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Informal European Council

Volume 778: debated on Monday 6 February 2017


My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in another place. The Statement is as follows.

“Mr Speaker, before I turn to the European Council, I am sure the whole House will want to join me in sending our congratulations to Her Majesty the Queen as she marks her Sapphire Jubilee today. It is testament to Her Majesty’s selfless devotion to the nation that she is marking becoming our first Monarch to reign for 65 years not with any special celebration but, instead, by getting on with the job to which she has dedicated her life. On behalf of the whole country, I am proud to offer Her Majesty our humble thanks for a lifetime of extraordinary service. Long may she continue to reign over us all.

Turning to last week’s informal European Council in Malta, Britain is leaving the European Union but we are not leaving Europe—and a global Britain that stands tall in the world will be a Britain that remains a good friend and ally to all our European partners. So at this summit, we showed how Britain will continue to play a leading role in Europe long after we have left the EU, in particular through our contribution to the challenge of managing mass migration, through our special relationship with America and through the new and equal partnership that we want to build between the EU and an independent, self-governing, global Britain. Let me take each point in turn.

First, on migration, the discussion focused in particular on the route from Libya across the central Mediterranean. As I have argued, we need a comprehensive and co-ordinated approach, and that is exactly what this Council agreed. This includes working hard in support of an inclusive political settlement to stabilise Libya, which will help not only to tackle migration flows but to counter terrorism. It means working to reduce the pull factors that encourage people to risk their lives, building the capacity of the Libyans to return migrants to their own shores, treat them with dignity and help them return home. It means looking beyond Libya and moving further upstream, including by urgently implementing the EU’s external investment plan to help create more opportunities in migrants’ home countries and by helping genuine refugees to claim asylum in the first safe country they reach. It also means better distinguishing between economic migrants and refugees, swiftly returning those who have no right to remain and thereby sending out a deterrence message to others thinking of embarking on perilous journeys. The Council agreed action in all of these areas.

Britain is already playing a leading role in the region and at this summit I announced further steps, including additional support for the Libyan coastguard and more than £30 million of new aid for the most vulnerable refugees across Greece, the Balkans, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Sudan and Libya. Britain is also setting up an £8 million special protection fund to keep men, women and children in the Mediterranean region safe from trafficking, sexual violence and labour exploitation as part of our commitment to tackle modern slavery. The Council agreed with my call that we should do everything possible to deter this horrific crime, including by introducing tough penalties for those who trade in human misery and by working together to secure the necessary evidence for prosecutions that can put these criminals behind bars where they belong.

Turning to America, I opened a discussion on engaging the new Administration, and I was able to relay the conversation I had with President Trump at the White House about the important history of co-operation between the United States and the countries of Europe. In particular, I confirmed that the President had declared his 100% commitment to NATO as the cornerstone of our security in the West. But I also made clear that every country needs to share the burden and play its full part, meeting the NATO target of spending 2% on defence. It is only by investing properly in our defence that we can ensure we are properly equipped to keep our people safe.

I was also able to relay my discussions with President Trump on the importance of maintaining the sanctions regime on Russia in response to its actions in Ukraine. I very much welcome the strong words last week from the new US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, in confirming America’s continued support for these sanctions.

Of course, there are some areas where we disagree with the approach of the new Administration, and we should be clear about those disagreements and about the values that underpin our response to the global challenges that we face. I also argued at the Council, however, that we should engage patiently and constructively with America as a friend and ally—an ally that has helped guarantee the longest period of peace that Europe has ever known. We should be clear that the alternative of division and confrontation would only embolden those who would do us harm, wherever they may be.

Finally, on Brexit, European leaders welcomed the clarity of the objectives that we have set out for the negotiation ahead. They warmly welcomed our ambition to build a new partnership between Britain and the European Union that is in the interests of both sides. They also welcomed the recognition that we in Britain want to see a strong and successful European Union, because that is in our interests and the interests of the whole world.

On the issue of acquired rights, the general view was that we should reach an agreement which applied equally to the other 27 member states and the UK, which is why we think a unilateral decision from the UK is not the right way forward. As I have said before, however, EU citizens living in the UK make a vital contribution to our economy and our society, and without them we would be poorer and our public services weaker. So we will make securing the reciprocal agreement that will guarantee their status a priority as soon as the negotiations begin, and I want to see this agreed as soon as possible, because that is in everyone’s interests.

Our European partners now want to get on with the negotiations. So do I, and so does this House, which last week voted by a majority of 384 in support of the Government triggering Article 50. There are, of course, further stages for the Bill in Committee and in the other place, and it is right that this process should be completed properly, but the message is clear to all: this House has spoken, and now is not the time to obstruct the democratically expressed wishes of the British people. It is time to get on with leaving the European Union and building an independent, self-governing, global Britain. I commend this Statement to the House”.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for repeating the Statement today and concur with her congratulations to Her Majesty the Queen on her 65th anniversary as the nation’s monarch. I hope that Her Majesty is able to commemorate the event in some way, but I suspect for her that this is an anniversary also tinged with sadness at the loss of her father. He endeared himself to the nation, and his early death was a terrible shock. She had not expected to be Queen at such a young age. That was at a time of great change in the world, which is also the case today. It was also a time when, following the war, there were many refugees across Europe. Here we are, 65 years later, and with yet another European summit discussing how to prevent further refugees and mass migration, this time from the Middle East and north Africa.

The Statement talks about the pull factors that lead to people seeking safety and a better life away from their homes. We should always keep in our mind the desperation that leads people to risk their lives and those of their families in leaving their homeland, often leaving behind all their possessions, other family and friends, and often paying large amounts to criminals. In looking at the push factors too, can I ask the noble Baroness about the EU external investment plan? The Statement refers to creating more opportunities in migrants’ home countries. Can she expand on that? I am not sure of the details at all. Is it limited to economy and employment opportunities or is it more linked to security? It would be helpful to have some more information and also to know how it is going to be implemented and monitored, and how success will be measured.

Can the noble Baroness say more about the conversations the Prime Minister had with President Trump when she was at the White House? She said she was able to relay the conversations that she had with the President on the relationship between the USA and European countries. I think we are all quite interested in that conversation and would be interested to hear more. The Prime Minister’s assurance that the President had declared his 100% support from NATO was particularly welcome, but we have not yet heard it from his own lips—or, perhaps more importantly, from his own Twitter account. What was the response from her European colleagues on this point?

The Minister had a number of side meetings but apparently not with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as they were able to discuss their issues informally in the margins outside the arranged meetings. Those all-important private discussions can be very productive in building relationships and being frank and open with European leaders, so it makes the situation even more difficult that the Prime Minister then had to pack her bags and leave while the remaining 27 countries further considered other issues relating to the EU that we cannot be part of. What plans do the Government have to ensure that we do not lose out by not being at the table, not just for the formal parts of the meeting where they are discussing the EU post Brexit but for those informal discussions that lead to trust and develop the relationships that will be all-important as we move forward?

Malta has been a close and important ally of the UK over many years; it is the only instance of an entire country being awarded the George Cross. Obviously it is important that we maintain what we would call that “special relationship”, so what are the Government’s plans to ensure that that relationship continues post Brexit? The Prime Minister met the Prime Minister of Spain. Did she discuss Gibraltar, and had she met the Gibraltarian First Minister before she was able to raise any such issues with the Spanish Prime Minister?

On the issue of EU citizens, I do not think today’s Statement gives anything like the reassurance they require so that they can continue with their lives, their jobs, their homes and their families in this country. It is in the Prime Minister’s gift to say so. Even UKIP said so on television yesterday, so why the Prime Minister cannot make such a commitment I have no idea. It is about time we heard something stronger from the Prime Minister on this issue.

The section in the Statement regarding Brexit says the European leaders,

“warmly welcomed our ambition to build a new partnership between Britain and the European Union that is in the interests of both sides. They also welcomed the recognition that we in Britain want to see a strong and successful European Union”.

I hope that is not an overoptimistic view. We have some tough negotiations ahead in which we have to get the best possible deal that we can in the interests of the UK and UK citizens. If there is any complacency at all that these negotiations are going to be easy, I do not see how we can get the best deal. I hope the noble Baroness can assure me that this is not an overoptimistic view and that there is awareness of the difficult discussions and negotiations that are going to take place.

On the last part of the Statement, I am sure I am not the only one in your Lordships’ House who is getting tired of the Government going on and on about not “obstructing”—I think that is the latest phrase—“the democratically expressed wishes of the British people”. I do not know how many times this has to be said about blocking, obstructing, wrecking or whatever is the latest word the Prime Minister has found in her thesaurus. I say to the noble Baroness that asking questions and making suggestions for amendment is not blocking, obstructing or wrecking; it is called parliamentary democracy. That should be welcomed by the Government because that is the way in which we will get the best deal, not just by accusing people who ask questions of blocking. I do not know why those who are in charge of the negotiations are so frightened of questions, because time and again we hear that only by questioning and scrutiny do we get better legislation, and that is all this House would ever seek to do.

My Lords, I join the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House by congratulating the Queen on her Sapphire Jubilee—a truly remarkable achievement.

With every passing Council meeting, we see the influence of Great Britain and the Prime Minister diminishing. In October, she made a five-minute speech at 1 o’clock in the morning. In December she was pictured standing alone, desperately looking for someone to talk to. This time, she was rebuffed as she offered to act as a bridge between Europe and the USA. One does not need to be an engineer to know that, to be sustainable, a bridge needs firm foundations on both sides of the stream. At the moment the UK is demolishing one set of foundations—namely, those on the European side of the stream—and therefore is it surprising that countries within the EU, from the largest to the smallest, have treated with almost total disdain the Prime Minister’s suggestion that, in our new semi-detached state, we might act as a bridge?

One of the more useful parts of the Prime Minister’s visit to Malta might have been the formal meeting on her agenda with the Chancellor of Germany. Could the Leader of the House explain why that formal meeting was cancelled? Admittedly, the two of them did chat briefly while walking down the street, but frankly that does not constitute a sensible degree of conversation with the most important of our EU partners. Will the noble Baroness say what plans the Prime Minister has to have a substantive discussion with Angela Merkel, to make good the fact that they had very little time, while walking down the street on a sunny day in Valletta, to talk about anything of great substance? This was an extremely short visit by the Prime Minister. As at previous Council meetings, she had to leave after the pudding and probably even before the coffee was served. Not surprisingly, perhaps, she was not present as the other leaders of the EU discussed how they might make preparations for the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. Will the Leader of the House say whether she expects the UK Government to be represented at those celebrations when they eventually take place and, if so, by whom?

The most substantive part of the discussions in Malta were about migration from Libya. We welcome the fact that it was possible to make progress, and the Prime Minister takes great satisfaction from the fact that she played a significant part in those negotiations. May I echo the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, about how the Government expect to play such an important, useful part in future, when they are not even at the table at which those discussions take place? Of course, the vast bulk of the refugees from Libya is going to Italy. We have discussed before in your Lordships’ House the extent to which her Majesty’s Government are making good their commitment under the Dubs amendment to bring child refugees who find themselves in Italy to the UK. I apologise if I have got the figure wrong, but I think that when it was last discussed the Government said one person from the Home Office had been sent to Italy to help in that process. Will the noble Baroness confirm whether that is indeed the case, whether she thinks that to be an adequate response to this humanitarian crisis, and how many children have come to the UK from Italy under the provisions of the Dubs amendment?

Finally, on Brexit and the vexed question of acquired rights, many people in the country just do not understand the Government’s attitude in denying EU citizens living in the UK the knowledge that they will be able to remain post Brexit. The Government seem to be unaware of the crisis that is developing as a result of this policy. Those who saw the BBC news in London will have seen what is happening to the recruitment of EU staff in hospitals in London. Again, I will be corrected if I am wrong, but I think that the figure given of the number of nurses coming to London hospitals has, since last year, fallen by approximately 90% That is an extraordinarily worrying phenomenon, given that we are far from meeting the staffing requirements that the NHS has set itself, and it is by no means clear where else the Government expect those nursing numbers to be made up.

One reason why people are unwilling to come at the moment is that they feel that the attitude of the Government in respect of existing EU citizens gives them no confidence that they will be welcome. Another is that they have no sense of how the rules are going to operate in future. So while the Government have many things about which they do not want to give a detailed account, could they say how they intend to approach the question of migration from the EU of people whose skills we need—whether they are the brightest and the best, at a very high skill level, whether they are medium-skilled people or whether they are the kind of people whom we will require in future to enable our agricultural, horticultural and hospitality sectors to survive and prosper?

I am sorry to start on a discordant note, but I am afraid that I disagree with the noble Lord’s assessment of the Prime Minister’s role at the summit. In fact, it showed that, once again, while we are a member of the EU, we will continue to play a full part. The Prime Minister opened the discussion on migration and was specifically asked to lead the discussion over lunch about the new American Administration. That is quite clear evidence that, while we remain in the EU, we will continue to play a central role in discussions. As I have said, we will also continue to make sure that we have a strong relationship with our EU partners as we go forward.

On some of the other comments and questions raised, the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, asked about the EU’s external investment plan, which, as she will know, was agreed in late 2016. It is now being considered by the European Parliament, and we are eager for it to be implemented as soon as possible. It is focused on creating economic opportunities in countries of origin and transit to reduce push factors.

The noble Baroness also asked about the conversations that the Prime Minister had about NATO. While I cannot speak for the President’s Twitter account, I can say that the Prime Minister was quite clear that she did get confirmation from President Trump that he is 100% behind NATO, and this was very much welcomed by our European partners.

On the Prime Minister’s discussions with Chancellor Angela Merkel, part of the reason that they were able to have full and frank discussions during the walkabout was that the initial meeting on migration finished quite early, so they had more time. As two women who get to the point, it is quite a good sign of the positive relationship that they have that they can discuss what they need to in a timely fashion.

Both the noble Baroness and the noble Lord asked about our relationship with the EU. Once again, I can say that we are absolutely committed to maintaining good relations with our EU partners; we want the best deal for Britain and the UK, and we believe that it is only right that the 27 continue to discuss their approach to our negotiations. We want to make sure that both sides have the most fruitful negotiations possible, and they need to prepare for those just as we are preparing for them in this country.

On the status of EU nationals living in the UK and UK nationals living abroad, as we have said, we are very keen to try to come to an agreement as soon as we can. In conversations with EU leaders, they have made it very clear that they want to discuss the status of nationals as part of the negotiations. There is good will on all sides, and I believe that the readout of some of the conversations that the Prime Minister had with the Prime Minister of Spain shows that. That is the position that the EU leaders have taken and one that we have to respect, but it is certainly a priority, and the Prime Minister once again showed that by raising it with her counterparts.

I assure the noble Baroness that we are all very clear that discussions and negotiations will be difficult and challenging, but we believe and are confident that it is in in the interests of the EU and of this country to come to the best deal that we can. We are starting from a strong position of wanting the best for the EU and for this country, so we are confident that we will get to a deal that we can all be happy with.

In terms of parliamentary scrutiny, the noble Baroness and all noble Lords will be aware that there has not been a sitting day since the referendum when Parliament has not discussed, debated or scrutinised Brexit in one form or another. There have been 70 parliamentary debates already on Brexit, as well as over 30 Select Committee inquiries. We understand and want the scrutiny of Parliament and Parliament’s involvement in helping with these negotiations. As I have said, I think that we are making good progress on that already.

My Lords, before we proceed to Back-Bench questions, I invite your Lordships to observe the normal rotational pattern of posing questions to try and ensure fairness of opportunity across the Chamber.

My Lords, I very much welcome the Statement and, in particular, the congratulations that were offered to Her Majesty. I also welcome the very robust response that the noble Baroness gave. Does she agree that there seems to be a delusion in the other place, and maybe even in parts of this House, that ahead lies some neatly tied-up and bundled bespoke deal that will comprehensively cover all of our problems? Would it not be better to explain at this stage that we will see a whole range of sector-specific trade deals? For example, there will be deals on defence—such as those the Prime Minister addressed in Malta—on migrants and refugees, and on crime. These are all practical arrangements, which will be required in order to build a new relationship with the European Union and other independent states. Would it not be better to explain this than for us to believe that a marvellous, complete deal will emerge after the negotiations? It will not.

I thank my noble friend for that question. I think that we are all under no illusion about the breadth and depth of the relationship we have with Europe at the moment and the scope of the negotiations. Some areas will no doubt be easier to come to an agreed position on than others, but we are determined to go in with a positive and optimistic frame of mind and to achieve a deal that works best for this country. We believe that our European partners will want to work with us to ensure that we create a new and positive partnership for both sides.

My Lords, did the Prime Minister, in her introduction to the European Council on the relationship with the United States, or in her walk with the Chancellor of Germany around the streets of Valletta, congratulate Mrs Merkel on her telephone call with President Trump, in which Mrs Merkel very clearly said that we all have to respect our international obligations to refugees? Did the Prime Minister not feel a certain sense of shame that, in her own encounter with President Trump in the White House, she did not have the courage to make that point when he told her of his impending executive orders?

The Prime Minister has been very clear that we believe the ban is divisive and wrong and that it is absolutely not a policy that we would pursue. She had a good conversation with Chancellor Merkel which covered a whole range of issues.

My Lords, when the Prime Minister introduced her White Paper and Lancaster House speech—the Statement said that it was welcomed, particularly the reference to a new partnership, which I think is a very good label to give it—did her colleagues indicate whether they would start negotiating on the new partnership as soon as Article 50 is triggered, or do they still hold to the Commission’s point of view that the negotiations on divorce have to come first and that the other negotiation can only be consecutive? Secondly, did she find that all 27 of her colleagues agreed with the view held by herself and the Home Secretary that President Trump’s travel ban is not only wrong but also extraordinarily likely to lead to increased radicalisation in Muslim countries, which can only put European countries at greater risk?

As I said in the Statement, the Prime Minister has said that our European partners want to get on with the negotiations. We all want to move on so that we can come to a good deal. As I have also said, we have been very clear that we believe the ban is divisive and wrong.

My Lords, will the noble Baroness the Leader of the House, whom I thank for repeating the Statement, tell us what words President Trump used when he gave his commitment to NATO? My understanding is that the Prime Minister said that he gave a 100% commitment to NATO, but I have not seen the words used by President Trump. It is rather similar to the occasion when Mr Gove asked the President whether Britain would be high up in the queue for a trade agreement. I do not think that I saw the words used. This is more than quibbling, because we need to know what the real commitment and intentions of the President of the United States are. Secondly, will the noble Baroness explain why it is a sequitur that, because we want an agreement with the 27 on acquired rights, the UK cannot therefore make a unilateral start on that? I suggest that that is just another pretext. If the UK showed good will by giving a unilateral guarantee, which morally and economically is the right thing to do, that would be the basis for an agreement. As the noble Baroness well knows, there is cross-party support in this House and way beyond it for the Government to do that rather than keep finding new excuses.

As I was not in the room when President Trump and the Prime Minister had a conversation, I cannot give the noble Baroness a verbatim account. However, I can tell her what the Prime Minister has told us: that President Trump confirmed that he was 100% behind NATO. I believe that he nodded and agreed with that when he was standing at his podium. However, I am afraid that I was not there any more than she was.

As I have said, I cannot say any more about the situation regarding the status of EU nationals. We have been very clear that this is a priority for us and that we want to come to an agreement as quickly as possible. However, we also have to respect the position of our EU partners. We will try to address this issue very quickly. The Prime Minister has been extremely clear, as have I and all my Front Bench colleagues, that we hugely value the contribution of EU citizens here, and that this is a priority for us.

My Lords, further to that point, the Statement says that the general view was that mutual recognition should take place. Which of the 27 member states do not agree with that? Is it not rather depressing that the Prime Minister has already made weeks ago an offer of mutual recognition for their 3.5 million-plus people living here and our 1.2 million people living there? Is it not very disappointing that they have not already agreed that? On the question of NATO, could the noble Baroness tell us which of the EU nations are actually refusing to pay their 2% of GDP? Is not President Trump quite right in insisting that they should?

As I have said, we believe there is good will on all sides to look at the status of both EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals in member states. We consider this a priority. We believe it is something on which we will have very constructive early discussions with our European partners. We have also said in relation to NATO—the Prime Minister discussed this over lunch—that we want to encourage other European leaders to deliver on their commitment to spend 2% of their GDP on defence. We believe that a number of European countries are actively considering that and will be looking to do it in due course.

My Lords, is it correct, as reported in the newspapers, that the Spanish leader has indicated that he would be very happy for British residents in Spain to enjoy the same rights as they do at present? If that is the case, is it not wrong to criticise the Prime Minister for arguing that we should get on with moving Article 50 so that there is an opportunity for those negotiations to continue? Could not the criticism that the Prime Minister should take a moral lead apply equally to the Spanish Prime Minister or to any of the other European leaders? The problem here is Europe refusing to guarantee the position of British citizens in Europe. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister is surely right to think about them as well as EU citizens living here.

Certainly, the fact that the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister of Spain had constructive discussions is very positive. As I said, it shows that there is good will on all sides to try to resolve this matter as quickly as possible.

My Lords, is it not striking how often government Ministers say how very, terribly, extremely influential the Prime Minister is? I do not recall that ever being said about Tony Blair, Gordon Brown or, for that matter, Margaret Thatcher. They always were very influential.

My Lords, is not the point of a negotiation or a package of negotiations of the sort we will see with withdrawal that we will start the negotiations but nothing will be agreed until everything is agreed? Is not the danger of looking at reciprocal agreements on the rights of EU and UK citizens that nothing will be decided until the day we leave the European Union, which will be far too late to give certainty to EU nationals currently resident in the United Kingdom—something that we could do unilaterally?

I can only repeat what I have said in answer to all the questions on this, which is that we are looking for an early agreement.

My Lords, I welcome the Statement repeated to the House this afternoon, especially the assurance given by the Prime Minister that President Trump will be 100% behind NATO. As almost one-quarter of the European Union countries refuse to join NATO, when can we have a 100% guarantee that the nations of the European Union will also support NATO?

We are very clear that NATO is the cornerstone of the UK’s defence and security, and our commitment remains as strong as ever. As I said, during the lunch the Prime Minister discussed our commitment and that of our European partners to NATO. I think that there was general agreement on the importance of the organisation going forward.

My Lords, last week in public session, evidence was given to one of this House’s sub-committees of the European Union Select Committee to the effect that, going forward, agricultural industries will require between 90,000 and 100,000 workers annually on a temporary, not a permanent, basis—people who come for seasonal work and then return to their countries. Therefore, it is not just the matter of the people in our universities, schools and hospitals or the City of London that needs to be resolved; this particular question, affecting, as it will, the whole future of much of the agricultural and horticultural industries in this country, also needs an urgent resolution.

The noble Lord is right that we need to address the issues and needs of all sectors. That is why the work of the House’s EU committees is so important. I look forward to reading the report and am sure that excellent suggestions will be put forward about the kinds of issues that we need to think about during our negotiations.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for repeating the Statement. Does she find it strange that many Members of this House and another place are threatening to vote against the imposition of Article 50 after voting in favour of holding the referendum in the first place? Does she recall any of them saying during the referendum campaign that, however people voted, they would ignore the result of the referendum, whatever it was?

My noble friend is right. The Article 50 Bill is indeed a straightforward Bill: it is not about whether the UK should leave the European Union—that decision has been made—but about triggering Article 50.

My Lords, I have never understood why Gibraltarians would not wish to have feet in both camps, although that is clearly a matter for them. The Prime Minister was absolutely right to draw attention to the economic well-being of LEDCs—less economically developed countries. Have the Government decided which competent UK authority will be responsible for preferential access negotiations post Brexit?

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for repeating the Statement. Does she agree with me about the importance of EU agencies such as FRONTEX, which protects our external borders along with those of other member states, the European Fundamental Rights Agency and the European Medicines Agency? Does she believe in the effectiveness of these organisations and their benefit to the United Kingdom? If so, why are we putting that at risk by going for a hard Brexit?

The noble Lord is absolutely right. As we discussed in Questions today, many European bodies play an extremely important role and are highly valued in terms of the standards, co-operation and everything else that we get out of them. All of these will be up for negotiation, and we will obviously want to maintain very close relationships with those organisations that add huge value. However, this will also give us an opportunity to look at how we can perhaps improve standards and quality in this country, because we will be free to do that.

My Lords, when considering the quality of the commitment of the President to NATO, are we entitled to look at his continuing favourable ambiguity towards Mr Putin, whose avowed intention is the undermining of NATO?

The Prime Minister has been extremely clear to both President Putin and, indeed, the President of the United States that our relationship with Russia cannot be business as usual, as a result of its actions in Ukraine and Syria. Where there are issues that we disagree on, we should hold Russia to account, but we also need to have hard-headed engagement where we can move forward. As the Prime Minister was very clear and said to the President, we need to engage but beware.

My Lords, can I clear up a small point? I notice in the printed version of the Statement—or the Statement from the other place—that in “Global Britain” the “Global” is in upper case. Is this a renaming of Great Britain, a typo or more of a marketing slogan like “Cool Britannia”? On a more substantial point, I am glad that the EU recognises that Libya is the place in which refugees and migrants should be concentrated so they can be properly assessed and helped as necessary. The crucial thing in my plan, which I produced in 2015 and have subsequently mentioned, is that there should be a military presence of NATO to protect these people and make sure that they are not ill-treated in Libya. I hope that the military presence would be United Nations sanctioned, with NATO in blue helmets, through a Security Council resolution because, without that, the ideas that the EU is floating about Libya could end in disaster.

I assure my noble friend that the UK is working with the international community to support the Government of National Accord’s efforts to deliver security and stability for the Libyan people and to tackle the flow of illegal migrants through Libya. We have allocated more than £10.5 million this year for assistance to Libya and technical support to its Government.

My Lords, I am glad that the Statement and the noble Baroness herself stressed the need for a positive partnership with the European Union. Is the noble Baroness not concerned then that the President of the United States is not well disposed towards the European Union? Indeed, he wants it to fall apart—likewise his nominee for ambassador to the European Union. Does that not give the noble Baroness cause for concern?

One of the things discussed over the lunch was exactly how we can ensure that relationships between the United States and the European Union remain as strong as ever. We are very keen to make sure that that is well understood and that the EU along with us plays an important international role as we always have done.

My Lords, on the sapphire jubilee of the Queen, can I say how pleased I am that we are in the process having a realm for her and her successors to rule over? My second point is in relation to the sort of hate campaign going on against the United States simply and solely because it has, for four years, elected a different sort of President—if I can put it that way. Did the Prime Minister remind Europe that it is protected against people who wish it ill by the enormous economic and military power of the United States through NATO?

As I said in the Statement, the Prime Minister discussed with our European partners the need to engage patiently and constructively with America as a friend and ally—an ally that has helped guarantee the longest period of peace Europe has known. Certainly we are and remain close partners on trade and security of defence. Also, as friends, where we have differences we need to be honest about them.

Can I follow up the question from the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, and repeat a question that I have put to the Government many times since 1999? Does it matter if the European Union falls apart and the democratic nations of Europe go back to their own currencies, freely trading together and supporting NATO together and so on? What is the point of the European Union now? Why do we need it at all? Should we not be very grateful if it falls apart?

We are clear that we want to see a strong Europe and we want to have a strong partnership and relationship with Europe, but we will do it as a global and independent Britain.

Contrary to the implications of the last question, is it not the case that the most likely immediate result of the geopolitical circumstances of the time, with the attitude of President Trump and the Brexit proposition, is that France and Germany will have much closer defence co-operation? The very thing that Britain has always been wary about will probably result in terms of very close defence co-operation within the European Union.

As I have said repeatedly during this discussion, we want a strong Europe. We want a strong relationship and a new partnership with Europe. How Europe takes itself forward once we have left is for Europe to determine, but while we are still involved, we will play our strong part. I am much more optimistic, by the sound of it, than most noble Lords in this House that we will achieve a good deal for both us and our European partners.