Michael Gove – 2017 Speech on a Green Brexit

Below is the text of the speech made by Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, on 21 July 2017.

Safeguarding our future

It is a particular pleasure to be here today in WWF’s magnificent Living Planet Centre. It’s an inspirational example of how buildings can contribute to environmental sustainability. The WWF’s commitment to worldwide conservation, to robust research and to engaging people as well as policy makers in these critical issues has ensured it has provided a wonderful example of environmental leadership. I hope that we will continue to work closely together, and with other organisations represented here, as we forge our future approach to the environment.

In 1970, the incoming Conservative Government of Edward Heath created this country’s first Department of the Environment. The new Department published a White Paper on our natural heritage in 1972 which was entitled ‘How Do you Want to Live?’ The Department, with perhaps more idealism, or less due diligence, than has subsequently been the case in Government communications strategy, commissioned Philip Larkin to write a poetic prologue.

And his poem – subsequently titled ‘Going, Going’ – is a lament for the erosion and destruction of our natural environment under the pressures of corporate greed, devil take the hindmost individualism, and modernist brutalism.

And That Will Be England Gone,

The Shadows, The Meadows, The Lanes,

The Guildhalls, The Carved Choirs.

There’ll Be Books; It Will Linger On

In Galleries; But All That Remains

For Us Will Be Concrete And Tyres.

Most Things Are Never Meant.

This Won’t Be, Most Likely; But Greeds

And Garbage Are Too Thick-Strewn

To Be Swept Up Now, Or Invent

Excuses That Make Them All Needs.

I Just Think It Will Happen, Soon.

Of course, Philip Larkin was never the most cheerful of voices in English literature but the warning note that he sounded in ‘Going, Going’ was profound – and prescient.

In the 45 years since he wrote we have lost green space, cut down trees, sacrificed meadow and heath land, polluted our earth, air and water, we placed species in danger and we’ve run down the renewable resources – from fish to soil – on which our future depends. Farmland bird numbers have been cut in half, species have been devastated, bees and other pollinators threatened.

And at the same time, across the globe, we’ve seen climate change threaten both fragile natural habitats and developing human societies, we’ve allowed extractive and exploitative political systems to lay waste to natural resources and we’ve placed species of plants and animals in new and mortal danger while gambling with the future health of the whole world.

Now, I am an environmentalist first because I care about the fate of fellow animals, and I draw inspiration from nature and I believe that we need beauty in our lives as much as we need food and shelter. We can never be fully ourselves unless we recognise that we are shaped by forces, biological and evolutionary, that tie us to this earth that we share with others even as we dream of capturing the heavens.

But I am also an environmentalist because of hard calculation as well as the promptings of the heart. We need to maintain and enhance the natural world around us, or find ourselves facing disaster.

Unless we take the right environmental action we risk seeing more species die out, with potentially undreamt of consequences in terms of the health and balance of nature. We risk flood damage to the homes in which we live and devastation to the islands that others know as their only home. We will see the forward march of deserts compelling populations to be on the move and the growing shortage of water creating new conflicts and exacerbating old rivalries.

Indeed, ultimately, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat and the energy which powers enterprise, are all threatened if we do not practice proper stewardship of the planet.

If we consider the fate of past societies and civilisations, it has been, again and again, environmental factors that have brought about collapse or crisis. The Pulitzer Prize-winning academic Jared Diamond has, brilliantly, anatomised the forces which led to past civilisational destruction – deforestation and habitat destruction; soil problems such as erosion, salinization, and soil fertility losses; water management problems; overhunting; overfishing; and the effects of introduced species on native species.

He has also outlined the contemporary environmental threats that we now face with irresistible clarity – climate change, the build-up of toxins in our soil, air and oceans and the spiralling level of resource consumption, waste generation and demand for energy which all threaten human progress in the future.

Now, it is because environmental degradation is such a threat to future prosperity and security that I deeply regret President Trump’s approach towards the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. I sincerely hope the recent indications that the President may be minded to think again do signal a change of heart. International co-operation to deal with climate change is critical if we’re to safeguard our planet’s future and the world’s second biggest generator of carbon emissions cannot simply walk out of the room when the heat is on. It’s our planet too and America needs to know that we can only resolve this problem together.

And it’s absolutely vital that we think ahead, coolly and rationally, to do what we can to both move towards greener energy generation and adapt to changing temperatures. The devastating impact climate change can have on societies has been brilliantly brought out in Geoffrey Parker’s history of the seventeenth century, ‘Global Crisis’. Parker charts the collapse of hemispherically-dominant regimes from China to Spain and the outbreak of devastating civil wars in the UK and across Europe all driven, or exacerbated, by the resource challenges generated by climate change. History teaches us that unless we prepare for these challenges we will be undone.

Now, of course, there is a huge difference in the scale and duration of seventeenth century climate impacts and the current man-made crisis. And the technological breakthroughs that mankind has pioneered in recent years, the greater scientific knowledge that we now enjoy, the computational power of the machinery in our own hands, means that we live in a radically different world to our ancestors.

But we live on the same planet. The only one we know which can sustain human life. And the history of humanity on this planet tells us that, again and again, societies and civilisations have been gripped by hubris, by the belief that this time is different. That the cycles of the past have been broken.

And we have seen, recently and all too graphically, how hubris in the financial markets, the belief among some that they had become not just a global elite but masters of the universe, led to economic disaster.

Science, technology, computational power are certainly critical to shaping our future, and as I shall go on to argue at greater length later in this speech, but if we imagine they can liberate us from the need to safeguard our environment, to protect the species we share this planet with, to protect and purify our air and our oceans, to keep our earth fertile and ensure that we can renew our natural resources, then we will have succumbed to the hubris which has wrought such devastation in the past, and which in the future may condemn us to much worse than economic hardship.

So we should not aim simply to halt or slow the deterioration of our environment. We must raise our ambitions so we seek to restore nature and reverse decline. This government was elected on a pledge to be the first to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it. While the need for action on the environment has rarely been greater there are also, at this moment, forces at work which make me optimistic about our capacity to rise to this challenge – and in particular optimistic about the role our country can play.

The future can be better

The first reason for optimism is the idealism and commitment of so many in our society, of all ages but especially among young people.

Environmental organisations – from WWF to the RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts to Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth – enjoy memberships in the tens and hundreds of thousands, and also the support of millions more and a capacity to move hearts more powerful than any other set of institutions in our civil society.

And their campaigning energy and idealism, while occasionally uncomfortable for those of us in power, who have to live in a world of compromise and deal-making, is vital to ensuring we continue to make progress in protecting and enhancing our environment.

On everything from alerting us all to the danger posed by plastics in our oceans and nitrogen oxide in our air, to the threats posed to elephants by poaching and cod by over-fishing, it’s been environmental organisations which have driven Governments to make progress. They have demonstrated that we can, with sufficient will, halt and reverse those trends and forces degrading the natural world and we can, if we have that will, improve the environment we are handing on to the next generation.

Which takes me to the challenge I – this Government – and our country – face at this time.

The decision to leave the European Union has been interpreted in many ways, and I won’t revisit the debates now which led to that decision being made. Now that decision has been made, it creates new opportunities, and challenges, for the British Government. And nowhere more so than in the area of environmental policy.

We now have an historic opportunity to review our policies on agriculture, on land use, on biodiversity, on woodlands, marine conservation, fisheries, pesticide licensing, chemical regulation, animal welfare, habitat management, waste, water purity, air quality and so much more.

Leaving the European Union means leaving the Common Agricultural Policy, leaving the Common Fisheries Policy, and taking back control of environmental policy.

And in this unfrozen moment new possibilities occur.

Now, I can understand why, for some, this is a moment of profound concern.

The European Union has, in a number of ways, been a force for good environmentally. Our beaches are cleaner, habitats are better protected and pesticides more effectively regulated as a consequence of agreements that we reached since we entered the EU. And I have no intention of weakening the environmental protections that we have put in place while in the European Union.

But the EU has not always been a force for good environmentally. In this decade alone, the EU has ordered member states to vote against international action to protect polar bears and to abstain on measures to protect bluefin tuna. And as the UK Climate Change Act shows, this country is more than capable of bringing in our own strong legislation to protect the environment, independent of the EU.

And it’s important that as we look at the history of EU policy, we recognise that environmental policy must also be insulated from capture by producer interests who put their selfish agenda ahead of the common good. And here the EU has been weak recently. The EU’s handling of diesel emissions, the way in which car manufacturers rigged testing procedures, and the consequent risk to public health which we have to deal with, do not reflect well on the European Union’s internal processes. The EU’s laboratory-based mechanisms for testing emissions have proven inadequate, and they have allowed manufacturers to game – or directly cheat – the system. Outside the European Union, we can do much better. And we will be saying more about this when our Air Quality Plan is published later this month.

But the two areas where the EU has most clearly failed to achieve its stated environmental goals are the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy.

Now both have been reformed during their lives, and improvements have been made, but they are still not properly designed to put the environment first.

The Common Agricultural Policy rewards size of land-holding ahead of good environmental practice, and all too often puts resources in the hands of the already wealthy rather than into the common good of our shared natural environment. It also encourages patterns of land use which are wasteful of natural resources and often intrinsically poor value rather than encouraging imaginative and environmentally enriching alternatives.

As the most recent report from Lord Deben’s excellent Committee on Climate Change and its equally excellent Adaptation Sub-Committee points out, current EU-inspired farming approaches are degrading our soil. In some areas a combination of heavy machinery, irrigation methods accelerating erosion and a determination to drive up yields has meant that soil has become less productive. It is not only less effective at sequestrating carbon it is, progressively, less fertile. The effect is most noticeable in what has been some of our most fertile growing soil, in the Fens, where a combination of the draining of the peat and the disappearance of hedges and trees over the years has led to a thinning of productive earth. According to the Committee’s report, Britain has lost 84% of fertile topsoil since 1850 and the erosion continues in some areas at between 1cm and 3cm a year.

Now, whether environmental campaigner or farmer, we can all agree such a trajectory is, literally, unsustainable. Which is why we need to take the opportunity that being outside the Common Agricultural Policy will give us to use public money to reward environmentally-responsible land use.

The future of farming support

This Government has pledged that when we leave the EU we will match the £3 billion that farmers currently receive in support from the CAP until 2022. And I want to ensure that we go on generously supporting farmers for many more years to come. But that support can only be argued for against other competing public goods if the environmental benefits of that spending are clear.

Of course there are many other – very good – reasons why we should provide support for agriculture.

And the first is simple and straightforward. Farmers produce the high quality food which the rest of us enjoy so much. Without them, our lives would be poorer – and our stomachs emptier. And we are uniquely fortunate that British food enjoys a reputation for quality which has been built on high animal welfare standards, strong environmental protections and the dedication of farmers and growers to meeting ever more demanding consumer expectations. Our food culture in Britain has become much more diverse and discriminating in my lifetime, influenced by chefs and bloggers, campaigners and entrepreneurs. And I was delighted when I was Education Secretary to have been able to harness their enthusiasm to develop a School Food Plan designed to give the next generation a deeper appreciation of the importance of what we eat. And of course the biggest driver of higher standards and wider choice in food and drink has been the innovation and creativity of farmers and growers themselves. It is my job to support them to grow, produce and sell more.

But farming is so much more than a business. 70% of our land is farmed – and the beautiful landscape that we enjoy in so many cases has not happened by accident but has been actively managed. The Lake District, which recently secured World Heritage Site status from UNESCO, is both a breath-taking natural landscape but also a home to upland farmers whose work keeps those lakes and hills as Wordsworth saw them, to the delight every year of millions of visitors.

So support for farmers in areas like the Lake District, upland Wales or the Scottish borders is critical to keeping our countryside healthy. Indeed, whether it’s hill farmers or island crofters, or those running small family farms in England and Northern Ireland, there is a need to ensure that the human ecology of rural areas is protected.

But while continued support is critically important, so is reform. And indeed I have been struck in the conversations I have had with organisations like the NFU, The Farmers Union of Wales and the Countryside Land Alliance that it is farmers themselves who most want the CAP to change. I have particularly appreciated the open, constructive and imaginative engagement shown by the NFU’s passionate and energetic President Meurig Raymond.

And it’s the farmers he represents who have had to live within the CAP’s bureaucratic constraints. They have seen how it holds back productivity, impedes progressive environmental stewardship and works against their natural instincts. Farmers owe their living and devote their lives to the land. They are engaged, every day, in practical environmental work and they deserve our respect and support for their commitment to the countryside.

And from all the conversations I have had so far I with farmers, land owners and managers I know that there is a growing appetite for a new system of agricultural support which respects their work and puts environmental protection and enhancement first. Our approach should therefore be, in Byron’s words, to love not man the less but nature more.

That means support for woodland creation and tree planting as we seek to meet our aim of eleven million more trees. Because trees are not only a source of beauty and wonder, living evidence of our investment for future generations, they are also a carbon sink, a way to manage flood risk and a habitat for precious species.

And we should also support those land owners and managers who cultivate and protect the range of habitats which will encourage biodiversity. Heathland and bog, meadow and marsh, estuaries and hedgerows alongside so many other landscapes need care and attention if they are to provide homes to the growing diversity of animal and plant life that we should wish to encourage. Now doing this well depends on developing the skills and farming practices of land owners and managers. And understanding how to create and protect habitats should be as much a part of good farming as understanding the latest crop and soil science.

And alongside encouraging greater bio-diversity and the way in which farmers manage their land, I also want to see higher standards across the board of animal welfare. We need to take action to tackle the trade in illegal ivory, improve scrutiny of what happens in our abattoirs, move on circus animals and examine the future of live animal exports. Cruelty towards animals driven by man’s worst exploitative instincts needs to be met with the full force of the law.

Science is our guide to the future

Now I have been frank before when talking about animal welfare and my feelings for landscape, wildlife and natural beauty spring from sentiment. Growing up between the North Sea and the Cairngorms, spending weekends in the hills and weekdays with my head in Wordsworth and Hardy, Lewis Grassic Gibbon and Edward Thomas, I grew up with an emotional attachment to natural beauty which inevitably influences my feelings towards questions on everything from architecture to ivory.

But while natural beauty moves us deep in our souls, environmental policy also needs to be rooted, always and everywhere, in science. There will, of course, always be a need to make judgements about the best method of achieving environmental goals, in ways which improve rather than upend people’s lives. But it is only by adherence to scientific method, through recognising the vital importance of testing and re-testing hypotheses in the face of new evidence and through scrupulous adherence to empirical reasoning, that we can be certain our policies are the best contemporary answer to the eternal questions of how we live well and honour the world we have inherited and must pass on enhanced to our children.

And it is science that guides my approach to another issue where my emotions have been powerfully engaged – fishing.

My father, grandfather and great grandfather all made their living from the sea. My great grandfather was a fisherman, my grandfather and father fish merchants. My father’s business closed in the nineteen-eighties when I was a schoolboy, one of many that closed after this country accepted EU control of our waters through the Common Fisheries Policy.

The CFP has had a profound impact on the UK’s coastal communities. But its most profound impact has been on the sustainability of our fish stocks. Fisheries management should always be guided by science – by a hard-headed assessment of which species and stocks can be fished and which must be protected if their numbers are not to dip below sustainable levels. The tragic precedent of over-fishing off the Grand Banks, and indeed current overfishing practices off the coast of Africa, shows how easy it can be to destroy what should be a perpetually-renewable natural resource.

The CFP has been reformed in recent years, not least thanks to the efforts of my friend and colleague Richard Benyon. The benefits of improved environmental stewardship have been seen in the resurgence of North Sea cod. But it is still the case that 40% of fish stocks in the Atlantic, North Sea and Baltic Sea are being fished at unsustainable levels. By leaving the CFP, taking back control of our territorial waters, granting access to other countries and allocating quotas all on the basis of what is scientifically sustainable, we can ensure that we set and follow the very highest standards in marine conservation.

And that, in turn, should lead to the revival of our coastal communities. With UK control of waters in our exclusive economic zone we cannot just husband fish stocks more wisely – we can also ensure that we allow our fishing industry to grow sustainably in the future as well. Outside the EU, as an independent coastal state, we can be home to world class fishing fleets as well as proving ourselves environmental leaders.

And it is not just through reform of fishing policy that we can ensure the marine environment is restored to health.

Eight million tonnes of plastic are discarded into the world’s oceans each year, putting marine wildlife under serious threat.

In October 2015, the government introduced the 5p carrier bag charge. Figures released today show that policy’s enormous success – 9 billion fewer carrier bags distributed since the charge was introduced, a fall of 83%. More than £95 million has also been raised from the charge, has been donated to environmental, educational and other good causes.

But this work in order to protect our marine environment is not good enough. Last year the government launched a consultation on banning microbeads in personal care products, which have such a devastating effect on marine life. We are responding to that consultation today and we will introduce legislation to implement that ban later this year. But there is more we can do to protect our oceans, so we will explore new methods of reducing the amount of plastic – in particular plastic bottles – entering our seas. I want to improve incentives for reducing waste and litter, and review the penalties available to deal with polluters – all part of a renewed strategy on waste and resources that looks ahead to opportunities outside the EU.

As custodians of the fifth largest marine estate in the world, we have a responsibility in the UK to protect these unique and fragile environments. So we will continue to fight to uphold the moratorium on commercial whaling. And by completing the Blue Belt of marine protected areas around the UK and working with our Overseas Territories we hope to create the world’s largest marine sanctuaries, we hope to deliver over 4 million square kilometres of protected maritime areas by 2020.

Outside the European Union there is scope for Britain not just to set the very highest standards in marine conservation, but also to be a global leader in environmental policy across the board. Informed by rigorous scientific analysis, we can develop global gold standard policies on pesticides and chemicals, habitat management and biodiversity, animal welfare and biosecurity, soil protection and river management and indeed in many other areas. We can take smarter and more targeted approaches to the improvements that we want to see – for instance, we can incentive recycling according to the environmental impact and value of the material, rather than a crude weight-based target that currently focuses recycling on things that happen to be heavy.

Shaping a greener future

Now in the past, the United Kingdom played a leading role in establishing the world’s most successful environmental treaty – the Montreal Protocol which has protected the ozone layer by phasing out the chemicals that UK scientists had shown was destroying it.

And the UK has been a global leader on efforts to promote biodiversity and tackle the illegal wildlife trade – an area where WWF has made such an enormous and beneficial impact. A series of international conferences have pushed the threats from poaching and illegal trade in endangered species up the global political agenda. We also in the UK fund globally respected schemes such as the Darwin Initiative, which protects biodiversity and endangered species in developing countries and helps them to meet their environmental commitments. This year I am delighted to be able to help celebrate Darwin’s 25 year anniversary. I am also pleased to announce today that the 24th round of the Darwin Initiative, the 6th round of Darwin Plus, and the 4th round of the Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund will all open for applications next week.

And the UK has also helped establish the autonomous institutions – from the Royal Society to the National Trust, Kew to Cefas – which have provided global leadership and set the standard for scientific rigour in the application of all environmental policies. And I should say that as well as these organisations, we are fortunate to have in the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs a team of scientists, economists, policy specialists and analysts second to none. It’s a privilege to be working in a department where the quality of analysis and advice, as well as the commitment to rigorous science, is so impressive.

So we are in a fortunate position. But as we prepare to leave the EU we must give thought to how we can create new institutions to demonstrate environmental leadership and even greater ambition. Not least because we have to ensure that the powerful are held to account and progress towards meeting our environmental goals is fairly measured.

And I mention that because I know that inside the EU, the European Commission and the ECJ have provided enforcement mechanisms and understandably, some are asking what could or should replace them. My view is that we have an opportunity, outside the EU, to design potentially more effective, more rigorous and more responsive institutions, new means of holding individuals and organisations to account for environmental outcomes.

And I bet that if we take these opportunities to create these new institutions, we cannot just help protect our precious environmental assets, we can also create an economic asset for the country. Just as Britain enjoys a massive competitive advantage in the provision of legal services because the world knows we have the best courts and judges, and so chooses to settle its disputes here, so if we establish ourselves as the home of the highest environmental standards, the most rigorous science and the most ambitious institutions then the world will look to us for environmental innovation and leadership.

We already have much of the infrastructure in place in our universities and our learned institutions, in our NGOs and NDPBs. And we’re also, thanks to the leadership of other colleagues in government, developing expertise in new areas from Ultra-Low Emission Vehicles to waste management, supported by wise leadership from the ministerial team at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. In particular I am looking forward to the policies being planned by my friend Claire Perry for the Clean Growth Plan which is due to be launched in the autumn. These policies should reinforce our ambition to be the home of the most economically and environmentally ambitious policies in the areas of clean, green, technology, from energy generation to transport, the circular economy to house building.

We are fortunate that in this country we do have innovative private sector players who can work with government and respond to smart, and ambitious, regulation and targets to help us meet new environmental demands while also generating growth. Claire and I hope to say more in the weeks and months to come about some of the ambitions we want the private sector to help us achieve real gains in the area of clean, green, growth.

And it’s important that government and the private sector work together because scientific advances and technological breakthroughs are rarely the sole preserve of the state or the market. The huge commercial success of America’s Silicon Valley was built on Government investment. It was the state-run Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency and the federally-funded NASA which generated the initial breakthroughs on which subsequent commercial success was built. Similarly, the success of Israel’s amazingly creative tech sector has been built on that nation’s investment as it happens in defence technology. And the private sector innovation which has been generated by state investment in R&D in America and Israel could be matched by private sector innovation here built on public sector leadership and investment in rigorous environmental science.

I hope we can say more in this area not just in the BEIS Clean Growth Plan but also in what will be its sister document – DEFRA’s 25-year Environment Plan. Now I know there has been understandable impatience that the Plan has been longer in gestation than a baby elephant. But I want to make sure our plan is as ambitious as possible. Critical to its success will be adopting as rigorous a methodology as possible to setting goals and reporting success or failure. Which is why I have written to Professor Dieter Helm, the Chair of the Natural Capital Committee, to ask his Committee to draw up advice on what our Plan should aim to achieve and how it should seek to do so.

The Natural Capital Committee is another British institution which has shown global leadership in establishing new ways of valuing our environment. And it was of course the NCC which first made the case for a 25-year Environment Plan and I want to ensure that we use the insights of natural capital thinking and accounting to develop an approach which will help guide us in every area from reforming support for agriculture to considering how we reform planning policy. The Committee has agreed to provide its advice in September, laying the ground for subsequent publication of our Plan.

And next year, I will also be publishing the second National Adaptation Programme, a comprehensive plan of action to improve our resilience to climate change – an area where Defra is the lead government department, a responsibility I take very seriously.

I have set out what I believe is a deliberately ambitious agenda today because I believe the times demand it. Leaving the EU gives us a once in a lifetime opportunity to reform how we manage agriculture and fisheries, and therefore how we care for our land, our rivers and our seas/ And we can recast our ambition for our country’s environment, and the planet. In short, it means a Green Brexit. When we speak as a Government of Global Britain it is not just as a leader in security or an advocate for freer trade that we should conceive of our global role but also a champion of sustainable development, an advocate for global social justice, a leader in environmental science, a setter of gold standards in protecting and growing natural capital, an innovator in clean, green, growth and an upholder of the moral imperative to hand over our planet to the next generation in a better condition than we inherited it. That is my department’s driving ambition – and it should be central in the next five years to our national mission.

Boris Johnson – 2017 Press Conference in Tokyo

Below is the text of the press conference held between Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, and Fumio Kishida, the Japanese Foreign Secretary, in Tokyo in Japan on 21 July 2017.

Thank you very much, Fumio.

I’m actually absolutely delighted to be back here in Japan and thank you for the warm welcome that you have given us. I went for a run this morning, as I do when I’m in Tokyo, anticlockwise around the Imperial Palace and I want you know I was overtaken by absolutely everybody, of all ages. Well everybody was running much faster than me but my ego can survive this because yesterday I saw a robot, a Japanese robot, that could run faster than me and so I’m full of admiration, I know what an amazing place this is. What an amazing, inventive, dynamic economy Japan is.

But what we’re trying to do here today, Fumio and I, is to build on that relationship and that partnership and I’ve no doubt at all that it is going to get stronger and stronger. I’ve seen some fantastic examples of UK exports to Japan. A Honda Civic, by the way made in Swindon that I drove yesterday. And Japanese investments in the U.K. contrary to some of the gloomy stuff that you might see in some of the media, Japanese investments in the U.K. are at record high since the Brexit vote last year and I have no doubt at all that we are going to build a fantastic relationship with our friends and partners in the EU. We’re leaving the EU but we’re not leaving Europe. And one that allows us to continue to build our commercial and economic relations with Japan.

As you’ve mentioned Fumio, we share the same values and we share the same security threats, we face the same foes including from terrorism and indeed North Korea. And I want to stress that Britain stands shoulder to shoulder alongside Japan in our steadfast determination to stop North Korea’s persistent violations of United Nations resolutions. Two weeks ago we saw the test of an ICBM, unquestionably an ICBM, that landed in the Sea of Japan in what can only be called a reckless provocation. We all need to increase the pressure on Pyongyang through diplomacy and sanctions and that must include China using its influence to bring North Korea back to the negotiating table.

The UK has been in the forefront of that effort whether it’s the United Nations Security Council, or with our friends and partners in Europe and again here today in Japan. The threats that confront us are global and so our cooperation between the UK and Japan is now truly global. Britain and Japan work hand in glove in the UN Security Council on issues ranging from Syria to South Sudan. In Africa we’re working together on de-mining projects in Angola and we jointly trained peacekeepers in Senegal. Last year, The Royal Air Force sent typhoon fighters to Japan where they became the first non US Air Force to exercise alongside their Japanese counterparts. And I’m delighted that Britain is going to be using our expertise in hosting London 2012 to help ensure Japan Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games are just as successful, as I’m sure indeed that they will be.

Counterterrorism and cybersecurity, our particular focuses of our cooperation both between government and business and as an example of the growing UK Japan cyber cooperation, I welcome the signing yesterday of a strategic partnership between the UK company Darktrace, and NEC Networks and System Integration, Corporation.

Fumio, thank you for welcoming us today and thank you for the friendship and the partnership between us. This is a unique relationship between the U.K. and Japan. We have no other relationship like this. This is a partnership between two democracies, and by the way two constitutional monarchies, two island nations that share a great deal. Not just our belief in free-trade, our belief in democracy, but of course our joint belief in the rules based international order which we uphold.

Thank you very much everybody and thank you Fumio for welcoming us today.

Nicola Sturgeon – 2017 Speech on Scottish Independence and Brexit

Below is the text of the speech made by Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister, to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh on 27 June 2017.

Presiding Officer,

Like other countries, Scotland faces big challenges.

Some, like Brexit, are not of our choosing.

But we must always remember that Scotland is one of the richest countries in the world, with resources and talent in abundance.

Our task is to make the most of our great potential and build the kind of country we want to be – a fair, prosperous, open and tolerant country.

In working towards that goal, it is my responsibility as First Minister to build as much unity and consensus as possible.

That is why, after the election – which was, of course, won by the SNP in Scotland – I said I would reflect on the outcome and, in particular, on the issue of an independence referendum.

I have done so carefully, taking time to listen to a broad spectrum of voices, both within and out with my own party.

I want to set out today where those reflections have taken me.

Before I do so, let me underline two enduring points.

Firstly, it remains my view that at the end of the Brexit process, the people of Scotland should have a choice about our future direction as a country.

Indeed, the implications of Brexit are so potentially far reaching that, as they become clearer, I think people may well demand that choice.

We face a Brexit we did not vote for, and in a form more extreme than most would have imagined just a year ago.

And now, the terms of that Brexit are being negotiated by a UK government with no clear mandate, precious little authority or credibility and no real idea, even within its own ranks, of what it is seeking to achieve.

While we must hope for the best, the reality is that with the UK government’s current approach, even a so-called good deal will be on terms substantially inferior to our current EU membership.

And, of course, there is a real risk that the UK will crash out of the EU with no deal or a very bad deal – with deep and long lasting consequences for jobs, trade, investment, living standards and the opportunities open to future generations.

On top of all of that – as we saw so clearly in the deal struck with the DUP yesterday – we now have a UK government that talks about wanting to strengthen the bonds of the UK, but in reality is so desperate to cling on to power at any cost, that it is prepared to ride roughshod over the very principles of the entire devolution settlement.

So if Scotland is not simply to be at the mercy of events, but instead in control of our own future, then the ability to choose a different direction must be available.

Secondly, there is simply no doubt that the Scottish Government has a mandate within this term of parliament to offer the people of Scotland that choice.

We have now won two elections with that explicit commitment in our manifesto – and the Scottish Parliament has also endorsed the position.

By any normal standard of democracy that mandate is beyond question.

Opposition parties – no matter how strongly they disagree with us on independence, as is their right – should stop trying to turn the basic rules of democracy on their head.

Presiding Officer,

The mandate we have is beyond doubt.

But deciding exactly how to exercise it is a matter of judgment – and it is a judgment that must be made in the interests of the country as a whole.

That is what I have been thinking carefully about.

Before, during and since the election campaign, I have had hundreds of conversations with people in every part of Scotland about the issues of Brexit and a second independence referendum.

There are, of course, some people who don’t want another referendum, ever, because they oppose independence in all circumstances.

I respect that position. It is just as legitimate as the position of those who support independence in all circumstances and want another referendum tomorrow.

But many people – probably the majority – fall into neither of these categories.

Indeed, having spoken to many people who voted Yes in 2014 and to many others who did not but who would be open minded in future, what has struck me is the commonality of their views.

They worry about the uncertainty of Brexit and the lack of any clarity about what it means.

Some just want a break from the pressure of big political decisions.

They agree that our future should not be imposed on us, but feel that it is too soon right now to make a firm decision about the precise timing of a referendum.

They want greater clarity about Brexit to emerge first – and they want to be able to measure that up against clarity about the options Scotland would have for securing a different relationship with Europe.

And, in the meantime, whatever their scepticism about the likely outcome of the negotiations, they want the Scottish Government to try as hard as we possibly can to secure Scotland’s position.

Indeed, that view has even more force now that the General Election and the weakness of the UK government has re-opened the possibility, however narrow, of retaining membership of the single market.

I intend to listen to those views.

We remain committed – strongly – to the principle of giving Scotland a choice at the end of this process.

But to reassure people that they will not be asked to make this choice now – or in the immediate future – but only at the end of the process when greater clarity has emerged, I am confirming today that the Scottish Government will reset the plan I set out on March 13th.

We will not seek to introduce legislation for an independence referendum immediately.

Instead, we will – in good faith – redouble our efforts and put our shoulder to the wheel in seeking to influence the Brexit talks in a way that protects Scotland’s interests.

We will seek to build maximum support around the proposals set out in the paper that we published in December – Scotland’s Place in Europe – to keep us in the single market, with substantial new powers for this parliament, and do everything we can to influence the UK in that direction.

And at the end of this period of negotiation with the EU – likely to be around next autumn – when the terms of Brexit will be clearer, we will come back to Parliament to set out our judgment on the way forward, including our view on the precise timescale of offering people a choice over the country’s future.

In setting out this position today, I am also issuing a challenge to the other parties.

The Scottish Government will stand the best chance of positively influencing the Brexit outcome if we are at the table – with the full backing of our national Parliament – arguing for the sensible option of staying in the single market.

So join us now, with no equivocation – back the demands for the democratically elected Scottish Government to be at the table, able to influence the UK’s negotiating strategy, and for Scotland and the UK to stay in the single market.

The second conclusion I have reached is this.

Over the past few months, the focus on the when and how of a referendum has, perhaps inevitably, been at the expense of setting out the many reasons why Scotland should be independent.

The fact is we are only talking of another referendum so soon after the last one because of Brexit. And it is certainly the case that independence may well be the only way to protect Scotland from the impact of Brexit.

But the case for an independent Scotland is not just about Brexit – it goes far beyond that.

Many of us believe that independence is the right and best answer to the many, complex challenges we face as a country – and also the best way to seize and fully realise our many opportunities as a country.

So the challenge for all of us who do believe that Scotland should be independent is to get on with the hard work of making and winning that case – on all of its merits – and in a way that is relevant to the changes, challenges and opportunities we face now and in the years ahead,

That is what my party will do.

We won’t do it on our own – because the independence case is bigger than us too.

My party will engage openly and inclusively with, and work as part of, the wider independence movement.

And, together, we will build and win the case that governing ourselves is the best way to tackle the challenges we face as country – from building a better balanced and more sustainable economy, to growing our population, strengthening our democracy, and tackling deep seated problems of poverty and inequality.

Presiding Officer,

My last point, today, is this.

The SNP government has been in office now for ten years.

I am incredibly proud of our achievements – delivered in the face of unprecedented Westminster cuts.

I am also clear about our priorities as we move forward – not just fighting Scotland’s corner in the Brexit talks, but also growing our economy and making sure that the public services we all rely on are there when we need them, from cradle to grave.

That means improving education, equipping our NHS for the challenges of the future, lifting people out of poverty and building a social security system with dignity at its heart.

But any government, after ten years, needs to take stock and refresh.

So over this summer, as we prepare our next Programme for Government and our budget for the year ahead, that is exactly what we will do.

We will set out afresh our vision for the country we lead, together with the creative, imaginative, bold and radical policies that, as far as possible within the current powers available to us, will help us realise that vision.

We look forward to getting on with the job in the best interests of all the people of Scotland.

Darren Jones – 2017 Maiden Speech to the House of Commons

Below is the text of the speech made by Darren Jones, the Labour MP for Bristol North West, in the House of Commons on 26 June 2017.

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for calling me to give my maiden speech.

Being elected as the Member of Parliament for my home constituency of Bristol North West is deeply humbling. It is humbling for me personally, as a working-class kid from a council estate in Lawrence Weston in my constituency. To be able to speak here on behalf of my friends, my family, my community and, indeed, my country is a great honour.

Let me pay tribute to my predecessor, Charlotte Leslie. The Member of Parliament for seven years and a candidate for three further years, Charlotte’s decade of local leadership was held in warm regard by my constituents and by me. We thank Charlotte for her public service.

From the earliest evidence of human habitation in these British Isles on the shores of the River Avon near Shirehampton to the eighth-century monastery of Westbury-on-Trym, granted by King Offa of Mercia, to the Roman settlements at Sea Mills and Lawrence Weston, and the Domesday reference to the parish of Henbury, and now, so I am told, to the first ever Darren elected to this House of Commons, Bristol North West is an historic and fascinating constituency.

But the successes of my home and its people, from jobs at the port and advanced manufacturing, to research and development, to the professional services, rely on our trading relationship with the European Union. That is why my first priority during this Brexit Parliament is to fight for Britain’s membership of the European single market. Because in times of peace our first priority must be prosperity for all. That is why the politics of holding on to power for power’s sake, or political positioning to win internal ideological battles, must stop. We are all here to do what is right for the country. For if that is not the case, I do not know why we are here at all.

So I stand here humbled by my election, with a sense of urgency to tackle a hard Brexit but also with a sense of sadness—sadness because the world feels more fragile than it has in the past, with Britain seen as weak and uncertain in high-risk times, and with fast-paced technological change, shifting geopolitical power, young people frustrated by the country, old people increasingly left alone and public services allowed to slowly die by a thousand cuts.

Politics is hard work, but it is the only forum through which we can provide hope. Whether I am an MP for four months or four years, and whether my actions ​bring success or failure to my own political career, I will always put my constituents and my country first. In this mother of Parliaments, let us do all we can to show that a modern and just Britain can rise from the ashes of our current dismay. We are merely shepherds of the nation, standing on the shoulders of giants, tasked with leaving a country to our children that we can be proud of.

This Brexit Parliament will define the future of our country. Let us not self-harm and cause pain, but let us instead unite and act with sense, as well as with patriotism in our hearts, for a national renewal after the dark years of austerity, for the birth of a new British chapter that works for the many, not just the few, and for a new dawn for a new Britain. It is for us now to seize that opportunity and to avoid the risks of failure, but we can do it only by working together in this Brexit Parliament—leavers and remainers—in the national interest.

Andrew Mowie – 2017 Maiden Speech to the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made in the House of Commons by Andrew Mowie, the Conservative MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, on 26 June 2017.

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for calling me to speak. It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Ilford South (Mike Gapes).

It is an incredibly humbling experience to have been elected to this place. I hope that, however long or short my time here may be, I will be able to serve West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine with the same dedication and purpose as my predecessor, Stuart Donaldson, did for two years.

I am fully aware that I walk in august footsteps: Sir Robert Smith held the seat for 18 years; George Kynoch sat here and represented the equivalent seat of Kincardine and Deeside for five years; and, of course, the still much respected and fondly remembered Sir Alick Buchanan-Smith held Kincardine and Deeside and, ​before that, Angus North and Mearns from 1964 until his death in 1991. That was 27 years, and I am only on day 18.

Members will, I am sure, get fed up of my 12—yes, 12—Scottish Conservative colleagues insisting that their patch of God’s own country is the most beautiful in the entire UK. Although I do, of course, sympathise with them, it is quite clear that the most beautiful, unique, attractive and downright brilliant constituency in the entire country is West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine—from the Cairngorms National Park around Braemar, down through the Dee Valley and Royal Deeside, to Ballater, Aboyne and Banchory, skirting the edge of the granite city itself, taking in Blackburn, Westhill, the subsea capital of Europe, and down to the North sea cost at Portlethen and north Kincardine. There is also the picturesque, pastoral Donside, Corgarff, Strathdon, Alford and Kemnay. Stonehaven and the villages in Howe of the Mearns were made famous, of course, by Lewis Grassic Gibbon in what was the favourite novel of my grandfather, an English teacher, “Sunset Song”.

In the old rhyme,

“the twa peaks you can see frae the sea, Clachnaben and Benahie”,

are both in West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, although I should admit to having to share the latter with my hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Colin Clark).

What other seat has such history? I could—but I will not, because time will not permit it—tell the gripping tale of how the Honours of Scotland were smuggled out of Dunnottar castle in a creel basket by a minister’s wife, to save them from the clutches of the marauding army of Oliver Cromwell; or of the romantic but ultimately doomed 1715 Jacobite rebellion, which began at Braemar with the raising of the standard of James VIII and III; or of Victoria, Albert, John Brown and how Deeside became Royal Deeside; or of the Monymusk reliquary, thought to be 1,300 years old and which held the bones of St Columba and was carried in front of the victorious Scottish army at Bannockburn. I could tell those tales, but I will not.

It would, of course, be entirely remiss of me to speak today without mentioning how I, in West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, now have the immense honour of representing Balmoral castle. In fact, as Members from Scotland will be aware, the residence in the north-east of Scotland is now represented by a Conservative not only in this place, but in the Scottish Parliament by my friend and colleague Alexander Burnett. With Ruth Davidson herself representing Holyrood palace in Edinburgh, Her Majesty will, I am sure, be delighted to know that she now has three elected Conservative representatives on whom she can call. It is an honour to represent Balmoral, even when, if canvassing, it is an extremely long drive to walk up only to find that the resident is not on the electoral roll.

I have 33 seconds left, so I will canter through the rest of my speech. Today we continue to debate the Queen’s Speech, specifically how it relates to Brexit and foreign affairs. The speech last week stated that a Bill would be introduced to repeal the European Communities Act 1972 and provide certainty for individuals and businesses.

Last Thursday I attended the royal highland show in Ingliston. I met many farmers, including from West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine. In between lamenting how appallingly poor the Scottish National party has ​been at managing the common agricultural policy system north of the border, they wanted to make one thing abundantly clear. What farmers and all in the agriculture sector require—what they need now more than anything else—is certainty and stability in our country and our economy, and a clear way ahead so that they can plan and grow their businesses, not just for the next five years, but for the next 10, 15 and 20 years.

What the farming sector and, indeed, this country do not need is further uncertainty in the shape of another referendum on Europe or another general election, and they certainly do not need another referendum on Scottish independence. Why not all come together, in the national interest of the United Kingdom, and support the Government this week? That is what my constituents need me to do, and that is what I will do.

Anna McMorrin – 2017 Maiden Speech to the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Anna McMorrin, the Labour MP for Cardiff North, in the House of Commons on 26 June 2017.

I am grateful for the opportunity to make my maiden speech today.

It is a privilege for me to follow Craig Williams as the Member for Cardiff North. I know how hard Craig worked to represent the constituency over the past two years.

The recent election campaign was punctured by a number of tragic events, from Manchester to London. In Wales, there was another sad event, which brought together the nation. The loss of our former First Minister, Rhodri Morgan, was felt in homes across Wales. Some may remember his time here representing Cardiff West, as well as his wife, Julie Morgan, who represented Cardiff North, and who still represents the constituency in the National Assembly. Julie and Rhodri were a team for over half a century. Rhodri was always a close friend and wise counsel. He is much missed, and I am sure Members will join me in extending our love and sympathy to Julie and the family.

The history of the modern Cardiff North is a history of how industry and people changed and revolutionised the city and the whole of south Wales. But it is industry that has defined the modern part of the capital that I represent. It was the wealth created by the traditional industries of south Wales that created the gothic splendour of Castell Coch, and it was this same industry that brought people to create Cardiff and that led to the growth of Whitchurch, Rhiwbina, Llanishen, Pontprennau, Heath and Llandaff North, to name only a few of its communities.

That industry also created a cosmopolitan, multicultural city that is home to Cardiff’s first Welsh-medium secondary school—a school where my daughter learns through ​the medium of a language that is growing and that will be spoken by 1 million people in the coming decades.

It is the people of Cardiff who voted to remain in the European Union. The vote in many parts of Wales was not a vote against Europe or the concept or the reality of the European Union; it was a vote against politics—against the reality of the decisions taken here. The cumulative impact of benefit cuts and reductions in public spending has hit the poorest hardest, so I intend to use my time here to speak up against a failed austerity where the richest people have forced the poorest people to pay the price. The UK Government seem to have abandoned austerity for Northern Ireland today: what about the rest of the UK? The UK is weaker and less united this evening than it was this morning. I also hope the UK Government understand that it is important that the whole of the UK is represented in these talks and negotiations. At present, the UK Government are in danger of losing the argument not only in Brussels but in Cardiff as well, with a disunited kingdom where jobs and livelihoods, workers’ rights and action on climate change are sacrificed in the pursuit of an impossible imperialist fantasy.

During the business statement last week, Mr Deputy Speaker, you were kind enough to allow me to raise the issue of the loss of over 1,000 jobs in my constituency because of the closure of a Tesco customer care centre, and I am grateful. Since then, I have had the opportunity to spend time with and speak to many of the workers who have been told they have lost their jobs. They are devastated; many have two or three members of the same family working there. Over the weekend, one of them wrote to me. Her words speak for everyone affected there. “Please fight for us”, she said, continuing:

“Each and every single one of those 1,100 people are heartbroken and terrified as we face uncertain futures for ourselves and our families. Anything you can do, anything at all—we all will be forever grateful”.

Those are her words, not mine, and they are a challenge to us all. It is those people and their voices that are in my mind today and will be guiding me.

My fear is that if this Government are allowed to drive through a Brexit where the jobs and livelihoods of the people we all represent are treated with disdain and indifference, then these will be the stories we hear every day, every week, and every month. I intend to use my time to stand up against failed austerity measures and for a more prosperous, fairer and more equal society. I look forward to working with my colleagues here. Thank you.

Anna Soubry – 2017 Speech on Brexit

Below is the text of the speech made by Anna Soubry, the Conservative MP for Broxtowe, in the House of Commons on 26 June 2017.

It is a great honour and pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton South East (Mr McFadden). I agree with much of what he said and, indeed, with the excellent speech from my right hon. Friend the Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Stephen Crabb). As ever, I also endorse much of what was said by the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn).

People right across this House, and indeed this country, have to be utterly realistic and honest about this and accept that everything has now changed. In my constituency, I found very few angry remainers—I know there are many angry remainers, but it tends to be a London-based thing, and the results in London for the Conservative party say it all. However, in my constituency, there are very few angry remainers. What there is is an acceptance of the result and almost a sense of resignation—it is not agreement, and it is not a welcome. That is especially true of constituents who run their own businesses, who did not welcome the result and who do not welcome the fact that we are leaving the European Union. However, people have accepted the referendum result, and their message and their plea now is that we should come together and get the best deal we can in the national interest.

That is why I am so pleased that we are already seeing changes in the approach being taken, and many other hon. and right hon. Members have expressed that view. I repeat much of what was said from the Opposition Front Bench about the need to change the tone. Those on the Government Front Bench need to wake up and understand that things have now changed. The rhetoric has to be dropped. The slogan that no deal is better than a bad deal is nonsense, and it has always been nonsense. The British people know that, and that is why they voted as they did on 8 June.

Nobody likes somebody being very smart, but I am going to have to say this: I stood up in this place—on this spot—on two occasions, and I warned hon. and right hon. Friends of the dangers of ignoring the 48%, and the young in particular. The expression I used was that many young people who voted remain believe an older generation have stolen their future, and the result was there on 8 June. I hate to have been proved right, but I was. Look at the demographics of the results; they almost mirror those from the referendum. The older people were, the more likely they were to have voted Conservative; the younger ones—obviously, in my terms, that is anybody under the age of about 50—did not. More people under the age of 45 voted Labour in the election.

Of course it is profoundly ironic that people who voted remain then voted for the Labour party and the Leader of the Opposition—a man who gave remain a very lukewarm seven and a half out of 10. If I may say so, Opposition Members, too, now have to wake up and accept the reality of the situation, because they have promised many of these people things they may not be able to deliver on. When they talk about the customs union, the single market and immigration, they now have to say what they mean, and they should stop being cowards about it: if they think they want the benefits of the customs union, they should have the—I nearly said a very unparliamentary word—courage to stand up and say that. They should make the case, and make the argument, just as we now need to make the case and make the argument about the benefits of immigration.

Finally, this is a great country. We still have a very good economy. We have a great and bright future. That is not because we are leaving the European Union, but despite it. We now need to make sure we have the education and training to seize those opportunities.

Pat McFadden – 2017 Speech on Brexit

Below is the text of the speech made by Pat McFadden, the Labour MP for Wolverhampton South East, in the House of Commons on 26 June 2017.

This Queen’s Speech shows the extent to which Brexit will dominate our legislative agenda. We have the repeal Bill, and Bills on trade, customs, fisheries, agriculture and more. No matter what outside events may say, we now have a single-purpose Government and a single-purpose legislative programme. The Prime Minister called the election because she said that she could not get Brexit through Parliament. How ruefully she must reflect on that statement now. Before she said that, the article 50 Bill had gone through this House with a majority of 372 votes. The other place had not tried to block it. Given that that legislation went through, the election was never called because Parliament was blocking Brexit. It was called because the Government wanted to cash in on big opinion poll leads.

The backfiring of that political gamble has left the Prime Minister leading a minority Government, dependent on the deal with the DUP that was announced today, at an immediate cost of £1.5 billion. When I was a child, we had a programme on television called “The Six Million Dollar Man”. I thought that that was a lot of money at the time, but the DUP has guaranteed far more than that for each of its representatives in this House. We enter the most important negotiations the country has conducted since the war weakened, not strengthened, with the authority of the Prime Minister shot to pieces, her Cabinet divided and her position sustained by nothing other than fear of another election.

As these negotiations begin, we are reminded of a salutary fact. We have discussed Brexit far too often in the past year as though it was something Tory Ministers could define—we have heard that it would mean this, it would mean that and it would mean the next thing—but this is actually a negotiation between the two parties around the table; it is not a Tory wish list.

When the Secretary of State was asked yesterday what he thought of Mr Barnier, he gave an insight into the level of preparation undertaken when he said, “He’s very French.” With that level of preparation, it is perhaps no wonder that the first demand, repeated four times in the article 50 letter—that the future trade negotiations take place alongside the article 50 negotiations—did not survive the first meeting on the first day. That reminds us that this is a negotiation between two parties, not a Tory wish list.

In substance, what does that really boil down to after the election? As other colleagues have said, the thing that should go is this mantra that no deal is better than a bad deal. No deal would be damaging for the European Union, but as the past and perhaps future Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee said, it would, relatively speaking, damage us more. We know the consequences: tariffs on cars and bigger tariffs on agricultural produce. It would make it impossible to have no hard border, at least in economic terms, between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. It is, in relative terms, a gun held to our heads, not to the European Union’s head.

Ultimately, this negotiation will come down to a choice for the Prime Minister: will she do as the Chancellor wants and put economic interests first, or will she put the hard Brexiteers first? In other words, will it be the national interest first or nationalism first? That is ultimately the choice that faces us.

Crispin Blunt – 2017 Speech on Brexit

Below is the text of the speech made by Crispin Blunt, the Conservative MP for Reigate, in the House of Commons on 26 June 2017.

This is a defining Parliament for Britain’s place in Europe and in the world, and Parliament will fail in its duty if it does not preside over the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, and doing so in as good order as our 27 partners and negotiators enable. This entails the historic amount of legislative activity announced in the Queen’s Speech to convert the acquis communautaire into UK law. Much of the work will be detailed and technical, and it is important that we get it right, but hopefully it will not be controversial. However, the diplomatic activity that we undertake in the coming months and years will be important for Britain’s future and must not play second fiddle to our legislative challenge.

I welcome the commitment in the Queen’s Speech that Ministers will ensure that the UK’s leading role on the world stage is maintained and enhanced as it leaves the European Union. Few in this House, regardless of their position on the referendum question that we resolved a year ago, want the United Kingdom to be anything other than open and internationalist in its outlook. Now more than ever, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will have a central role in maintaining our networks and alliances, and in developing our political, security and economic ties around the world.

In the previous Parliament, the Foreign Affairs Committee, which I chaired, as I hope to do again in this Parliament, repeatedly called for the FCO’s capacity to be boosted. Immediately after the referendum, we reported that there was an urgent need substantially to increase

“the funding available to the FCO commensurate with the enormity of the task it now faces.”

Since then, the Department for Exiting the European Union and the Department for International Trade have been created, but the diplomatic task required in all European capitals and beyond will outlast the withdrawal process and is discrete from the trade agenda. I reiterate that just protecting the FCO budget is wholly inadequate for the task in hand.

Events will continue to develop with serious consequences for our interests. The current crisis in the Gulf and the potential for a hot or protracted cold war on the Arabian peninsula threaten the stability and prosperity of key British partners and have undermined the effectiveness ​of the Gulf Co-operation Council. There are calls for the United Kingdom to play a role as a third party in the implementation and monitoring of any future agreement. We should do so, particularly by offering our expertise in auditing any counter-terror financing measures, and indeed on what the ground rules might be for political Islamists to take part in developing democracies. That would be in the interest of all parties. It is vital that we are ready and properly resourced to carry out such work if requested.

Inevitably, I would like to be able to say much more in this debate about: our current operations in Syria; the future of liberated territory in Iraq and Syria; the authorisation of the use of force; a new sanctions regime as we leave the European Union; our involvement in the European Union’s future common foreign and security policy, and common security and defence policy; and, importantly, possible Brexit transition options. Finally, I want to make the point that 2020 would be a suitable date for the state visit of President Trump, which was notably omitted from the Queen’s Speech. I regret that people will now have to look at my website to see the full text of the remarks I had hoped to make in this debate.

Suella Fernandes – 2017 Speech on Brexit

Below is the text of the speech made by Suella Fernandes, the Conservative MP for Fareham, in the House of Commons on 26 June 2017.

Our great country is about to embark on a journey of national self-determination, rediscovering and building our identity as a great trading nation, an outward-looking nation and a nation that has every reason to be confident in its future. The Government have rightly rejected staying in the customs union and the single market. If we are to realise our aspiration of becoming a self-governing, global-facing democracy, we cannot remain signed up to the single market or customs union.

Contrast the Government’s position with what we have heard from the shadow Secretary of State today: confusion and an illogical position, as he stated that membership of the customs union remains on the table. Contrast that with what the shadow Attorney General said this weekend: we will not necessarily be able to control our immigration policy. But that was what people voted for last year. If Brexit is to mean anything, it must mean control of our borders, our immigration policy and our trade.

Why has the customs union not served our purposes? There are four main reasons. First, it has not served our country’s trade interests. The EU has a laughable track record on securing trade agreements with the more flourishing parts of the world. Since 1999, our trade deficit with the EU has grown from £12 billion to £71 billion. That is in contrast to our growing trade surplus with the rest of the world—we have gone from a deficit of £4 billion in 1999 to a surplus of £34 billion in 2016. There is therefore an amazing opportunity for our country to forge trade links with the rest of the world, rather than being reliant on the declining market of the EU.

We will be able to strike new trade deals only if we are out of the customs union. The alternative is impossible because of the common commercial policy, which binds all its members. The Labour manifesto says that it wants to

“work with global trading partners to develop ‘best-in-class’ free trade and investment agreements that remove trade barriers and promote skilled jobs and high standards”,

but that is simply not possible as long as we are members of the customs union.

Secondly, EU protectionism harms British consumers. We are denied products such as cheaper sugar from developing states because protectionist tariffs favour ​less efficient farmers in northern Europe. The EU customs union has pushed up the price of food and clothes by an estimated £500 a year for each household. By opening the market and lowering barriers to entry for new competition, prices will fall and consumers will benefit. Choice and quality will increase as producers will no longer have a captive market or a monopoly.

Thirdly, the EU’s trade agreements have focused too much on goods. When 80% of our GDP is from services, we need to realign our trade policy. Lastly, the customs union severely penalises farmers and workers in developing countries when they export to the EU. The tariffs are unequal and discriminatory, and that really is an enemy of fair trade. If we want to, we can develop more opportunities to support African countries to become more sustainable and to industrialise.

In conclusion, Brexit is not a crisis to manage, as the Opposition would have us believe. It is a golden opportunity for us to seize. I implore them to get behind the Government and support Brexit in all its forms.