With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on my final G20 and final European Council as Prime Minister.
At this G20 summit in Japan we discussed some of the biggest global challenges facing our nations, including climate change, terrorist propaganda online, risks to the global economy and rising tensions in the Gulf. These discussions were at times difficult, but in the end productive. I profoundly believe that we are stronger when we work together. With threats to global stability and trade, that principle is now more important than ever, and throughout this summit my message was on the overriding need for international co-operation and compromise. Alongside discussions with international partners on economic and security matters, I made it clear that Britain would always stand by the global rules as the best means of securing peace and prosperity for all of us. I will take the main issues in turn.
On no other issue is the need for international collaboration greater than in the threat to our countries and our people from climate change. As I arrived in Osaka last week, I was immensely proud that Britain had become the world’s first major economy to commit in law to ending our contribution to global warming by 2050. I urged other G20 countries to follow Britain’s lead and set similarly ambitious net zero targets for their own countries. Those gathered at this year’s summit are the last generation of leaders with the power to limit global warming, and I believe we have a duty to heed the call from those asking us to act now for the sake of future generations.
Taken together, the G20 countries account for 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Discussions were not always easy, but 19 of the G20 members agreed to the irreversibility of the Paris climate change agreement and the importance of implementing our commitments in full. It remains a disappointment that the United States continue to opt out on such a critical global issue.
I outlined Britain’s continued determination to lead the way on climate change through our bid to host, along with Italy, COP 26 next year. And, recognising that more needs to be done to support developing countries in managing the impacts of climate change, I announced that the UK’s aid budget will be aligned with our climate change goals and used to support the transition to lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Both as Prime Minister and previously as Home Secretary, I have repeatedly called for greater action to protect people from online harms and remove terrorist propaganda from the internet. In 2017, the attacks in Manchester and London showed how technology could be exploited by terrorists. Following those events, the UK took the lead and put this issue squarely on the global agenda. Through our efforts, the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism was established—a body that has leveraged technology to automate the removal of propaganda online. But the horrendous attack in Christchurch reminded us that we must maintain momentum, and ensure a better co-ordinated and swifter response to make sure that terrorists are never able to broadcast their atrocities in real time. I therefore welcome the pledge by G20 leaders at this year’s summit to do more to build on existing efforts and stop terrorists exploiting the internet. The UK will continue to lead the way in this, including through our support of the major technology companies in developing a new crisis response mechanism.
At this summit, discussions on the global economy were held against the backdrop of current trade tensions between the United States and China. In this context, I reaffirmed Britain’s commitment to free and fair trade, open markets and the rules-based trading system as the best means to bolster prosperity and build economies that work for everyone. The UK has long argued that the rules governing global trade need urgent reform and updating to reflect the changing nature of that trade. We continue to press for action to build upon the agreement reached at last year’s summit for World Trade Organisation reform, and I believe the best way to resolve disputes is through a reformed and strengthened WTO, rather than by increasing tariffs.
This G20 was also an opportunity to discuss wider global issues with others, including Prime Minister Abe, President Erdoğan, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and United Nations Secretary-General Guterres. In my conversation with Prime Minster Abe, I paid tribute to him for hosting this G20 and thanked him for his role in strengthening the relationship between the UK and Japan—a relationship that I have every confidence will continue to grow over the coming years.
In a number of my meetings, I discussed Iran and rising tensions in the Gulf. Escalation is in no-one’s interest, and engagement is needed on all sides to find a diplomatic solution to the current situation and to counter Iran’s destabilising activity. At the same time, I was clear that the UK will continue to work intensively with our Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action partners to keep the Iran nuclear deal in place. The breach of that deal by Iran is extremely concerning, and together with France, Germany and the other signatories to the deal, we are urging Iran not to take further steps away from the agreement, and to return to compliance. The deal makes the world safer and I want to see Iran uphold its obligations.
I believe wholeheartedly in never shying away from difficult conversations when it is right to hold them. In my meeting with President Putin, I told him that there can be no normalisation of our bilateral relationship until Russia stops the irresponsible activity that threatens the UK and its allies. The use of a deadly nerve agent on the streets of our country was a despicable act, which led to the death of Dawn Sturgess. I was clear that the UK has irrefutable evidence that Russia was behind the attack, and that we want to see the two individuals responsible brought to justice. While the UK remains open to a different relationship, for that to happen the Russian Government must choose a different path.
In my discussion with UN Secretary-General Guterres, we spoke about the importance of the multilateral system and the UK’s strong support for it. I also raised concerns about the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the need to ensure a comprehensive response, as well as emphasising the critical nature of continued humanitarian assistance in Yemen.
I am proud that the UK continues to play its part in trying to provide relief in countries such as Yemen, and that we remain committed to spending 0.7% of our gross national income on development assistance. That commitment puts us at the forefront of addressing global challenges, so I am pleased that at this summit we announced our pledge of £1.4 billion for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, to help save lives.
Turning to the European Council, the focus of these discussions was on what are known as the EU’s top jobs—the appointments at the head of the EU’s institutions and the EU’s High Representative. As I have said before, this is primarily a matter for the remaining 27 EU member states, but while we remain a member of the EU, I also said that we would engage constructively, which we did throughout. After long and difficult discussions over the last few days, the Council voted for a package of candidates with an important balance of gender, reflecting the diversity of the European Union. The Council formally elected Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel as President of the European Council. The Council also nominated German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen as candidate for President of the European Commission; Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell Fontelles as candidate for High Representative for foreign affairs and security policy; and the French managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, as candidate for president of the European Central Bank.
The Commission President will now be voted on by the European Parliament in the coming weeks. After being approved by the Commission President, the High Representative will then be voted on as part of the College of Commissioners by the European Parliament before the college is appointed by the European Council. After consultations with the European Parliament and the ECB governing council, the European Council will appoint the president of the ECB. The European Parliament will also vote on its President today. Subject to the approval of the European Parliament, this will be the first time that a woman will be made President of the European Commission, and I would like to congratulate Ursula von der Leyen on her nomination.
This was a package supported by the UK, and it is in our national interest to have constructive relationships with those who are appointed. Once we leave the European Union, we will need to agree the details of our future relationship. We will continue to share many of the same challenges as our closest neighbours, and we will need to work with them on a variety of issues that are in our joint interests. But that will now be a matter for my successor to take forward. I commend this statement to the House.
I want to say thank you to my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris) for the fantastic campaign she has mounted and the comfort that she has brought to those who have been through the unimaginable strain of losing a child. Those who, sadly, will lose a child in future will at least know that, because of her work, one part of the commemoration of that child’s life will be made a little bit easier. On behalf of so many families, may we just say thank you very much for everything you have done?
I thank the Prime Minister for an advance copy of her statement. While this year marks the 20th anniversary of the G20, there is little progress to commemorate in tackling the urgent challenges that we face. Where the leaders of the world’s most powerful countries fail, we look instead to civil society, trade unions and community groups, and to an inspirational generation of young people, for the transformative change that is required.
This summit’s communiqué did not make the necessary commitments on climate change. Does the Prime Minister agree that President Trump’s failure to accept the reality of man-made climate change, his refusal to back the Paris accords and his attempts to water down the communiqué’s commitments are a threat to the security of us all, all over this planet? Is the Prime Minister concerned that he could soon be joined by one of her possible successors, who has described global warming as a “primitive fear … without foundation”? It is the responsibility of the G20 to lead efforts to combat climate change, as the Prime Minister herself acknowledged. These nations account for four fifths of global greenhouse gas emissions. As I confirmed last week, we back the UK’s bid to host COP 26 next year. In 2017, the Government agreed to:
“Making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions”
in developing countries. So can the Prime Minister explain why 97% of the UK’s export finance support for energy in developing countries goes to fossil fuels, and less than 1% is for renewable energy? The Government’s pledge to cut carbon emissions by 2050 is an empty one. They have no serious plan to invest and continue to dismantle our renewable energy sector while supporting fracking.
The Prime Minister says that the international community must stand against Iran’s destabilising activity in the region. The Iran nuclear deal agreement was a multilateral agreement signed up to by President Obama, and a number of other Governments, but reneged on by President Obama’s successor. Beyond just saying that we need to protect the deal, what action has the Prime Minister taken to ensure this? What conversation did she have with President Trump on this issue?
Is it not about time that the Prime Minister’s Government stood up to our supposed ally, Saudi Arabia? She says that she met Crown Prince bin Salman but gives no details. So can I ask her: did she raise the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, did she raise the killing of thousands of Yemenis, and did she pledge to stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia? Did she raise with him the Saudis’ financing and arming of Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar, who is fighting the UN-recognised Government of Libya, and who, only last night, has been held responsible for an airstrike on a migrant centre in Tripoli that killed 40 people and injured dozens more? The Prime Minister rightly points to the need to protect people from terrorist propaganda, so before she leaves office, will she finally release, in full, the report she suppressed on the Saudi Government’s funding of extremist groups?
The Prime Minister talks of confronting countries that interfere in the democracy of other nations, including Russia. I remind her that it was Labour that delivered amendments to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill, which introduced the Magnitsky powers. The truth is that the Conservatives have questions to answer about the almost £1 million-worth of donations from wealthy Russians to their party under her watch. If we stand up to corruption and condemn human rights-abusing regimes, then politicians should not be trading cash for access.
The Prime Minister mentioned the worrying outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Could she outline what assistance the Department for International Development is providing in that terrible situation? I welcome the Government’s £1.4 billion for the Global Fund to fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria. However, the main conclusion from the G20 is that the world deserves better leadership for the urgent challenges facing humanity.
Moving on to the EU summit in Brussels, it has taken leaders three days to come up with a decision on who should take the EU’s top jobs. But a three-day summit pales into insignificance next to the three years of failure that this Government have inflicted on us all over Brexit. I would like to congratulate those who have been appointed or nominated to new roles within in the EU, especially Josep Borrell as High Representative for foreign affairs and security. For as long as we remain in the EU, we should seek reform. That includes increasing our efforts to tackle tax evasion and avoidance; stepping up our co-operation over the climate emergency that faces us all, all over this continent and this planet; and challenging migration policies that have left thousands to drown in the Mediterranean while sometimes subcontracting migration policies to Libyan militias.
Can the Prime Minister explain her decision for the Conservative party to join a political group that includes far-right, Islamophobic parties such as Vox of Spain? It claims that Muslims will impose Sharia law on Spain, turn cathedrals into mosques, and force all women to cover up. It is a party that campaigned to repeal gender violence laws and threatened to shut down feminist organisations. Does the Prime Minister understand the worry that this will cause many people in this country who will rightly be asking why her party has aligned itself with this far-right organisation whose policies are built on division, discrimination and hate?
Finally, does the Prime Minister agree that whoever succeeds her should have the courage to go back to the people with their preferred Brexit option to end the uncertainty and get Brexit resolved?
The right hon. Gentleman raised a number of issues, moving between them with sometimes no apparent link, but I will try to address them. On climate change, I have already expressed my disappointment that the United States has pulled out of the Paris agreement. I repeated to President Trump at the G20 my hope that the United States will come back into the Paris agreement in due course. I am pleased that the other members of the G20 held fast to the irreversibility of the Paris agreement and the commitments we had previously made. As I said in answer to Prime Minister’s questions, we are showing the lead on this. I am encouraging others to follow, and they are showing their willingness to do so.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about international development money in relation to climate change. I am pleased to say that we have committed to provide at least £5.8 billion of international climate finance between 2016 and 2020. This is not only a question of energy mix. It is also about climate resilience, and we are leading on that for the UN climate action summit in September this year. We have already helped 47 million people to cope with the effects of climate change, supported 17 million people to access clean energy and reduced or avoided 10.4 million tonnes of CO2, so we are putting our words into action.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about my meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. I did indeed raise the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. I was very clear that we expect a transparent and open judicial process and for those who are responsible to be brought to account. I also raised the importance of a political solution in Yemen and the fact that we are supporting the work of UN special envoy Martin Griffiths and want to ensure that all parties are committed to coming around the table and finding a political solution in Yemen.
The right hon. Gentleman raised the issue of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I had a meeting with the director general of the WHO at the G20 summit, during which we discussed that. I also discussed it with the Secretary-General of the United Nations. This is a serious humanitarian challenge. The security situation in eastern DRC makes dealing with this outbreak more difficult in terms of operating through Government and other organisations. The United Nations and the WHO are committed to working through community groups on the ground. He asked about our response. We are the second largest bilateral donor to the response in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the largest to preparedness efforts in neighbouring countries. We have been working not only where there has been an outbreak in the DRC but to ensure that neighbouring countries can respond effectively. I am pleased to say that, when there was a small number of cases in Uganda, Uganda responded extremely well and very professionally, and we have not seen further cases there.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned Russia. I thought his comments were a bit rich—who was it, after the nerve agent attack on our streets in Salisbury, who believed the Russian Government rather than our own intelligence agencies? It was the right hon. Gentleman, so I will take no lessons from him on our relationship with Russia.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about the European Council. I do not think I heard him welcome the gender balance in the appointment of the top jobs. It is important that we see the first woman nominated to be President of the European Commission and a woman nominated for the role at the European Central Bank.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about Brexit. It was always going to take two years to negotiate; that is the time set out in the treaty under the article 50 process. We brought the proposals to the House. He rejected those proposals. He has not brought forward proposals that command a majority—[Interruption.] I think the Foreign Secretary said that he has.
No, I said that the House rejected it.
I had noticed that the House had not supported the plans that I brought forward but, once again, it is a bit of a nerve for a party that consistently says it wants to leave with a deal to consistently vote against leaving with a deal.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about going back to the people on Brexit. He talked about the delay and uncertainty. We have been waiting for weeks for the Labour party’s policy on Brexit. We keep being told that the shadow Cabinet is taking a decision on a second referendum and, week after week, we still wait to hear it. It is little wonder that the shadow Home Secretary says she is beginning to worry about Labour’s Brexit policy.
As you know, Mr Speaker, since the 1980s I have consistently raised the question of Germany’s increasing dominance in the European Union and the European Commission. In his recent book “Berlin Rules”, our former ambassador to Germany states that the EU is and will remain “a German Europe”. Nine of the 28 European Commissioners have German leaders of their cabinets. There are six German directors general. He says:
“it is Germany’s view which is sought by the Commission before it acts, and by other governments before they decide”,
in the Council of Ministers by majority vote behind closed doors. Is that not a grave concern and a reason why we should leave the European Union by 31 October?
I am a little disappointed. Germany has not had presidency of the European Commission since something like the 1960s, so it is a bit churlish of my hon. Friend to suggest that we should not have voted for a German President. May I also point out that Ursula von der Leyen was born in Brussels? That might make it worse for my hon. Friend than the fact that she is from Germany. It is important that we see not only a gender balance but a geographical spread across the Commission in the appointments. He talks about us leaving the European Union. I want us to leave the European Union. I voted three times for us to leave the European Union. Had he voted with me, we would already be outside the European Union.
I thank the Prime Minister for her statement and advance sight of it. On a point of clarification, the Prime Minister suggested in Prime Minister’s questions that there was no review of devolution. That is of some surprise to those of us who were listening to Radio Scotland this morning and heard Lord Duncan talk about exactly that; indeed, he said that Lord Dunlop has been appointed to that role. Many Scottish journalists have tweeted that they have had briefings from No. 10, so perhaps the Prime Minister will take this opportunity to clarify whether she is going to Scotland tomorrow or whether she does not know what her diary involves.
I endorse the Prime Minister’s robust response to Russia, which must end its destabilising activity. Those responsible for the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal should be brought to justice, and the Russian state must take responsibility and allow justice to prevail. I also thank the Prime Minister for confirmation of the nominees for the Commission. We, of course, welcome the attempt to achieve a gender balance. It is important that the European Parliament is now able to take a role in this process.
The SNP welcomes that many of the world leaders reaffirmed their support for the full implementation of the Paris agreement but condemns President Trump’s ducking of the issue. The fact that President Trump refuses to wake up to the reality is irresponsible and delusional. This ticking time bomb needs a rapid and robust response. While the UK Government’s commitment is to reach targets by 2050, in Scotland we are trying to achieve net zero faster, by recently committing to a target of net zero emissions by 2045. Scotland has already reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 47% since 1990. But we all need to go further and faster. We have an obligation to the planet and to future generations to recognise that this is a climate emergency.
I welcome the fact that world leaders affirmed their commitment to the implementation of the 2030 agenda for sustainable growth and that the summit agreed to work towards a free, fair, stable and open-market environment in trade and investment. However, the Osaka declaration following the G20 summit says that there is still concern about the state of the global economy, noting
“growth remains low and risks remain tilted to the downside.”
The Prime Minister must take responsibility for the Government’s failure to grow the UK economy and fight inequality. Without an appropriate economic response from the UK Government, inequality is set to get worse rather than better. The Institute for Fiscal Studies agreed when it stated:
“If the Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecasts are correct, inequality is likely to increase in the next few years.”
Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur, found that one fifth of the UK population—14 million people—live in poverty and that, by 2021, 40% of children will be living below the poverty line. Those are staggering figures. No Prime Minister can be proud of leaving this as her legacy.
There was a glaring omission in the Prime Minister’s statement. The Japanese Foreign Minister warned against a no-deal Brexit, and said that it could risk Japanese auto manufacturers going through customs and that operations may not be able to continue. Therefore, I want to ask the Prime Minister: does she agree with the Japanese Foreign Minister?
Will the Prime Minister vote against a no-deal Brexit and against anyone intent on delivering a no-deal Brexit as being her successor? Furthermore, will she now act to undo the punitive austerity measures put in place by her Government to unlock economic growth and to begin to turn the tide on income inequality across the United Kingdom? Will she admit that she has made a multitude of mistakes, and failed to use power to help the powerless and rebalance our economy in a way that lifts the poor out of poverty and the disadvantaged into advantage? Prime Minister, this is your legacy of failure. It is your choice in your final days to do the right thing.
First, I will be going to Scotland tomorrow and I will be making a speech about the benefits of the Union of the United Kingdom. May I suggest that, rather than, as SNP Members always do, jumping on the bandwagon of something they read in the newspapers, they should actually wait to hear what I have to say in my speech tomorrow before they opine upon it?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his comments about Russia and the importance of our working to reduce and stop Russia’s destabilising activity, which takes many forms. We have seen it, most particularly, in the use of that chemical weapon on our streets, but of course we see it in cyber-attacks, in disinformation and in attempts to interfere in what is happening in other countries—often in democratic processes—and we will continue to work with others to bring about the aim that we all want.
The right hon. Gentleman references again the issue about no deal and a deal. I am afraid that the answer to his points has not changed. It has not changed from Prime Minister’s questions a little earlier this afternoon. I have consistently said that I think it is in the best interests of the UK to leave with a good deal. I believe we negotiated a good deal. Parliament was not willing to support that good deal, but I voted three times to ensure that we left the European Union with a deal. He chose to vote three times to leave with no deal, so I am not taking any lessons from him on that particular issue.
The right hon. Gentleman talks about failure to use powers. Actually, the best example of a failure to use the powers they have is the SNP Government in Scotland, who have been given extra powers, yet have consistently failed to use them. Whenever they are given extra powers, they do not use them. All they do is come back and say, “Please, sir, can we have some more?” Start doing the day job and stop focusing only on independence—that is what the SNP needs to do.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about economic growth. I am pleased to say that this country, under Conservative Governments, has seen I think 27 quarters of economic growth. That is the longest period of consistent growth of any of the G7 countries and that is a record the Conservatives are proud of.
I share the Prime Minister’s enthusiasm for the appointment of so many women to the top jobs in Europe’s institutions, and I thank her for the role she played in that. I really commend her for the good will and determination she has brought consistently to the table at both the G20 and at the EU summit. Does she agree that if, when we leave the European Union, we are going to continue to enjoy a constructive relationship with our neighbours, it is very important that we leave in an orderly fashion, with an agreement?
I thank my right hon. Friend for her kind words. I agree that it is important that, once we have left the European Union, we continue to have a strong and deep partnership and relationship with the European Union and obviously with the individual member states within the European Union. I believe the best way of achieving that is to leave with a good deal and I am only sorry that Parliament was not able to find a majority for that good deal. It is obviously up to my successor to find a majority in Parliament that can enable us to leave in a way that is in this country’s national interest.
The Prime Minister’s statement says that
“the best way to resolve trade disputes is through a reformed and strengthened WTO”.
Is it not the case that the dispute settlement mechanism no longer works because the United States does not recognise it and there are insufficient judges, and that those who would have Britain dependent on so-called WTO rules are making Britain dependent on a very weak and damaged organisation?
The right hon. Gentleman is right to focus attention on the important dispute resolution mechanism at the WTO. That plays an important part in enforcing the rules the WTO has. Obviously, if appellate body member appointments continue to be blocked, that risks the effective operation of the dispute settlement system. That would not be in our interests and it would not be in the interests of any of the members of the WTO, so we are strongly supporting an informal process that has been launched by the general council at the WTO to seek a resolution to this issue of the appellate body. Proposals put forward so far by WTO members bring the right ingredients to many of the concerns raised and we are urging all members to engage constructively in those ongoing discussions.
Ah yes, a Lincolnshire knight in a cheerful suit—Sir Edward Leigh.
It sets off your black gown, Mr Speaker.
After having to negotiate with these people for so many dreary months, the Prime Minister must be mightily relieved that she will no longer have to go to Brussels, but what advice would she give her successor about dealing with these people? Would she recommend, for instance, the injunction that no deal is better than a bad deal?
I have always believed that no deal was better than a bad deal, but I believe we negotiated a good deal. The advice I would give my successor is to act at all times in the best interests of this country. I believe it is in our best interests to be able to leave the European Union with a good deal, but it is up to my successor to find a majority in this House to enable us to leave the European Union.
It is reported this morning that Canada is apparently unwilling to roll over the provisions of the CETA deal—the comprehensive economic and trade agreement—for the United Kingdom in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Could the Prime Minister tell the House whether she discussed this matter at the G20 summit? May I take this opportunity to congratulate the Chancellor, sitting next to her, on the clear statements he has been making in recent days about the obvious danger to our economy from a no-deal Brexit?
First, we will continue to work with the Canadians on the roll-over of the Canadian trade deal. I am pleased to say that the Department for International Trade has been able to see agreements on the roll-over of a number of trade deals, including significant deals such as the one with South Korea. But we will continue to work with the Canadians on this issue and it is right that we do that in detail to make sure that what comes out as a result of those roll-overs are arrangements that are in the interests of this country. I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman has tempted me to say this: he has consistently stood up and argued for the case of not leaving the European Union without a deal, yet he has also consistently voted to leave the European Union without a deal.
I understand that, far from remaining silent at the EU summit, our Prime Minister made recommendations for not just one but for all four of the top jobs, and every single name she nominated or suggested was a highly qualified, highly competent woman. Can I thank the Prime Minister, as this might be her last statement as Prime Minister, for all she has done to champion women in politics in this country and across the world? Can we also send a message back to No. 10 to thank her husband for the highly dignified way in which he represented our country in the partners photo at the G20?
Yes, I am not sure if it is the rickshaw photograph of my husband that my hon. Friend is referring to, but I will happily take those compliments back to him.
I was happy to put forward the names of a number of women and to champion the need for gender balance in the appointments to the EU’s so-called top jobs. I believe it is important that we see that gender balance. I am pleased to have continued to be able to champion women, and I will continue to do that when I move to the Back Benches. May I also say to my hon. Friend that, apart from the appointments that have already been announced, it is expected that other women will take up senior posts within the Commission? Those are of course matters for the incoming President of the Commission, but I would expect to see more women taking senior roles in those roles in future.
In the role that the Prime Minister played in the appointments to the EU’s top jobs, what were the top three things that she supported in the policy programme of the Commission’s new President?
Those people, including the President of the Commission, will not take up their positions until 1 November. It is, of course, possible that we will have left the European Union at that point, but I want to see a President of the European Commission—as I said to members of the European Council—who wants to continue working to find an arrangement for the relationship between the UK and the European Union in the future that is a positive and constructive one and that enables us to live with our near neighbours in a way that is to the advantage and benefit of both the United Kingdom and the European Union.
As the Prime Minister knows, the UK decided not to give notice to quit the European economic area, as required under article 127. Although I absolutely understand that she would not want to bind the hands of her successor, will she instruct officials to consider rejoining the European Free Trade Association pillar of the EEA agreement, since —as she will understand—the EU is under an international obligation to make existing treaties operable?
I recognise that my hon. Friend has championed that aspect of our future relationship. I think that the future relationship that we had negotiated with the European Union was actually better than the proposals that he has put forward, because it gave us greater independence while maintaining economic advantages in our trade relationship with the European Union. That, of course, has been rejected by the House, and it will be up to my successor to find the right way through.
Did the Prime Minister see the embarrassing sight yesterday of the Brexit party MEPs turning their backs on the European Parliament? Does she agree that such acts are born of the absurd notion, which has done so much damage to the country, that we are some kind of subjugated colony of the EU, rather than the full, equal and highly successful member that we have been? Will she join me in rejecting this notion of Britain as a colony, lest it lead to more humiliating spectacles such as we saw yesterday?
The United Kingdom has played a full role as a member of the European Union. We have been highly regarded around that EU table, and I want us to continue to be able to have a relationship with the EU in the future that will see us not only having greater independence outside the European Union, but able to contribute and work with our partners in the European Union on the challenges that we all face. Issues such as climate change are not restricted to one country or to one grouping of countries; these are issues for us all. We want to continue to work constructively and to maintain that high regard in which the UK has always been held.
Did my right hon. Friend get the opportunity to thank our colleagues in the European Union for their immense contribution, together with us, towards the collective peace and security of Europe over all the years of our membership—not least the free peoples of eastern Europe and those in the Balkans who, at times of conflict, look towards the EU as a beacon of peace and democracy? Did she reassure them that with our membership of the Security Council and NATO we will continue to find ways to collaborate successfully on that continuing peace and security, and that they should ignore the sometimes childish and unfortunate anti-German rhetoric that occasionally comes from our Benches?
I have repeatedly given our commitment to maintaining the security of Europe. We do that, of course, through NATO, as the second-biggest contributor and biggest European contributor to it, and we will continue to do so. I was able to thank members around the European Union Council for the co-operation that we have seen between the United Kingdom and member states of the European Union, and to express my desire that that co-operation and working together will continue in the future for our mutual benefit.
I do not know whether it is because of the prospect of the new European institution heads, but the Prime Minister will know that the former Foreign Secretary and the current Foreign Secretary are absolutely adamant that during August and September they will be able to negotiate a superior withdrawal agreement—perhaps with extra “positive energy”, as the former Foreign Secretary says. Does the Prime Minister think that it will be that simple?
Obviously it is up to whoever succeeds me to take forward negotiations and look at the relationship for withdrawing from the European Union and our future relationship with the European Union in the way that they think fit. The EU Council has made statements about the negotiations so far and about its position on those negotiations, but obviously it will be up to my successor to take those forward.
Did my right hon. Friend have the opportunity to discuss with Secretary-General Guterres or other G20 leaders the troubling reports surrounding the alleged torture and death of the navy captain Rafael Acosta Arévalo in Venezuela? If there is evidence of torture and human rights abuses by Maduro and his henchmen, will she press for them to be held to account by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights or, if appropriate, referred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague?
I recognise the concern that my right hon. Friend has expressed in relation to this case. I was able on a number of occasions to raise the overall issue of Venezuela; I was recently also able to discuss it with the President of Colombia when he visited the United Kingdom. We are all concerned about the state that we see in Venezuela, about actions that have been taken in that country, and about the appalling circumstances and conditions in which so many Venezuelans find themselves living, which is why so many Venezuelans have been fleeing their country to neighbouring countries, putting a significant burden on those neighbouring countries.
It is good to hear the Prime Minister making it clear that there is no question of normalising relations with Russia while it remains in flagrant violation of the international norms that, as a permanent member of the Security Council, it is supposed to be at the forefront of upholding. Does it not gall her to see the man who is supposed to be the leader of the free world—the President of the United States—laughing and joking with this rogue President, Putin? Should not the UK be leading the charge to increase the pressure on Russia, potentially even through expelling its ambassador, while it enables atrocity after atrocity in Syria, gravely damaging the multilateral rule of law and order that is vital to ongoing peace and security in the world?
I think what is important for the United Kingdom is that we continue to take this strong position in relation to the activities of Russia. I have referenced a number of those already; I have not yet referenced in response to questions the actions that Russia took in Ukraine, which are matters that I also raised with President Putin.
It is important to look at the actions that the United States has taken. After the attack that took place in Salisbury, it expelled about 60 Russian officials. We saw a significant and unprecedented international response, but in fact the largest number of expulsions took place from the United States. Its actions, I think, have been important in this.
The Prime Minister said that international development expenditure would be aligned with emissions reduction, but last week the Secretary of State told us in terms that his main effort was resilience, not emissions reduction. The Prime Minister’s priority is the right one, but does the Secretary of State know?
I assure my right hon. Friend that we are working on all these issues. As I indicated in response to an earlier question—I think it was in response to comments that the Leader of the Opposition made—it is important not only that we work on reduction, but that we ensure that while that reduction is taking place, we help those countries that need to build their resilience and their ability to deal with the climate change that we are already seeing. They are not mutually exclusive; I think we should be doing both.
Democracy, freedom and human rights, and the upholding of those principles through international law, must surely be the cornerstone of British foreign policy. Given that this year we have seen the largest number of mass executions on a single day in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, given the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi by that regime, and given its abominable and inexcusable actions in Yemen, does the Prime Minister really believe that it is appropriate to allow the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Mohammed bin Salman to host the G20?
I think what is important about the G20 is that what it enables us to do is actually sit down, have those conversations and make those points directly. I was able to make a number of points, as I indicated earlier, about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and about what is happening in Yemen direct to the Crown Prince in the bilateral that I held with him, and it is possible for those points to be made around the G20 table. It is about engagement; if we do not engage, it is much harder to ensure that we are making those points and seeing those points being responded to. We do take action, we consistently raise the issue of human rights in Saudi Arabia, and we will continue to do so.
I thank the Prime Minister for her statement. Many across the country recognise the outstanding professionalism, integrity and respect with which she has always represented the United Kingdom on the international stage. When does she think a decision and announcement will be made about our Anglo-Italian proposal to host next year’s climate change conference here?
We had hoped that an announcement would be made towards the end of June; unfortunately, that was not possible. There is still a European bid from Turkey. I raised this with President Erdoğan when I met him. It may be some weeks before a final decision is taken, but we continue to make the necessary preparations for what I hope will be a successful bid.
The Prime Minister says that she is immensely proud that Britain became the world’s first major economy to commit in law to ending our contribution to global warming by 2050, and so am I. I am proud to have been part of that Parliament, and I am proud that my party supported that measure last week, in both the Commons and the Lords. Would the Prime Minister care to correct the record, and to confirm that she understands that contrary to the impression she gave last week—accidentally, I am sure —Labour peers did not attempt to block the measure? In fact, they intended to strengthen it through an amendment to make it clearer.
Labour peers tabled a regret motion against the Government’s proposal for a target of net zero emissions by 2050. I am pleased that, in the event, we were able to put that into law—that is important —and I had hoped that Labour peers would wholeheartedly embrace the measure, rather than tabling a regret motion.
As chair of the all-party group on malaria and neglected tropical diseases, I thank the Prime Minister for the announcement on the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; I also thank her on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert) and the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty), who chair the other groups involved. Was there discussion of the real problem of the lack of jobs across the world—not just in the European Union but in its near neighbourhood, in Africa? That is so important. So much time was spent discussing the top jobs; we need to spend an awful lot more time discussing jobs for the hundreds of millions of people who need them.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right that ensuring that there are jobs available for people in Africa is a crucial challenge that we all face—one on which, again, the United Kingdom has taken a leading role. On my visit to Africa last year, I was able to talk about how we will use development aid, and other support that we can provide through such things as the great strength of the City of London, to ensure the investment that will lead to those jobs. I was impressed by the recognition of the issue among those I met, and by their enthusiasm to work with us to ensure that those jobs are available in future. I have discussed the subject with other EU leaders, and it is recognised around the G20 table.
In the light of comments that the US ambassador to the UK made this morning about President Trump’s desire for the NHS to be part of any post-Brexit trade deal, it appears that the special relationship is becoming more of a special interest for the President. What steps can the Prime Minister take in her final days in office, and what does she expect her successor to do, to resist those attempts to access our NHS as part of any future trade deal? What will she do, and what does she expect her successor to do, to ensure that the United States comes back to the table and is part of the Paris climate change agreement?
We continue to put pressure on the United States on the climate change agreement, and to raise with it the importance of the issue. As far as we are concerned, the NHS will never be privatised. We will continue to ensure that decisions about public services are taken by UK Governments, not by our trade partners, and future trade agreements will not alter that. Indeed, the President himself made it clear, following his visit to the United Kingdom, that the national health service was not part of that trade agreement.
I thank my right hon. Friend for her leadership on environmental matters and on tackling climate change. Yesterday, the all-party environment group heard from Lord Adair Turner that although Britain makes only 1.5% of global emissions, our influence abroad is massive, not just because we are a world leader in tackling climate change here, but because of the possibility of green tech jobs and investment in the United Kingdom economy. Does my right hon. Friend understand that that is a real legacy of hers? I hope that future Governments will commit further to this.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that, and for the work he has done on environmental issues in his ministerial roles. He continues to champion these issues. I absolutely agree with him. There are those who say that we can either have economic growth or tackle climate change. That is a false dichotomy. Tackling climate change is about developing new types of job, new technology, and new areas of employment for our economy. Already, something like 400,000 people are employed in, effectively, the clean growth economy—in renewable energy and so forth—and we will see many more such jobs being created. The message that we need to take around the world is that this is about future economies, and future employment and jobs.
Did any of the countries represented at the G20 discuss with the Prime Minister the recent UN resolution regarding the sovereignty of the Chagos Islands? If she is seeking to leave a legacy, perhaps the best things she could do are respect the international rules-based order, respect the decision that sovereignty of the Chagos Islands should be returned to Mauritius, and restore the right to return to the Chagossian community, which would right a historical injustice.
The hon. Gentleman will be aware of the Government’s position on this. That position has not changed, and no such discussions took place.
The readmission last week of the Russians to the Council of Europe is being described by the Russians as international approval of the Russian invasion of Crimea. Did the Prime Minister have the chance to tell Putin that we totally reject that view?
I was able to make clear to President Putin the view that the United Kingdom takes: this was an illegal annexation of Crimea. I was also able to make it clear that we expect Russia to return the sailors and ships that were taken from the Kerch strait.
The Prime Minister spoke of engaging constructively with the European Union, which I welcome, but went on to praise a slate of top-job nominations agreed in backroom deals. Does she not think that the people of the European Union should have had the opportunity to vote for the Commission President in the European parliamentary elections, and that a British Prime Minister should champion democratic values in the European Union, in the G20, and in the United Kingdom, which means a vote on any deal?
That was a very clever way round to the hon. Lady’s end point, which was that we should go back to the British people and ask them to think again. I do not think that we should; I think we should accept the decision that they took and deliver on it.
At the top of her statement, the Prime Minister rightly spoke about climate change and its importance to her, which she is proving, and of the importance of the summit. There were numerous horrifying media reports this weekend that in Brazil, an area of Amazon rain forest the size of a football pitch is being cleared every minute. At the summit, was any mention made of this act of planetary self-harm, which seems to have resumed with menace since President Bolsonaro took power? If not, please could the UK Government make urgent inquiries to establish the position? What is happening is surely not in the interests of any of us, and certainly not in the interests of members of the G20.
Obviously, the issue of climate change covered a broad range of topics, but I am certainly happy to take up my hon. Friend’s request that we try to establish the exact situation in relation to these reports of deforestation. It is an issue that we should all be concerned about.
I am very disappointed that the Prime Minister did not mention in her statement the 500,000 dead, the 11 million people displaced from their homes and the millions from Syria in refugee camps in neighbouring countries. In her discussions with President Erdoğan and Prince Mohammad bin Salman, and with the UN Secretary-General and with Putin, did she do anything to press on them the need for a political solution in Syria, an end to this conflict, and a stop to the Russian bombing of hospitals and the killings of civilians that are taking place at this very moment in Idlib and elsewhere?
Yes, I was able to raise with President Erdoğan and with President Putin my concerns about the need to come to a political settlement in Syria. I also raised very specific concerns about the situation in Idlib and the need to ensure that we de-escalate tensions in that area. So the answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question is, yes I did raise it in a number of the meetings that I held.
With more EU citizens than ever now critical of the EU project, I wonder whether my right hon. Friend has considered how those hours of horse-trading look to those citizens. We have Ursula von der Leyen, the Commission President, who seems intent on creating a US-style new country and an EU army. We have Christine Lagarde for the European Central Bank; hers is perhaps the only name that we recognise, but we do so, I think, for all the wrong reasons. This new group of those in the top jobs seem to have federalism at the heart of their agenda, stripping more powers away from national Governments, and for any problem the answer is more Europe. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that proves without any doubt that the Commission—and its institutions—has no regard or care whatever for the electorates it is there to serve?
The nature of the European Union for the future will be a matter for the 27 remaining member states, because of course we will be leaving the European Union. I think it is right that those who have been appointed, or nominated, for those appointments are those who have shown their competence to undertake the roles in the future, but, as I say, how they shape that—how the future of the European Union is taken forward—will be a matter for the 27.
I congratulate the Prime Minister on the wonderful face that she adopted when she was holding President Putin’s hand. It had more ice in it than the polar ice cap, and it said it all. He, as she knows, gave an interview to the Financial Times, saying that western-style liberalism was “obsolete”. I hope she was able to point out to him that, having the rule of law, with independent judges, free speech, freedom of assembly and free elections, is pretty good.
May I perhaps reassure the hon. Gentleman that, unlike a polar ice cap, on this issue I am not melting? [Laughter.] I did make the point to President Putin that liberal democracies have ensured greater prosperity and security for their people than any other system.
We are used to statements from European institutions that their decisions are not reviewable, including the European Parliament insisting it would block any nominee for European President who was not one of the Spitzenkandidaten. Does the Prime Minister expect the European Parliament to veto the nominee—or might they just decide that compromise is possible where circumstances dictate?
I sincerely hope that, after considerable discussion and consultation with the European Parliament, the European Parliament will feel able to accept the package of nominees for top jobs. Of course, the Parliament will be voting on the president of the Parliament as well. But there was considerable discussion with the European Parliament as part of the process, so I hope that they would feel able to accept this set of nominees, notwithstanding, of course, that none of them was one of the Spitzenkandidaten who were put forward.
I commend the Prime Minister for her forthright stance with President Putin over the nerve gas that killed Dawn Sturgess in Salisbury. Will she confirm that she took an equally forthright stance with President Trump, whose views on the climate emergency will, if sustained, lead to the deaths of many millions of people around the world?
I have raised the United States’s approach to climate change, and particularly to the Paris agreement, with President Trump on many occasions, and I continue to raise it with him.
My son Alexander is nine today, and in so many ways I think he is incredibly lucky to be growing up in Scotland.
Was there any discussion at the G20 of the appalling scandal emerging at the US border, where women and their children have been separated from each other, are being held in overcrowded and insanitary conditions that have been likened to concentration camps and, according to Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, who visited this week, being forced to drink from toilets and abused by US border guards? Has she raised that with President Trump, and if not, will she do so?
I wish the hon. Lady’s son Alexander a very happy birthday today.
I am sure we are all concerned about the deeply shocking images that we have seen from the US-Mexico border. Obviously, countries are responsible for their own border policy, but we all, I think, have the responsibility of ensuring that we address migration issues humanely. Concerns about what has happened on that border will continue to be raised.
Following on from the question asked by the hon. Member for Henley (John Howell), the Prime Minister will be aware that during the G20 the Russian Federation returned to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. With respect, there are questions about the Government’s approach to its return, but they are perhaps for another time. Given Crimea, given Georgia, given Moldova, given Chechnya, given MH17, given, of course, the nerve agent attack in Salisbury, and given the opportunity that the Prime Minister had to meet President Putin, how does she feel the future of our relationship with the Russian Federation will go now?
The point was made, which I reiterated in my statement, that I have been consistently clear: we have no argument with the Russian people. It is possible for us to have a different relationship with Russia, but for that to take place Russia has to change its behaviour and to follow a different path. We will not be able to normalise our relations until it does.
While we may be concerned at the lack of complete openness and democracy in the appointment of top jobs in the European Union, we are about to get a Prime Minister foisted on us in an election in which 99.75% of the population have no say, so perhaps a wee bit of humility is called for.
When the Prime Minister met Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia and asked for support in building a political solution to the crisis in Saudi and Yemen, did she remind him that the causes of that crisis are military; that one of the biggest players in that military crime is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; and that according to a Committee of this Parliament it is highly likely that British weapons are being used in the commission of those crimes in Yemen? So did she tell him that it is time for the illegal bombing of civilians in Yemen to stop? Did she tell him there will be no more British arms sales to Saudi Arabia until those crimes have stopped? If she did not tell him that, why not?
We continue to make the case in Yemen for ensuring that there is a political solution. That is the only way in which we shall see a stable, secure Yemen into the future. We have been playing a leading role in those diplomatic efforts. We are supporting the United Nations in bringing key Yemeni and international actors together to deliver a peaceful solution. We support the efforts of the UN special envoy, Martin Griffiths, and we continue to do so, particularly to secure the implementation of the Stockholm agreement.
On the first point that the hon. Gentleman raised, I am not sure that the SNP is the best party to raise the question of how leaders are appointed to the leadership of their parties.
And the prize for patience and perseverance goes to Brendan O’Hara.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. In terms of value, the United States is the world’s largest export market for Scotch whisky, worth more than £1 billion last year. Yesterday, we heard that Scotch is on a list of products that could face large import tariffs into America, which would be deeply damaging, particularly for whisky-producing communities such as those in my Argyll and Bute constituency. What discussions did the Prime Minister have with President Trump over the damaging America First, isolationist trade agenda and the effect it will have on markets around the world? Does she agree that in terms of trade, as in so much else, he is not a trustworthy ally?
We have been consistently clear with the United States about our concerns regarding the approach it is taking in relation to trade. As I said earlier, we continue to support the concept of a rules-based international order, working through the WTO. As I said in my statement, we want to see reform of the WTO rather than people resorting to the introduction of tariffs. We consistently champion the Scotch whisky industry around the world. I am pleased to say that there have been successes, not least by one or two of our trade envoys, in working with the Scotch whisky industry to ensure that tariffs have been reduced in other parts of the world; I can think of at least one example. We continue to try to ensure that we are opening up markets for Scotch whisky, which is an extremely good product and which we want everybody around the world to be able to enjoy.
I thank the Prime Minister for two solid, busy hours at the Dispatch Box.