal? The former Foreign Secretary also told us that under his no deal plan he could
“solve the problem of free movement of goods in the context of the Free Trade Agreement… that we’ll negotiate in the implementation period.”
Will the Prime Minister confirm that there will be no implementation period if there is no deal?
It is deeply worrying that those who seek to lead this country have no grip on reality. The Prime Minister said that the Council reiterated its wish to avoid a “disorderly Brexit”, but I am unsure whether it will have been reassured by the statements of her potential successors.
Labour put forward a plan that could bring this country back together, but the Prime Minister refused to compromise. Whoever the next Prime Minister is, they will barely hold the support of this House, so they will certainly have no mandate to force a disastrous hard-right Brexit on this country. I want to make it clear that Labour will work across the House to block no deal. Whatever plan the new Tory leader comes up with, after three long years of failure they should have the confidence to go back to the people to let them decide the future of this country.
It is absolutely right that we recognise the 10th anniversary of your election to the Chair, Mr Speaker. It does not seem like 10 years at all.
May I correct the Leader of the Opposition? [Interruption.] Yes, surely. The Leader of the Opposition says he thinks that reality and facts are important. He said that COP 26 is coming to the UK, jointly with Italy. In fact, we are making a joint bid with Italy. Others are bidding for COP 26, so we are still working hard and I encouraged those around the European Council table to support our bid.
And we support it.
I am grateful to the Leader of the Opposition for saying that the Labour party and the Opposition support the bid, which I think is supported on both sides of the House.
The European Council meeting I attended did not discuss Brexit, no deal or the views of the candidates in the Conservative party’s leadership election, on which the Leader of the Opposition focused the majority of his comments and questions. I am supposed to be talking about what happened at the European Council. Nevertheless I am in a generous mood, so I will respond to a small number of his points.
The Leader of the Opposition talked about the talks on trying to find a compromise and a majority across the House, and we did, indeed, enter those talks. I think both sides entered the talks in a constructive spirit, and I remind him that it was he who actually terminated the talks.
The Leader of the Opposition talked about the position in relation to a no deal, which is, legally, the default option that remains on the table for 31 October if a deal is not agreed. The Government are rightly continuing their preparations for a no deal. He asked about my view on a no deal. I wanted to leave the European Union on 29 March with a deal. If he and his colleagues had voted with the Government, we would already be out.
I remind the Leader of the Opposition that I have done everything to avoid a no-deal Brexit by voting for a deal three times in the past year. He has done everything to increase the chance of a no deal by voting against a deal every time.
“Rejecting any Brexit…deal risks the worst outcome—a No Deal Brexit.”
Those are not my words but the words of his own Labour Members of Parliament.
Finally, the Leader of the Opposition talked about Conservative Members being divorced from reality. I have to say that the person in this House who is divorced from reality is the Leader of the Opposition, who thinks the economic model that we should be following is Venezuela.
My right hon. Friend will be aware there is an accelerated regulation relating to the question of payments into the EU budget. The Government have the power to veto the proposals. I received a letter from the Chancellor today, in reply to my urgent letter to him last week. Will this matter, in fact, be decided on 25 June, as originally proposed? Will the Government exercise their veto, and not merely abstain?
Yes, I understand the matter will be considered on 25 June. It is the Government’s intention to abstain. This does not bind us, and I remind my hon. Friend that the measure could be taken by the European Union at any stage in the future.
May I add my congratulations on the 10th anniversary in the Chair, Mr Speaker? I gather that many are asking for 10 more years. Whatever it is, let us hope that you are with us for a considerable period to come.
I thank the Prime Minister for advance sight of her statement and for her update. Of course we support the efforts to bring COP 26 to the UK. It is important that the EU summit extensively discussed climate change—the biggest challenge we all face.
The Prime Minister mentioned that she raised the issue of Iran in the margins of the Council meeting. I am somewhat surprised it was not a major issue for debate at the Council meeting. We know that the situation in Iran is challenging to say the least. Diplomacy must prevail. I have just come from meeting with Richard Ratcliffe, who has spent over a week outside the Iranian embassy, now on hunger strike in protest against the wrongful imprisonment of his wife, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, in Iran, where she is serving a five-year sentence for espionage. Mr Ratcliffe has welcomed the fact that Iran and the UK are talking and has called for a swift solution, stating:
“We are obviously looking for a quick resolution and that’s why she went on hunger strike. It was to say enough’s enough.”
Surely enough is enough. So may I ask the Prime Minister to consider the plight of our citizens and to move to make representations, in the time that she has left, to assist the Ratcliffes in their campaign for freedom and justice?
The Prime Minister will also have seen the Foreign Secretary’s comments this morning on the possibility of military action. We must reduce tensions in the middle east. We will work constructively with her Government in supporting diplomatic efforts, but does she agree with Opposition Members that talk of military action at this stage in the diplomatic efforts is simply reckless?
It is also important to recognise that the statement from the Prime Minister was notably light on the details of the UK’s exit from the European Union. One would have thought that, at least in the margins, that would have been the topic of some debate. Let us remind ourselves of what President Tusk said, which was that we were to use the time wisely. The Prime Minister and both candidates to be her successor have all long promised that the withdrawal agreement can be renegotiated, yet just last week President Juncker said that the EU has repeated unanimously that there will be no renegotiation of the withdrawal agreement. Donald Tusk said the withdrawal agreement is “not open for renegotiation.” Will the Prime Minister take this opportunity today to clarify, for the benefit of her Back Bencher the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) that the implementation period is indeed part of the withdrawal agreement? Does the Prime Minister agree with the comments of EU leaders that the withdrawal deal is not up for renegotiation? Will she confirm today that she will not vote for a Tory leadership candidate supporting a no-deal exit on 31 October? Will the Government not finally accept the reality and support a people’s vote? Prime Minister, this is your legacy, your last few days in power: use them to stop the hard Brexiteers in your party who have pushed you out and who want to push us out of the European Union at any cost.
First, on the detention of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, obviously, our thoughts remain with her and her family, and she has faced unacceptable treatment during her three years in jail. Our position is very clear: she was on holiday, visiting her relations. The right hon. Gentleman asks me to raise the issue, and I have raised it on a number of occasions directly with President Rouhani. The Foreign Secretary has continued to raise it with Iranian Ministers as well, and of course it was raised when my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Middle East was in Tehran over the weekend. It was possible to engage on this issue of those of our citizens who are detained. As I am sure the right hon. Gentleman knows, one of the issues here is the fact that the Iranian Government do not recognise dual nationality, and that is one of the issues behind this question of the detention of British citizens.
As regards the wider issues, at a time of increased regional tension and a crucial period for the future of the nuclear deal, it was right that my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Middle East was able to further engage with the Government of Iran about the UK’s long-held concerns over Iran’s destabilising activity and the danger it poses to the region. He was able to reiterate our assessment that Iran almost certainly bears responsibility for recent attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman and that such activity needs to stop, to allow the immediate de-escalation of these rising tensions. He was also clear that the UK will continue to play its full part, alongside international partners, to find diplomatic solutions to reduce the current tensions.
The right hon. Gentleman then went on to discuss the issue of no deal and these various points. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster pointed out yesterday that the implementation period is set out in part 4 of the withdrawal agreement. If we leave without a deal, there is no withdrawal agreement and therefore no implementation period. But the right hon. Gentleman again invited me to take no deal off the table and to do things to stop no deal. I am afraid that I will repeat to him what I have said to him on many occasions standing at this Dispatch Box, which is simply that he had three opportunities to take no deal off the table and he rejected every single one of them.
Given the welcome, strong statements by the European Council about Russia’s behaviour, does the Prime Minister share my concern about Russia’s possible readmission to full voting membership of the Council of Europe? Does she agree that it sends entirely the wrong message, coming just days after the filing of charges against Russian military officers for the downing of MH17, and when Russia remains in illegal occupation of Crimea?
My right hon. Friend has spoken up on the illegal annexation of Crimea on a number of occasions. We do not and will never recognise Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea. As my right hon. Friend will be aware, there has been this difference in Russia’s position in the Council of Europe. Russia has not been paying its contributions to the Council of Europe, but its membership of that body is one of the few ways available to the international community to hold Russia to account for its human rights violations.
With one of the Prime Minister’s potential successors having likened the European Union to the Soviet Union and the other having likened it to Nazi Germany, did she pick up any sense among European leaders that they will reciprocate the warmth and good will emanating from her party by making any modification to the Brexit terms that she negotiated over such a long period?
I found from those sitting around the table that they look forward to working with my successor to ensure that we can find a resolution and that we in the United Kingdom are able to deliver on the vote of the British people.
As we approach the 10th anniversary of the Anglo-French Lancaster House agreements, does the Prime Minister agree that the warmth and closeness of the military relationship between France and the United Kingdom is exemplified by the six-monthly meetings held between the Defence Committees of both Houses in both countries and by the joint inquiries carried out by the Defence Committees of this House and of the National Assembly, which signify a closeness that is as great as it has been at any time in the post-war period?
I commend my right hon. Friend for the Defence Committee’s work with its counterpart in the National Assembly. We do indeed have good relations with France. Last year, I was pleased to host a summit with President Macron in which a number of further agreements were entered into, particularly in respect of continuing that close relationship on defence matters.
On the Council conclusions on climate change, does the Prime Minister agree that all EU member states need to show leadership and sign up to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, as we all hope the House will do later when we vote on the motion? If she does agree, what assessment has she made from the discussions she had at the European Council of the chances of persuading the four member states that currently refuse to do so to change their minds before COP 26 next year?
The right hon. Gentleman is right, and I want all EU member states to sign up to net zero by 2050. There was indeed a small number of member states that did not feel able to sign up to it at this stage; some of them want to look further into the implications and work through it before they sign up to the 2050 target. I will continue to encourage all member states to sign up to the 2050 target. It is absolutely right that we have led the way, but we need everybody to play their part.
The Prime Minister will know that last week the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union wrote to Michel Barnier asking that the EU accede to Britain’s request to deal with citizens’ rights outside the yet-to-be-agreed withdrawal agreement—something the EU has so far refused to do. In the margins of the summit, did Michel Barnier give the Prime Minister a nice last-but-one going away present from the Council in the form of a positive response to that request?
Michel Barnier was not present at the meeting of the EU Council at 28. On citizens’ rights, there is a question about the legal situation. If the EU is to act collectively, it is my understanding that that has to be done on an article 50 legal basis. If it is not done on an article 50 basis—in other words, if there is no withdrawal agreement and no deal—then it is up to individual member states. We have been encouraging individual member states to reciprocate the generous offer that has been made by the United Kingdom.
Further to the question asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), may I press the Prime Minister a bit further on the discussions about climate change? What discussions did she have, or can she report back to us, about the need to move to a consumer principle, whereby we do not simply reach net zero by exporting all our carbon emissions—just by importing more manufactured goods and agricultural goods? What discussions did she have on that principle?
I hope that I can reassure the hon. Lady that that issue was indeed one that was touched on in the discussions that were held around the EU Council table. There was a recognition that this issue has to be addressed across the world. Yes, it is right that the UK has led and that we want Europe to lead, but we want this to be something that is adopted widely across the globe, because that is the only way to ensure that we deal with these greenhouse gas emissions.
What are the prospects of Mr Barnier getting one of the top jobs?
I am not going to comment on individual potential candidates. A number of names are being mentioned around the European Union at the moment. As I have said, there was no consensus on candidates for the top jobs at the meeting last week. A further meeting will be held at the end of this week.
Both as Home Secretary and as Prime Minister, the right hon. Lady has been extremely assiduous about coming to this House and addressing this House. In fact, she has probably spent more hours here than she has wanted to or than any other Prime Minister has in many years. She addressed the House within a week of becoming Prime Minister. Will she ensure that her successor addresses this House within a week of becoming Prime Minister, because it would surely be a disgrace for 41 days to pass before they did so?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for the comments that he made about me. The question that he has asked is actually not a matter for me; it will be a matter for the incoming Prime Minister and for this House.
Prime Minister, will you miss going to the European Council meetings?
Let us just say that I thought that I would have more time available than is proving to be the case because of the extra Council meetings that I am having to attend.
When article 50 was extended by the EU until 31 October, President Donald Tusk urged the UK not to waste this time. Did the Prime Minister or anybody on the EU Council offer any view on whether this advice was being heeded? Can she tell us what obstacles she faced as she tried to secure a Brexit that her successor will not?
First, as I have indicated in response to a number of questions, Brexit was not the subject of the meeting of the EU Council at 28. We discussed various other issues that are of importance for the future not only of individual member states and of Europe, but, in terms of climate change, of the whole world. As I have always said, the issue remains the same. It is still in the best interests of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union with a deal. A deal has been negotiated, but that has been rejected by this House.
When it comes to protecting the environment, the UK has long used its relationship with its European neighbours to help leverage and magnify our call for action on the wider stage, so may I congratulate my right hon. Friend on making sure that we are the first country to legislate—or the first major economy to legislate—for net zero and that the vast majority of EU countries will follow suit? Would she care to name and shame those who are not quite there yet?
My hon. Friend is tempting me to do that. There is a reason why the EU Council conclusions did not identify those member states who do not feel able to sign up to net zero for 2050 at this stage. I fully expect, as I indicated in response to the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), that those member states, in doing further work on this issue, will be able to accept the 2050 date and that we will be able to have a collective European Union approach on this matter.
Colleagues on the Labour Benches voted against the Prime Minister’s initial attempts to get a deal through because it was essentially a blind Brexit, with very little detail on the future relationship. However, the withdrawal agreement Bill tabled just prior to the European elections was actually full of major concessions to Labour’s positions and of compromises—workers’ rights, environmental issues, customs and even a commitment to a referendum vote in Committee. Does she agree that her successor should re-table that withdrawal agreement Bill? Does she share my hope that, if he does, colleagues on the Labour Benches will vote for it?
I had hoped that colleagues across the Benches in this House would be able to vote for the deal and that it would have been possible to put that withdrawal agreement Bill to a positive vote. But I hope that the hon. Gentleman will have seen from the details that I and this Government stand by our word. When we said that we would adopt certain compromises that had been put to us by the Opposition, we actually stood by that.
I turn to the issue of internet security, which was brought up at the Council. Does the Prime Minister agree that, yes, we want the UK to be the best place in the world to run an internet-based business—there is a high number of successful such businesses in North Devon—but also that it needs to be the safest place for people, especially young people, to go online?
I absolutely agree. It is important that we make this the safest place for people to go online, and as my hon. Friend said, it is particularly of significance that young people should be able to feel safe online. We also want to continue to be one of the best places in the world to set up an internet business. A couple of weeks ago, during London Tech Week, I was pleased to sit around the table with a number of companies that have been set up here in the UK, doing extremely well in this area. They all accept, too, the importance of safety for those using the internet.
Aid to the Church in Need raised more than €100 million in 2018 to help support persecuted Christians. Can the Prime Minister outline what support the EU Council is giving, and doing, to support persecuted Christians, especially those in Syria? Will the Prime Minister be prepared to ask for more help, support and focus for this needy group of people?
Of course, for persecuted Christians and others who are persecuted in countries such as Syria, it is important that there is a proper political solution to what is happening that enables people to carry on practising their faith without the threat of persecution. I am very pleased that my noble Friend Lord Ahmad, the Minister for freedom of religion and belief, is doing excellent work around the world in ensuring that we are putting the message about the importance of people being able to practise their faith without fear of persecution.
The Prime Minister is absolutely right to point out the continued malign influence that is Russia. Did she manage to impress on her EU counterparts the need to reduce their dependence on Russian oil and gas?
This issue has been raised on a number of occasions in debates in the European Union. I assure my hon. Friend that member states sitting around the table are fully apprised of the matter and considering their position.
Does the Prime Minister believe that, to engage constructively with the European Union, our new Prime Minister must set out before the summer recess, here in Parliament, his approach to Brexit, so that we and the European Union can establish whether it commands the confidence of the House?
That will be a matter for the incoming Prime Minister.
Further to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake), in the context of the discussions about Russian behaviour and the security of Europe, did my right hon. Friend specifically bring up the subject of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which would inevitably make Germany and Europe dependent on cheap Russian gas and susceptible to Russian influence? That would be a terrible strategic mistake.
Nord Stream 2 was not raised at this Council meeting, but it has been raised at previous Council meetings. The aspect that my hon. Friend refers to has obviously been raised, but there is also the impact that Nord Stream 2 would have on income for Ukraine as a result of diverting oil and gas from going through Ukraine. This is a matter that all those sitting around the table are fully apprised of and considering.
The Prime Minister knows that we live in an uncertain and dangerous world at the moment, with China and Russia, and threats from Iran. She has reported on the attitude of the European Commission on both those issues. How does she see British influence continuing in working with our European partners in future?
I think that what we see from some of the ways that we are already working with our European partners will be the future ways. For example, on Iran, we work very much, as an E3, with France and Germany. There are other issues on which we are also working with France and Germany, and obviously others across the world. We do not just work with the Europe Union on these matters. We work with individual member states when it is in the interests of the UK and those member states for us to do so, and that is what we will continue to do.
I thank my right hon. Friend for all the work that she does on the European Council, and will continue to do. I notice that there was a lot of discussion on a few very well-paid top jobs. Was there discussion on the millions of people who are without work throughout the European Union—and, indeed, further afield in the near neighbourhood in north Africa and sub-Saharan Africa—and what can be done to tackle this rather more urgent and important problem than a few jobs in Brussels?
My hon. Friend raises an issue on which he has long been a campaigner. It is the case that one of the conclusions from the European Council meeting was that we underline the crucial importance of the strategic partnership with Africa and the need for us to work together. We recognise the importance of working particularly in Africa—as we, the UK, have indicated that we will do as an individual country—to ensure that we are providing the support that enables the economies of Africa to provide jobs for the many millions of young people coming on to that jobs market.
Anybody listening to the Prime Minister’s statement will be struck by the importance of the issues raised at the Council, and also by the loss that we will have as a nation by not having a seat around the table in future. In her reply to the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), she said that it is a matter for her successor whether he takes up to seven weeks before he comes to this House. Is it not the case that the Government could reset the recess dates that are on today’s Order Paper to make sure this House has an opportunity to question her successor on his policies, which have a huge bearing on the issues in her statement?
The hon. Lady will have an opportunity to consider this matter in the debate on the motion on the recess dates that is coming before the House later today.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s comments about the positive reception at the European Council for Britain’s leadership on vital issues such as online harms, internet regulation and, of course, climate change. What mechanisms and institutions can be leveraged by the UK to continue to show this international leadership once we leave the European Union?
There are a number of mechanisms that we can use on the two specific issues my hon. Friend has raised—and on climate change, of course. Hopefully, if we are able to win the bid to host COP 26, that will be an important signal. We want to address this issue globally, not just with the European Union. On internet harms, the UK led the way in, for example, setting up the global forum against terrorist and extremist material on the internet. The UK will continue to play its role in encouraging our European partners, but others around the world as well, on those and other important issues.
I wish you a very happy first decade, Mr Speaker.
The Prime Minister confirmed to the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) that in the event of no deal, the UK will not oppose a further £2 billion contribution in November/December as we approach a further payment for the divorce bill. Will she further confirm that convergence funding for Wales will immediately stop in the event of no deal? At a time when we are seeing Ford leaving Bridgend, Airbus leaving Wales and Tata in the balance, is it not time we recognised that the workers in these plants who voted to leave, in good faith for more prosperity, did not vote to leave their jobs and should be given the final say on whether we go ahead with the madness of Brexit or are given the opportunity to remain in the EU?
In my response to my hon. Friend the Member for Stone, I pointed out that in a specific vote that is taking place on an EU response to these budgetary matters, we will be abstaining. On the wider issue, if the hon. Gentleman is concerned about the impact that no deal would have on jobs in his constituency and more widely, I simply say to him that he had the opportunity to ensure that we left with a deal by voting for the deal. Parliament rejected that deal, and I believe he voted against it.
It seems overwhelmingly likely that Russia will seek to obstruct the extradition of the Russian nationals suspected by the Dutch authorities of involvement with the downing of MH17, just as Russia obstructed the extradition of nationals suspected of involvement in the killing of Alexander Litvinenko and the Novichok poisonings. What more can be done, as a European community of nations, to ensure that Russia abides by its international obligations and brings suspects to justice?
My hon. Friend will know that, in terms of the activities of Russia across a range of issues, the European Union has used the tools at its disposal. I referred in my statement to the sanctions in relation to Russian activity, particularly in Ukraine, but it is the case—he is right—that Russia does not permit the extradition of Russian citizens who are suspected of crimes in other jurisdictions. We all across the world should recognise the importance of ensuring that those responsible for crimes can be brought to justice. I urge a change of opinion, but I suspect that Russia will continue to wish not to extradite its citizens, which means that those who have been the victims of crimes such as the use of Novichok on the streets of Salisbury, the murder of Alexander Litvinenko and the downing of MH17 do not find the justice that they deserve.
The Prime Minister has set an ambitious climate target for this country of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, but it will only be successful if there is strong co-operation across the European single market. To that end, did the Prime Minister have discussions with her counterparts in Europe at the European Council about the possibility of setting an external tariff to the common market area which reflects the carbon intensity of imports to the European Union?
There was no such discussion.
I thank the Prime Minister for prior sight of her statement. I think the whole House would welcome any progress on climate change. On Wednesday, I am hosting a Welsh lobby in Committee Room 10 as part of the wider “The Time is Now” lobby on that day. Will the Prime Minister welcome the young people from Wales who will be taking part on Wednesday, and in particular those who marched through the city of Bangor recently—young people who have so effectively put climate change at the heart of the political debate?
I am happy to welcome the young people who will be coming to the event the hon. Gentleman is holding here in the House on Wednesday. This is an important issue. It is one that young people have taken up and championed with vigour and energy, and it is right that we respond to their concerns.
The Prime Minister mentioned raising Iran and the middle east “in the margins” of the Council. The Foreign Secretary will be partly distracted by other matters. Will she acquaint herself with the details of the case of my constituent, Luke Symons, who is currently being held captive by the Houthis in Sana’a in Yemen, to see whether she can use her influence in her remaining time in office to secure his release and allow him and his family to travel back to the United Kingdom?
I will ensure that I am able to look at the specific case that the hon. Gentleman has raised.
The European Parliament is investigating concerns that more than 1 million citizens of other EU countries who live in the UK may have been wrongly prevented from voting in the recent European parliamentary elections. What discussions has the Prime Minister had about those concerns, either at the Council or elsewhere?
This is not an issue that has been raised by other member states directly with me, and it was not raised at this EU Council meeting.
I appreciate that the Prime Minister will not want to wade into the battle for her succession, but given that she has spent more time talking to other EU leaders and, I suspect, Members of Parliament than anyone else, she knows what the challenges are in this place, and the boundaries and parameters around the negotiating table. What does she expect our country may reasonably be able to negotiate by 31 October that has not already been achieved by her and her negotiating team?
The hon. Gentleman is trying to tempt me to step into an issue—
He confirms that. It will be for my successor to take forward, with the House and with the European Union, the approach to our leaving the European Union. As I have said before, if the hon. Gentleman and others had joined me in any one of the three votes that have taken place on the deal that was negotiated, we could have already left the European Union.
The Prime Minister may not have had the chance to speak to the European Council on the important issues of fashion, sustainability and climate change, but does she agree with the all-party parliamentary group on textiles and fashion, which I chair, that as parliamentarians we should walk the walk, and that a recycling bin for clothing should be available in Parliament alongside rubbish bins so that MPs’ garments do not clog up landfill?
At Prime Minister’s questions last week, I responded to a question about the report from the Committee on this issue. The Minister of State, Department for International Development, my hon. Friend the Member for West Worcestershire (Harriett Baldwin), tells me there is a recycling bin in one of the ladies in the House of Commons, but whether there should be more of those bins is a matter for the House authorities.
Does the Prime Minister share my concern, and that of a number of colleagues on both sides of the House, that one Conservative leadership candidate does not seem to appreciate that if there is no deal, there is no implementation period?
I refer the hon. Lady to the answer I gave earlier on that issue.
It has already been mentioned that the intransigence of just four countries held up an EU-wide commitment to binding net zero emissions targets by 2050. Can I press the Prime Minister to expand on what she thinks it would take to change the minds of those four recalcitrant states, and can she say a little about what she will do in advance of this weekend to ensure that a handful of intransigent states does not prevent bold new climate agreements being reached at the G20 summit?
For those states that have a concern about the impact on jobs and the employment of their citizens, I would argue that the UK has already seen 400,000 jobs created in the green economy and we look forward to seeing many more. It is not a choice between climate change and economic growth: we can have both and the UK has been a fine example of that.
The Prime Minister made it clear that she was not present when Presidents Tusk and Juncker reported on the progress of Brexit to the 27. What does she think they will have said?
I refer the hon. Gentleman to the comments that I made in my statement. They updated the remaining 27, and the Council repeated its desire to avoid a disorderly Brexit and committed to work constructively with my successor as Prime Minister.
We are wasting time. Despite what President Tusk says, the country is being forced to watch the world’s worst reality TV programme. Perhaps in the time remaining—even at the summit that the Prime Minister is unexpectedly having to attend—something that would command support across the House is unilaterally protecting the rights of European Union citizens who live in this country and, for that matter, UK citizens who live in the EU. Will she take action in line with that support to protect EU citizens, come what may with Brexit?
We have already committed, as a Government, to protect the rights of EU citizens living here in the UK regardless of whether there is a deal on our leaving the European Union. We have been encouraging other member states to reciprocate for UK citizens living in those member states. As I indicated earlier, there is a legal issue about whether competence on this question rests with the European Union, which it would as part of a deal, or with individual member states as it would in no deal. We continue to encourage both to ensure that the rights of UK citizens in EU member states will be upheld and protected once we leave.
There are about 5,000 Tory party members in the north-east, and only they will get a say in who succeeds the Prime Minister at European Council meetings. That means that whoever he is and whatever magical realist renegotiation or hard-right, no-deal crash out he comes out with, it will have absolutely no mandate in the north-east. Do we not deserve a final say so that people can decide for themselves?
If the hon. Lady is asking for a final say on the issue of Brexit, as I said earlier—
On the deals.
The deal is the issue that is on the table at the moment: the question is how we leave the European Union, whether we do so with a deal, and whether we do so with the deal that was previously negotiated. Any of those options actually delivers on what people voted for in 2016, and we should be doing just that.
Will the Prime Minister confirm that a no-deal Brexit would mean that we would not be part of Europol or of the overarching institutions that manage internet safety, thereby negating the aspirations that she rightly made in her statement to the House? What steps is she taking, and what advice will she give to her successor, on ensuring that those matters are firmly fixed down before 31 October?
It is not the case that the only way in which we can ensure internet safety and work on it is through the institutions of the European Union. The global forum to which I referred earlier was largely set up as a result of an initiative by the United Kingdom. It does not come under a European Union banner; it has other EU member states in it, but it is something that we look to do worldwide and we will continue to work on internet safety worldwide.
I met many constituents over the weekend who are pretty unimpressed that we are debating things such as Kew Gardens as we wait for a new Prime Minister, and that, as soon as that new Prime Minister is in place, we will go into recess. The Prime Minister told the hon. Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston) that she would have a chance to raise her concerns in tonight’s debate, but there is not going to be a debate on the motion, which is subject to Standing Order No. 25. Will the Prime Minister therefore address, as a matter of urgency, the recess dates? We could go into recess now and the House could return as soon as the new Prime Minister is in place.
I apologise to the hon. Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston). I said that there would be a debate this evening, but when I sat down the Leader of the House corrected me and made it clear that there will be no debate on tonight’s motion. Of course, it will be for Members of this House to consider how they approach that motion. I think that members of the public know that had this House voted for the deal on any one of the opportunities, we could now have left the European Union and be dealing with a wide range of other issues.
In her statement, the Prime Minister spoke of co-operation, mutual interest, working constructively and consensus, and said:
“That was the spirit in which I approached this Council.”
May I ask that that new-found spirit be extended to the UK Government’s discussions with the devolved Parliaments?
We have always approached discussions with the devolved Administrations in the spirit of co-operation and of wanting to work together. There are issues on which we have disagreements, but we have always approached those discussions in the spirit of finding a way through and of co-operating and working with them.