Wednesday 2 October 2019
Exiting the European Union
Leaving the EU: Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland
The United Kingdom is leaving the European Union on 31 October 2019. We want to leave with a deal. One of the most important elements of this deal will be the agreement of a new Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland in place of the previous protocol (known as the backstop) which this Government are committed to replacing.
The Prime Minister wrote to Donald Tusk on 19 August 2019 setting out the UK’s views on the backstop, as well as this Government’s desired final destination for a long-term relationship with the EU.
Since then, the Government have pursued discussions with the European Union on alternatives to the backstop enthusiastically and constructively, and we have made good progress.
The Government are now putting forward a formal proposal to the European Commission, setting out the changes we are seeking to the withdrawal agreement. This represents a clear offer from the UK which we will ask the EU to engage with, enabling us to move towards a deal.
First, this proposal is based above all on our commitment to find solutions which are compatible with the Belfast (Good Friday) agreement, the fundamental basis for governance in Northern Ireland.
Second, this proposal confirms our commitment to long-standing areas of UK-Ireland collaboration, including those provided for in the Belfast (Good Friday) agreement, but also others, in some cases predating the European Union: the common travel area; the rights of all those living in Northern Ireland; and north-south co-operation.
Third, this proposal provides for the potential creation of an all-island regulatory zone on the island of Ireland, covering all goods including agrifood and eliminating all regulatory checks for trade in goods between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
Fourth, and unlike the backstop, this regulatory zone must depend on the consent of those affected by it. This is essential to the acceptability of arrangements under which part of the UK accepts the rules of a different political entity: it is fundamental to democracy. The Government therefore propose that the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly should have the opportunity to endorse these arrangements before they enter into force, that is, during the transition period, and every four years afterwards. If consent is not secured, the arrangements will lapse. The same should apply to the single electricity market, which raises the same principles.
Fifth, this proposal ensures that Northern Ireland will be fully part of the UK customs territory, not the EU customs territory, after the end of the transition period. It has always been a fundamental point for this Government that the UK will leave the EU customs union at the end of the transition period, since control of trade policy is fundamental to this country’s future prosperity.
This is entirely compatible with maintaining an open border in Northern Ireland. Goods trade between Northern Ireland and Ireland makes up a little over 1% of UK-EU total trade in goods. Any risks arising will be manageable in both the EU single market and the UK market, particularly as all third country imports will continue to be controlled by the EU and UK customs authorities. We are proposing that all customs processes needed to ensure compliance with the UK and EU customs regimes should take place on a decentralised basis, with paperwork conducted electronically as goods move between the two countries, and with the very small number of physical checks needed conducted at traders’ premises or other points on the supply chain. All this must be coupled with a firm commitment, by both parties, never to conduct checks at the border in future.
Finally, in order to support Northern Ireland through this transition, and in collaboration with others with an interest, this Government proposes a new deal for Northern Ireland, with appropriate commitments to help boost economic growth and Northern Ireland’s competitiveness, and to support infrastructure projects, particularly with a cross-border focus.
Taken together, these proposals respect the decision taken by the people of the UK to leave the EU, while dealing pragmatically with that decision’s consequences in Northern Ireland and in Ireland. In particular:
They provide for continued regulatory alignment across the whole island of Ireland after the end of the transition period, for as long as the people of Northern Ireland agree to that.
They mean that EU rules cannot be maintained indefinitely if they are not wanted, correcting a key defect of the backstop arrangements.
They provide for a meaningful Brexit in which UK trade policy is fully under UK control from the start.
They ensure that the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland will remain open, enabling the huge gains of the Belfast (Good Friday) agreement to be protected.
The Government believe that these proposals can provide the basis for rapid negotiations towards a final withdrawal agreement. In parallel, we will be negotiating a revised political declaration which reflects this Government’s ultimate goal of a future relationship with the EU that has a comprehensive free trade agreement at its heart. Together, these will allow us to reach agreement with the EU under article 50, and leave the EU with a deal that both respects the referendum result and provides a strong platform for our future relationship.
I will be depositing a copy of the following papers in the Libraries of both Houses:
Letter from the Prime Minister to Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission and;
Explanatory note on UK proposals for an amended Protocol on Ireland-Northern Ireland.
These will also be made available on gov.uk.
Crime and Policing
One of my key priorities as Home Secretary is ensuring that the police have the resources, tools and powers they need to keep themselves and the public safe.
The Prime Minister and I have launched a national campaign to recruit 20,000 additional officers and police funding has increased by over £1 billion this year, including money from council tax and to tackle serious violence. The following packages will further progress these efforts.
Today I am notifying the House of a new £25 million safer streets fund to tackle burglary, theft and other offences in areas of the country disproportionately affected by these crimes.
Police and crime commissioners across England and Wales will be able to bid to the safer streets fund for investment in evidence-based crime prevention measures such as improved home security, street lighting and alley gating. Alley gating is associated with a 43% reduction in burglary, improved street lighting is found to reduce property crime by 17% and CCTV can reduce vehicle crime by 26%. Funding will be available to areas in 2020-21. These interventions can either remove opportunities to commit crime or act as a deterrent by increasing the chances an offender is caught.
I am also announcing a package of measures to deliver a significant uplift in activity to tackle county lines. County lines has a devastating impact and involves a form of drug dealing associated with serious violence and exploitation of vulnerable young people and adults. It involves gangs and organised criminal networks exporting illegal drugs to and from different locations in the country, using dedicated mobile phone lines, accommodation and exploitation of vulnerable people to conduct criminal activity.
It is important that we go further in tackling the criminals involved. The significant new action will help disrupt and dismantle the county lines model. The new measures are as follows:
Expanding the National County Lines Co-ordination Centre: there will be targeted investment in the National County Lines Co-ordination Centre to increase its activity, capability and capacity at a regional and national level to disrupt county lines. This will include placing more officers and staff into the centre and providing additional strategic resource to regional organised crime units. The National County Lines Co-ordination Centre brings together a multi-agency team of experts from the National Crime Agency (NCA), police officers and regional organised crime units to tackle the issue of county lines through sharing intelligence, working with partners across Government and taking concerted action.
Increased disruption on rail networks: rail networks remain a key method of transportation for county lines gangs. There will be a British Transport police team that works exclusively on county lines and will be based at a number of railway stations across England to disrupt and intercept county lines drug trafficking.
Investment in technology to disrupt county lines operations: the road network is used to transport offenders, victims, drugs, cash and weapons. Enhanced data analysis using automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) will enable police to proactively target vehicles suspected of being used in county lines activity.
Increasing support services for county lines victims: county lines gangs operate their business through exploiting young people and vulnerable adults. The Government will develop an expanded national specialist support service to help young people and their families exit their involvement in county lines.
Working with money service bureaux to tackle illicit finance: county lines is a cash-driven activity. The Government will intensify operations to identify opportunities to take action against money service bureaux, enabling increased cash seizures and arrests for money laundering.
Taken as a whole, this package represents additional investment of up to £5 million in 2019-20 and up to £15 million in 2020-21.
The Government will provide £10 million funding to deliver a significant increase in the number of officers carrying Tasers. Recent high-profile attacks and increasing levels of violence have led to growing concerns around officer protection and prompted growing calls to equip more officers with conducted energy devices (CEDs). CEDs provide officers with a critical tactic in the face of the most violent and challenging circumstances.
This funding shows a real commitment by Government to ensuring police officers have the resources, powers and tools they need to keep themselves and the public safe. Ring-fenced funding could mean over 10,000 more police officers in England and Wales will be able to carry the device. This fund will help support chief officers to buy the necessary number of CEDs they require, and ensure frontline officers are better protected.
The number of CED-trained officers in each police force remains an operational matter and is determined by chief officers in line with their assessment of the threats and risks in their force. The decision on whether to apply for this additional funding to uplift their CED capability will therefore ultimately be for chief officers and carrying CEDs will remain a voluntary decision for individual officers. All officers who are selected to use CEDs will need to complete the comprehensive training process.
Today I announced a new focus on ending preventable deaths of mothers, new-born babies and children, working with the international community.
Every eleven seconds, somewhere in the world, a pregnant woman or new-born baby dies. Last year 5.3 million children under 5 died. More than 9 in 10 of all maternal deaths occur in the world’s poorest countries. The true tragedy of these stark figures is that in most cases, with the right care, these deaths are preventable.
The reality for many women in the developing world, is they do not have access to the vital rights, medicines and services that make such a difference to expecting mothers in the UK. Of course, these tragedies are not limited to the developing world. Families in the UK also suffer the heartbreak of losing a child or a mother, but while their pain is of course no less bearable it is, thankfully, far less common. Since 2010 in the UK there has been a 19% reduction in stillbirths and an 8% reduction in maternal mortality.
Internationally, UK aid has supported developing countries to reduce maternal deaths. Nepal has seen the maternal mortality ratio decrease by over 50% since 1996. In Bangladesh that figure has fallen by 68% since 1990. Sustained improvements in the health system as well as innovations have driven this success. This includes using expertise from the UK Royal College of Midwives to develop a professional cadre of midwives who can provide services in hard to reach rural areas of Bangladesh.
However, while we have made progress, that progress is not felt all round the world. Two-thirds of deaths still occur in sub-Saharan Africa. Recent figures published by the UN show that we are off track to meet global targets of a world where every pregnancy is wanted, where every childbirth is safe and where every child lives a healthy life. This is clearly not acceptable. Where women and children are dying from preventable causes in the developing world, we must act.
As International Development Secretary, I will ramp up the UK’s efforts to end preventable deaths of mothers, new-born babies and children in the developing world by 2030. Through UK aid, we will work with international partners to boost our support for developing countries to make progress towards universal health coverage, with everyone able to affordably access the quality health services that they need, and with a health system they can be proud of, as proud as we are of our lifesaving NHS.
We will focus on the most vulnerable women, including FGM survivors who are significantly more at risk of complications during childbirth, as everyone in the world deserves access to the healthcare they need to live a healthy life.
We will also make sure women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights are at the heart of that. On 23 September, at the United Nations general assembly, I announced a £600 million reproductive health supplies programme, as part of the UK’s commitment to universal health coverage, and as a champion of sexual and reproductive health and rights. This will give 20 million women and girls access to family planning and prevent 5 million unintended pregnancies each year up to 2025. Women and girls must have control over their bodies, and access to services they need. This Government are committed to defending and promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights and will continue to fight against the attempted global rollback on women’s rights.
An estimated 19.9 million children did not receive the vaccines needed during their first year of life, putting them at serious risk of potentially fatal diseases such as measles and meningitis, which is why we are hosting the replenishment of Gavi, the vaccines alliance, next year. Since 2000, UK aid to Gavi has helped vaccinate over 760 million children, saving 13 million lives and protecting a generation against some of the world’s deadliest diseases. As hosts of its replenishment next year, we are committed to working with our global partners to deliver Gavi’s new strategy that will vaccine a further 300 million children in the world’s poorest countries by 2025. We will invest more in vaccines and research so that developing countries benefit from the very best of British and international scientific expertise.
The senseless injustice of preventable deaths must end.