Philip Hammond – 2018 Speech at Bloomberg Global Regulatory

Below is the text of the speech made by Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on 11 December 2018.

Thank you Constantin, it’s great to be here.

And it’s great to get out of Whitehall, to the wonderful surroundings of Bloomberg’s new European HQ.

This HQ is a great representation of this City.

Historic and modern, nestling side-by-side…

…a technological and architectural temple of gadgetry…

…on the site of the 3rd Century temple to the god Mithras.

Back then during the very origins of Londonium – this Mithraeum played host to merchants, traders, and imperial administrators in the depths below where we stand now, plotting the future of this great city…

…and 1,800 years later – we’re still bringing together investors and regulators to discuss what the future holds for the global economy.

This stunning building won this year’s Stirling prize for the UK’s best new building…

…fighting off competition from a brick nursery and a mud-walled cemetery.

And I’m delighted to be here today – in the home of a global company that represents the very best of this city…

…a business that over the past 40 years…

…thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit and vision of Mike Bloomberg…

…has grown from a seller of the iconic Bloomberg terminals we all know well…

…to a global information, data, and media empire, and the very heart of what makes financial markets tick.

And this is a good time for us to meet and take stock…

…at a time of uncertainty and challenge for the global economy:

Rising US-China trade tensions…

…a slowing outlook for global growth…

…the challenge of the impact of monetary policy normalisation on the Emerging Markets…

…economic challenges facing major economies, from Japan to Italy…

…and a reminder last week in France – of the threat posed by a rising tide of sentiment among our electorates that our economic model is not working for everyone.

And of course – here in the UK – we have our own special problems as we navigate our Exit from the EU.

We have agreed a deal with our EU partners that ensures a smooth and orderly departure from the European Union…

…delivers on the referendum decision of the British people…

…and secures a close future economic relationship with our nearest neighbours.

It is the best deal available for the British economy that delivers on the result of the referendum…

…and it’s a deal that can bring this country back together again and allow us to all move on.

And it’s a deal that protects the UK’s position as a global financial centre…

…and allows the hugely mutually beneficial financial services trade with the EU to continue to flourish.

Not through the EU’s ‘passporting’ regime – as we will leave the Single Market…

…but through a new economic and regulatory partnership in financial services.

We have set out a proposed framework for how this will work…

…allowing the mutual benefits of UK-EU financial services trade to continue – while protecting financial stability, businesses, consumers, and taxpayers across the UK and the EU.

And the deal agreed with the EU includes an agreement on the future relationship for financial services that reflects these proposals…

…with both sides committing to take decisions on granting equivalence at least six months before the end of the Implementation Period.

But I don’t want to spend my time with you talking about Brexit…

…I’ve done more than enough of that over the last few days, and months…

…and at this conference you are gathered here to talk about the opportunities and challenges in the global economy…

…and I want to say a few words about our plan for Britain – post-Brexit – to remain an international centre of finance and commerce around the world.

The UK has always had an internationalist outlook – and we’ve been a global centre of finance for centuries…

…for it wasn’t the passport that built the City of London…

…it was our unique history and networks…

…supported by a few specific advantages:

Our language is the global language of business;

Our legal system is the jurisdiction of choice for international commerce;

Our world-class universities and schools contribute to the pluriculture that makes the UK such a favoured place to live and work;

Our tech sector is the innovation leader in Europe;

And we are the global capital for international finance and professional services;

And the key point – is that Britain’s strengths are more than just the aggregation of these things…

…it is the effect of bringing them together…

…the financial capital of the world…

…a global innovation hub, research centres of excellence, a leader in creative industries, and a vibrant and diverse culture…

…that together create this ecosystem of prosperity.

And post-Brexit I am clear that we will maintain and build upon this ecosystem…

…as we shape our economy for the future.

And since this is a Global Regulatory summit let me say a few words about standards…

…because one thing that will stand regardless of our future relationship with the EU, is the UK’s commitment to robust international standards.

We led the way internationally in the development of post-crisis financial reforms…

…and ten years on our global system stands safer, simpler, and fairer:

Safer because large banks are better capitalised, less leveraged, and more liquid;

Simpler because over-the-counter derivative markets are less complex, and more transparent;

Fairer because we’ve reformed the resolvability of financial institutions – so that now it is shareholders and creditors who bear the costs of a failure – not taxpayers.

And it’s precisely because we have such a large, dynamic, important financial sector – that it is in our interests to go beyond international baseline standards…

…and drive forward the global ‘race to the top’.

And as people in this room know – this job is never done.

We need to do even more if we are to complete the global regulatory reform agenda…

…and in particular we must look at how the implementation of these reforms may impact on the market…

…and how differences in timing or consistency of implementation could lead to market fragmentation…

…and in turn lead to weaker resilience, unlevel playing fields, increased costs of transactions, and financial stability risks.

I’m glad that Japan has indicated it will take forward work on this agenda during their forthcoming G20 presidency…

…and the UK stands ready to support this work – for the benefit of our financial sector here at home, and for the resilience of the global financial system as a whole.

Because I reject the idea that laxer regulation makes a jurisdiction more attractive.

But regulatory systems will be a key discriminator:

The financial centres of choice in the future will be safe, transparent, stable, and predictable…

…with appropriate regulatory regimes…

…that are agile and flexible to keep abreast of changing technologies and business models.

Regulatory robustness, coupled with regulatory agility, and a commitment to regulatory innovation will be a key selling point of London’s financial services market in the future.

However, London’s strengths as a financial centre are about more than resilience and our commitment to high quality, agile, and flexible regulation;

It is about being the global centre for international finance…

…and as we leave the EU, we are more focused than ever on strengthening ties with the big, established markets, beyond Europe, from the US to Japan…

…and building new links with the fast-growing markets in the East – including in particular, India and China…

…who – as their middle classes grow in size and prosperity – will rapidly increase their demand for financial services in terms of volume and in terms of sophistication.

So at my Mansion House speech in June – I announced our intention to develop new Global Financial Partnerships…

…to strengthen our links with these key markets around the world….

…leveraging existing tools – such as our bilateral dialogues, and regulatory cooperation…

…with new tools – such as market access agreements, through our future third country regime…

…across capital markets, banking, asset management, and insurance…

…to reinforce the UK’s position as the pre-eminent centre for global finance.

We have worked hard on our Global Financial Partnerships plan and we are gearing up to begin discussions with potential partner countries from April 2019, as soon as we have left the EU.

In conclusion, Britain is, and will remain, a great place to do business.

Of that, I have no doubt.

And our financial sector will remain in the vanguard – with a regulatory system that is among the most open, transparent, and agile in the world – adapting, innovating, driving change, influencing…

…and as Chancellor I am determined to go on pushing us to do even better… …to develop new products and services… …to reach out to new markets… …and to rise to the opportunities and challenges ahead.

I have spent the last two years on a path of unswerving commitment to a Brexit deal that protects jobs, businesses, investment, and growth;

So that we can go on investing in the technologies and skills of the future;

And secure our place as the world’s leading financial centre in the years and decades to come.

I remain committed to that cause…

…I am grateful for the huge support from the Financial Services industry…

…and look forward to continuing to work with you as we deliver Brexit…

…manage the transition smoothly…

…and go on to reinforce the global network that will underpin London’s position in the future.

Thank you.

Alistair Burt – 2018 Speech at UK-Lebanon Business and Investment Forum

Below is the text of the speech made by Alistair Burt, the Minister for the Middle East, at the UK-Lebanon Business and Investment Forum held in London on 12 December 2018.

Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, good morning. I am delighted to welcome you to London and to the opening of this Business and Investment Forum.

Last month I had the honour of speaking at Lebanon’s National Day, where among other things we celebrated your 75th anniversary of independence. Prime Minister, the UK was among the first to recognise your country’s independence three quarters of a century ago, and we remain a staunch supporter of Lebanon’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The relationship between our two countries has never been stronger – UK support to Lebanon is now worth around $200 million per year. We are proud of the work we have undertaken together, which, along with the continued efforts of the Lebanese people, and the support of your many friends in the international community, has helped Lebanon to remain a comparative beacon of calm in a troubled region.

Our growing security partnership has played its part. This includes our support for the Lebanese Armed Forces, which has helped to secure Lebanon’s border with Syria for the first time in Lebanon’s history.

Thanks in part to our security cooperation, Lebanon is still the only country – and the LAF the only army – to have successfully repelled an invasion by Daesh.

We remain committed to an enduring security partnership with Lebanon, in the interests of its long term stability and security.

There is no question that the security situation in Lebanon has improved in the last few years. And as security has improved, so too have the opportunities for tourism – as our official Foreign Office travel advice shows.

This week we have lifted our advice against travel to some parts of the country, which means that British tourists are now free to visit such sites as the magnificent Roman ruins of Baalbeck, which I myself was fortunate to see earlier this year. I hope that our revised travel advice will enable many more British visitors to experience the warmth of Lebanese hospitality as I have done a number of times.

The improved security situation also has clear implications for enhancing our mutual prosperity through boosting British tourism in Lebanon, as well as greater business investment, and we have already started to focus more closely on this area. My colleague George Hollingbery, who has just met with HE the Prime Minister, has spoken recently about the impressive cooperation going on right now between British and Lebanese businesses and entrepreneurs, so allow me to focus on the future opportunities.

First, we have just appointed Her Majesty’s first Trade Commissioner for the Middle East, Simon Penney, who made his first successful visit to Lebanon last month. Simon shares my view that there is significant scope and appetite for greater investment in Lebanon.

It’s a view reinforced by the $300 million trade deal being signed between Rolls Royce and Middle East Airlines today.

Lebanon represents a new frontier for investors in search of yield. Last April the Lebanese Government published its Capital Investment Programme, which received great support from the international community at the CEDRE Conference in Paris. Power-generation, Public Transport, Water supply and other projects from the $22bn Programme all offer hefty potential returns for investors.

I very much hope to see UK firms bidding for and winning contracts under this plan in the years ahead.

Lebanon needs to do important things before these investment promises can be fully realised. It has to fulfil its commitments to economic reform, and for that to happen it needs to have a government in place quickly, and one which will be able to swiftly enact crucial confidence-building measures on transparency, fiscal discipline and the ease of doing business. We very much welcome Prime Minister designate Hariri’s efforts in this regard.

I hope that the new administration will be one that is committed to strengthening Lebanese sovereignty and stability, in addition to implementing those important reforms to help boost Lebanon’s economy.

Lebanon’s economy has shown remarkable resilience through external crises, supported by the Central Bank and sophisticated banking sector as a pillar of stability throughout.

And whenever I visit Lebanon, I am impressed by the wealth of talented entrepreneurs whom I meet. Not to mention the mighty successful Lebanese diaspora. I don’t need to tell this audience here that Lebanon’s entrepreneurs have a reputation for being some of the most dynamic and determined in the world. Lebanon’s private sector has always been a resilient engine for growth in Lebanon through thick and thin.

Lebanon has unique features unlike any other. It benefits from a large and resilient remittance base, a large and profitable banking sector and a dynamic private sector that excels in Tourism, Architecture and Construction as well as Wholesale and Retail Trade, and increasingly in pharmacology and technology. Meanwhile the art, design and fashion scene is making an ever more impressive mark; putting Lebanon on the map for all the right reasons.

Now, to capitalise on these strong foundations, in order to address the external and internal economic challenges, the new government must set a roadmap and embark on implementation of the reform commitments set out at the CEDRE conference.

I’m pleased to announce today a new £30million programme to deliver on the UK’s CEDRE pledge. Our programme will provide technical assistance to support the government’s reform vision and will prepare infrastructure projects for the future. Sufficient momentum on these reforms will unlock grant funding for infrastructure, helping to further client investment. Together with the $11 billion pledged by the international community at CEDRE, it will unlock the investment potential in Lebanon’s economy.

As we look to strengthen our trade and investment ties with Lebanon, we are also determined to ensure the continuity of existing trade after the UK leaves the European Union. This means replicating the existing EU-Lebanon Association Agreement, as well as ensuring a smooth transition to new bilateral trading agreements.

This will mean that Lebanese companies can continue to import and export from the UK without disruption, and UK companies can continue to invest in Lebanon. We are working closely and productively with the Lebanese Government to achieve this goal.

Lebanon is a byword for tolerance, resilience and democracy, and the UK is very proud to be her partner. We want Lebanon to flourish long into the future and will remain by her side, supporting her every step of the way.

With an ever-improving security situation and with economic reforms being undertaken under a new government, there will be increasing opportunities for investment in Lebanon. A number of British firms are already seizing those opportunities.

For those of you in the audience who have yet to do so, I would invite you to give Lebanon your very close consideration – and as a personal tip: the wine is very good!

Theresa May – 2018 Press Statement on Brexit

Below is the text of the press statement made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, on 14 December 2018.

At this Council meeting, I have held a series of discussions with my fellow leaders on the Brexit deal and I was crystal clear about the assurances which are needed on the backstop having heard the views of MPs in the House of Commons.

I reiterated that it is in the interests of the EU as well as the UK to get this over the line. A disorderly Brexit would be good for no-one.

At 27 level, the EU have published a series of conclusions.

The EU made clear:

that it is their firm determination to work speedily on a future relationship or alternative arrangements which ensure no hard border by 31 December 2020 so that the backstop will not need to be triggered.

If the backstop was ever triggered, it would apply only temporarily and the EU would use its best endeavours to negotiate and conclude expeditiously a subsequent agreement that would replace the backstop.

That the EU stands ready to embark on preparations so that negotiations on the future partnership can start as soon as possible.

As formal conclusions, these commitments have legal status and therefore should be welcomed.

As I have always said, the guaranteed way of avoiding the backstop is to have the future partnership in place by the time the implementation period is over. The EU is very firmly committed to this course.

But MPs will require further assurances, and I have discussed that this morning with my EU partners, including Presidents Tusk, Juncker and others.

I note there has been reporting that the EU is not willing to consider any further clarification. The EU is clear – as I am – that if we are going to leave with a deal this is it.

But my discussions with colleagues today have shown that further clarification and discussion following the Council’s conclusions is in fact possible.

There is work still to do and we will be holding talks in coming days about how to obtain the further assurances that the UK Parliament needs in order to be able to approve the deal.

I say again. It is in the overwhelming interest of all our people – in the EU and the UK – to get this done, and as quickly as possible.

Mark Field – 2018 Speech on Disinformation

Below is the text of the speech made by Mark Field, the Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, on 14 December 2018.

Good morning ladies and gentlemen, it is a pleasure to welcome you to Westminster – not just the heart of my Parliamentary Constituency, but also the beating heart of political life here in the United Kingdom.

Some might say that heart has been having some palpitations of late: I’ll come back to Brexit later.

Thank you to Alex, Vincenzo and Rytis for the warm welcome and for setting the scene for today’s seminar.

The Club of Venice has been bringing Government communicators together for more than 30 years.

Over that time, wave after wave of technological innovation has opened new lines of communication that have transformed how governments talk to their people, and how people access information.

We have lived through a communications revolution that has brought the people of the world closer together, in a web of online networks, encrypted groups, and bulk data sets; connected to one and other by common interests and common causes; and speaking a new universal language punctuated with ‘likes’, emojis and retweets.

It has been a revolution that has democratised and accelerated the spread of information.

It has moved at a pace that has seen our libraries, our newspapers, and our broadcasters challenged as never before.

In the process, they have found themselves ceding ground, influence and users to unmoderated online chambers of social discourse.

For those of us in this room with an interest in getting messages across to the public, this revolution has required us to rethink what we do, and how we do it.

Without doubt it has been a time of unparalleled opportunity.

It has put politicians just a finger-tap away from putting information directly in the hands of the people we represent.

The challenge

Of course it is not just those of us with a keen interest in government, democracy, and society that have been given these new opportunities.

The same opportunities have also been made available to those who wish to chip away at the truth, at the strength of our democracy, and at the cohesion of our societies.

They too have learnt to harness new technologies for their own ends. We saw an example of the deliberate, mal-intentioned distortion of facts in the aftermath of the Westminster Bridge terrorist attack last year.

Genuine images were circulated with misleading commentary, asserting that a woman wearing a hijab was callously ignoring injured victims.

In fact, she was texting her family to let them know she was safe.

Disinformation is not a new threat. As far back as 1688, Great Britain’s Privy Council released a proclamation against the spreading of false news.

Disinformation may be as old as the hills, but the ongoing technological revolution has built a new stage for it; and for those who wish to use it to attack our democracies and our alliances, and to corrode the respect for diversity that binds our societies together.

Designed to deepen divisions and cast doubt on truth, disinformation uses social media algorithms to identify susceptible targets and amplify false information.

It seeks an audience looking for confirmation of their worst fears and views, crowding out new voices and distracting from alternative perspectives.

Governments across Europe have been subjected to disinformation, sown on distant computers, by those intent on fanning discord and division within our societies.

We have suffered at the hands of certain states that routinely use disinformation as a tool of foreign policy.

We have seen time and time again how easy it is to spread false or manipulated information to people around the world.

There are countless examples of how the Kremlin has done this to destabilise its perceived enemies, and disguise its own actions.

Disinformation accompanied Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea; their destabilisation of Eastern Ukraine; and their response to the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime against innocent civilians.

And more recently, in the aftermath of the Salisbury attack in March, when we repeatedly asked the Russian Government to account for what had happened, they responded with obfuscation and lies, spewing out dozens of ludicrous so-called explanations.

Whether in Ukraine, Syria or here in the UK, disinformation is being used to undermine the rules based international system and to attack our liberal democracies.

Protecting ourselves from it is one of the most pressing international issues of our time.

As our Prime Minister recently said “The threats we face do not recognise the borders of individual nations or discriminate between them.”

We want to work with industry, civil society, academia and our international partners to detect, disrupt, expose and refute disinformation.

This shall continue to be a central part of our cooperation with European partners long after we have left the European Union.

Responding to disinformation

Countering hostile state disinformation demands a concerted response on many levels, and the UK is at the forefront of a growing international consensus on the need to take action against it, regardless of source or intent.

In the UK we are taking a ‘whole of society’ approach to tackling disinformation, drawing on the experience and lessons learned of our Nordic and Baltic partners.

We shall focus this work around three key objectives:

First; to deter the use of disinformation by exposing and disrupting those who use it against us.

Second; to increase transparency and accountability online to make it harder and less rewarding to spread disinformation.

Third; to make people more resilient to disinformation through education and empowerment.

To achieve these objectives we are working with tech providers, tech users and academics, to better understand the impact of disinformation, and to improve education and digital literacy programmes. We are also considering regulation.

Internationally we are investing £100m in countering disinformation. This work includes providing important capacity-building support to independent media. One of the best antidotes to disinformation is a robust, free, vibrant and varied media landscape.

There is less space for disinformation to take hold where there is trust in a wide and robust national and local media.

Independent media and investigative journalism have a crucial role to play in challenging disinformation when it occurs, and helping to educate audiences to make them more resilient to disinformation.

However, journalists need more support from us, because in too many parts of the world their work puts them in great danger.

Globally, threats to journalists are at the highest level in 10 years.

Last year, 78 journalists were killed, and over 300 imprisoned for no other reason than doing their job. Speaking in 1949, Sir Winston Churchill said,

“A free press is the unsleeping guardian of every other right that free men prize”

Building on our proud history of a vibrant and independent media, our Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced that he will make the promotion of Media Freedom a priority over the coming year.

We commend the work of our international partners, those of you represented here today, to counter disinformation.

We want to work with all of you to put this issue at the forefront of international discourse.

We shall host a major international conference next year to mobilise a global consensus behind the protection of journalists.

We shall support Media Freedom projects and we shall expand the number of journalists receiving training, including in newsrooms here in the UK.

Conclusion

Ladies and gentlemen, faced with these threats to our democracies and our freedoms, we must come together to protect our shared values.

As our Prime Minister has said, “The fundamental values we share – respect for human dignity, human rights, freedom, democracy and equality – have created common cause to act together in our shared interest.”

All of you, as communicators, play an important role – not only in shaping the public’s view of what governments do, but also in informing government policy. You are needed now, more than ever.

Let us come together to combat the threat of disinformation, to build public trust in our democracies and our values, and to strengthen independent media, as the guardians of those values.

Thank you.

Theresa May – 2018 Statement on Brexit

Below is the text of the statement made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, in the House of Commons on 17 December 2018.

Mr Speaker, with permission, I would like to make a Statement on last week’s European Council.

Before turning to Brexit, let me touch on two significant conclusions from the other business of the Council.

First, we expressed our utmost concern over the escalation we have seen at the Kerch Straits and the Sea of Azov and Russia’s continued violations of international law.

We agreed to roll-over economic sanctions against Russia and we stand ready to further strengthen our support, in particular, for the affected areas of Ukraine.

And second, we also agreed to work together on tackling the spread of deliberate, large-scale and systematic disinformation, including as part of hybrid warfare. On this I outlined some of the world-leading work that the UK is doing in this field.

And I was clear that after we have left the European Union, the UK will continue to work closely with our European partners to uphold the international rules based system and to keep all our people safe.

And that is why it is right that our Brexit deal includes the deepest security partnership that has ever been agreed with the EU.

Mr Speaker, at this Council I faithfully and firmly reflected the concerns of this House over the Northern Ireland backstop.

I explained the assurances we had already agreed with the EU were insufficient for this House – and that we had to go further in showing that we never want to use this backstop and, if it is used, it must be a temporary arrangement.

Some of the resulting exchanges at this Council were robust.

But I make no apology for standing up for the interests of this House and the interests of our whole United Kingdom.

In response, the EU 27 published a series of conclusions.

They made clear that it is their – and I quote – “firm determination to work speedily on a subsequent agreement that establishes by 31st December 2020 alternative arrangements, so that the backstop will not need to be triggered.”

The House will forgive me, but I think this bears repeating: “the backstop will not need to be triggered.”

They underlined that “if the backstop were nevertheless to be triggered, it would apply temporarily.”

They said that in this event the EU “would use its best endeavours to negotiate and conclude expeditiously a subsequent agreement that would replace the backstop.”

And they gave a new assurance in relation to the Future Partnership with the UK, to make it even less likely that the backstop would ever be needed by stating that the EU “stands ready to embark on preparations immediately after signature of the Withdrawal Agreement to ensure that negotiations can start as soon as possible after the UK’s withdrawal.”

Mr Speaker, in these conclusions, in their statements at the Council and in their private meetings with me, my fellow EU leaders could not have been clearer – they do not want to use this backstop. They want to agree the best possible future relationship with us. There is no plot to keep us in the backstop.

Indeed, President Macron said on Friday – “we can clarify and reassure…the backstop is not our objective, it is not a durable solution and nobody is trying to lock the UK into the backstop.”

As formal conclusions from a European Council, these commitments have legal status and should be welcomed. They go further than the EU has ever done previously in trying to address the concerns of this House.

And of course they sit on top of the commitments that we have already negotiated in relation to the backstop: including…

…ensuring the customs element is UK-wide;

…that both sides are legally committed to using best endeavours to have our new relationship in place before the end of the Implementation Period;

…that if the new relationship isn’t ready we can choose to extend the Implementation Period instead of the backstop coming into force;

…that if the backstop does come in, we can use alternative arrangements, not just the future relationship, to get out of it;

…that the treaty is clear the backstop can only ever be temporary;

…and that there is an explicit termination clause.

But Mr Speaker, I know this House is still deeply uncomfortable about the backstop.

And I understand that. And I want us to go further still in the reassurances we secure.

Discussions with my EU partners – including Presidents Tusk, Juncker and others – have shown that further clarification following the Council’s conclusions is in fact possible.

So discussions are continuing to explore further political and legal assurances.

We are also looking closely at new ways of empowering the House of Commons to ensure that any provision for a backstop has democratic legitimacy and to enable the House to place its own obligations on the government to ensure that the backstop cannot be in place indefinitely.

But it is now only just over 14 weeks until the UK leaves the EU. And I know many Members of this House are concerned that we need to take a decision soon.

My Rt Hon Friend, the Leader of the House, will set out business on Thursday in the usual way.

But I can confirm today that we intend to return to the Meaningful Vote debate in the week commencing 7th January and hold the vote the following week.

Mr Speaker, when we have the vote, Members will need to reflect carefully on what is in the best interests of our country.

I know that there are a range of very strongly held personal views on this issue across the House. And I respect all of them.

But expressing our personal views is not what we are here to do.

We asked the British people to take this decision.

472 current Members of this House voted for the Referendum in June 2015, with just 32 voting against.

And the British people responded by instructing us to leave the European Union.

Similarly 438 current Members of this House voted to trigger Article 50, to set the process of our departure in motion, with only 85 of today’s Members voting against.

Now we must honour our duty to finish the job.

I know this is not everyone’s perfect deal. It is a compromise.

But if we let the perfect be the enemy of the good then we risk leaving the EU with no deal.

Of course we have prepared for no deal, and tomorrow the Cabinet will be discussing the next phase in ensuring we are ready for that scenario.

But let us not risk the jobs, services and security of the people we serve by turning our backs on an agreement with our neighbours that honours the referendum and provides for a smooth and orderly exit.

Avoiding no deal is only possible if we can reach an agreement or if we abandon Brexit entirely.

And as I said in the debate earlier this month – “do not imagine that if we vote this down, a different deal is going to miraculously appear.”

If you want proof, look at the Conclusions of this Council.

As President Juncker said: “it is the best deal possible and the only deal possible”

And any proposal for the future relationship – whether Norway, Canada, or any other variety that has been mentioned – would require agreeing this Withdrawal Agreement.

The Leader of the Opposition – as well as some others – are trying to pretend they could do otherwise.

This is a fiction.

Finally let us not break faith with the British people by trying to stage another referendum.

Another vote which would do irreparable damage to the integrity of our politics, because it would say to millions who trusted in democracy, that our democracy does not deliver.

Another vote which would likely leave us no further forward than the last.

And another vote which would further divide our country at the very moment we should be working to unite it.

And let us not follow the Leader of the Opposition in thinking about what gives him the best chance of forcing a General Election.

For at this critical moment in our history, we should be thinking not about our party’s interests, but about the national interest.

Let us a find a way to come together and work together in the national interest to see this Brexit through.

Mr Speaker, I will work tirelessly over these new few weeks to fulfil my responsibility as Prime Minister to find a way forwards.

Over the last two weeks, I have met quite a number of colleagues and I am happy to continue to do so on this important issue so that we can fulfil our responsibilities to the British people.

So together, we can take back control of our borders, laws and money; while protecting the jobs, the security and the integrity of our precious United Kingdom.

So together we can move on to finalising the future relationship with the European Union and the trade deals with the rest of the world that can fuel our prosperity for years to come.

And so together we can get this Brexit done and shift the national focus to our domestic priorities – investing in our NHS, our schools and housing; tackling the injustices that so many still face; and building a country that truly works for everyone.

For these are the ways in which, together, this House will best serve the interests of the British people.

And I commend this Statement to the House.

Bill Wiggin – 2018 Commons Speech on Brexit

Below is the text of the speech made by Bill Wiggin, the Conservative MP for North Herefordshire, in the House of Commons on 6 December 2018.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg), and, of course, my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Moor View (Johnny Mercer).

Let me first commend the Prime Minister’s determination, fortitude and persistence in her negotiations with the European Union and in her repeated statements to the House. I, like many, want to conclude Brexit as swiftly as possible and to fulfil the result of the 2016 referendum, but the withdrawal agreement contains enormous problems. The Northern Ireland protocol provides for an extension of the customs union that would keep the United Kingdom in the customs union and some aspects of the single market. The Attorney General confirmed to the House, both in his statement and in his published legal opinion, that the backstop had no unilateral exit mechanism. That means that leaving the backstop and the customs union could be more difficult than leaving the European Union. The people who voted for Brexit voted for independence, and the backstop prevents us from fully leaving the EU. The current withdrawal agreement therefore does not respect the will of the people to leave the EU.

If the Government are unwilling or unable to secure a better deal, the default position is trading on World Trade Organisation terms—no deal, or a clean global Brexit, as it should be known. People who say that that would be a disaster—the consensus on the Opposition Benches is that it might be—are, generally speaking, people with whom I disagree, usually because they are wrong. Our exports to countries with which we trade on WTO terms have grown three times faster than our trade with EU countries since the 1990s. We currently ​run a surplus on our trade with our biggest national export market, the United States. By contrast, we run a deficit on our trade with European single market partners. Anyone who is afraid of the WTO should simply look around their home and note the sheer volume of items made in China, America and the rest of the world in order to conclude that the WTO is not quite the demon that Opposition Members make it out to be.

On Tuesday, the Grieve amendment looked, at first, like it had put power back into the hands of the House of Commons. Although many of my colleagues and constituents tell me that anything for which the House votes will not be legally binding, we have seen this week that the Government cannot ignore Parliament. The purpose of the amendment was to put at risk the clean global Brexit, given that it will not be supported by Parliament, so I worry that extensions to article 50, or a second referendum, could win the support of MPs who do not respect the result of the original people’s vote. They should use this debating opportunity to remind the public that they will not seek to undo the result of the referendum, in exactly the way my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Sussex (Sir Nicholas Soames) did earlier.

Voting for the deal itself represents a threat to Brexit, but it also represents a threat to the Government. Ironically, the DUP, which will support the Government in a confidence vote if the deal is lost, would be closest to the hard border that the backstop seeks to prevent. Surely they must have their views respected above all else.

For our £39 billion, we deserve a proper arrangement with the EU that is mutually beneficial, as well as good value for our taxpayers. I fear that this deal does not open the door to positive trade negotiations. It hangs the threat of the backstop over the heads of our negotiators, which will force them to compromise and concede. Therefore, as it stands, I do not want to support the deal, but I hope that the Prime Minister will take our concerns on board and will act. I hope that she will return to this House with a deal that I and my colleagues can wholeheartedly support.

Stephen Twigg – 2018 Commons Speech on Brexit

Below is the text of the speech made by Stephen Twigg, the Labour MP for Liverpool, West Derby, in the House of Commons on 6 December 2018.

The city of Liverpool has been hit hard by austerity since 2010, with massive cuts in central Government funding hitting Liverpool City Council and its services and hitting the police service and the fire service, while benefit changes have hit the poorest hardest. Liverpool has also benefited enormously from membership of the European Union. Merseyside had Objective 1 status, which helped to bring significant investment to our communities. It is an outward-looking city, reflected in the heavy vote across the city two years ago to remain in the European Union—58% to 42%.

However, the divisions that we have discussed today nationally were reflected locally. My constituency saw a much narrower vote—the vote was not conducted by constituency, but my estimate is that it was probably about 52% remain and 48% leave. As we have heard rightly from both sides in this debate, some of the communities that have been hit hardest by poverty and austerity are those that had the highest leave votes. That was certainly the case in my constituency and that reflected many concerns—some about immigration and others about a sense of being left behind.

Those divisions clearly continue. They are reflected in my inbox, as I am sure they are in those of other Members. I have had constituents urging me in the last three weeks to vote for no deal because that would be better than this deal. Some want a people’s vote. Some people are coming to see me to support the deal, but a very clear majority view from my constituents is that we should reject this deal because it is bad for jobs, bad for rights and bad for living standards.

I voted remain and I campaigned hard for remain in my constituency, elsewhere in Liverpool, and in other parts of the north-west, but I accepted the result despite my great personal sense of disappointment. I voted in favour of triggering article 50 and I really wanted to see a serious negotiation to deliver on the referendum. I agree very strongly with my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), who said on the opening day of this debate that

“history will record the Prime Minister’s red lines to have been an absolutely catastrophic mistake”.—[Official Report, 4 December 2018; Vol. 650, c. 800.]

It would have been perfectly feasible to take a pragmatic, inclusive and flexible approach and reach out across the Chamber to all parties. The Government’s failure to do that has resulted in a political declaration which is vague and uncertain, and which, crucially, tells us very little about the key issues of frictionless trade. As a result, it is almost certain not only that this deal will be defeated next Tuesday, but that it will defeated by a substantial margin.​
After that vote, we shall have an historic responsibility and opportunity to forge a new way forward. I have signed both amendment (a), in the name of the Leader of the Opposition, and amendment (i), in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central. Taken together, they could provide the basis for a way forward: rejecting the disastrous option of no deal, seeking instead a permanent customs union and a strong single market deal, and resolving to pursue every option to prevent no deal from happening.

It seems to me that there are two potential ways forward after the vote next Tuesday. Either we come together in the House, across party divides, and agree a position that can protect jobs, protect the rights of workers and standards in the environment and for consumers, and protect living standards. I believe we could achieve that with the good will of Government and Parliament working together. Otherwise, there will be no alternative but for us to take this back to the people, either in the form of an early general election or in the form of another referendum—a people’s vote.

The economic consequences of leaving without a deal could be disastrous. As others have said, they would hit the poorest areas hardest. I look at those areas of Liverpool’s economy, such as the car industry, health and life sciences, universities and the port. Those are the industries that would suffer most if we left without a deal, and regions such as the north-west would be hit hardest by a no deal Brexit. Yes, this deal is not the right deal, but let us come together and deliver the deal that really can protect jobs and rights across our country.

Tom Tugendhat – 2018 Commons Speech on Brexit

Below is the text of the speech made by Tom Tugendhat, the Conservative MP for Tonbridge and Malling, in the House of Commons on 6 December 2018.

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this important debate. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Falkirk (John Mc Nally) for his dulcet tones and helping us get through the afternoon.

We find ourselves here because of a series of events. We must remember that the day after the referendum, the campaigns disappeared. When we got to the leadership competition, many of the competitors disappeared. When we got to the election, sadly many of our seats disappeared, and we found ourselves without a majority. Despite that, we have a Prime Minister who, thank God, has shown fortitude, devotion and duty, when so many others have, sadly, disappeared.

I have plenty of criticism to make of the way these negotiations have been conducted, and I am sure I am not alone in doing so. I think we started the wrong way round. Rather than negotiating our way down, as it were, from our existing membership, we should have admitted the truth, which is that we have left the European Union—we left when the votes came in—and we should be negotiating our way up towards the relationship we want to see in the long term. Sadly, that is not what happened.

We find ourselves now looking towards a transition. After 45 years’ membership—about the same time that Elizabeth I was on the throne or the German empire existed—it is hardly surprising that the transition to a new relationship is important. We must use this opportunity to focus on not only what the interim stage looks like, but what the future looks like. That is why I would welcome much more effort going into the future agreement. It is true that the political declaration sets out some aspects of interest, and the backstop supposedly is used as a building block, but we need to see much more than either of those.

So what are we looking at today? We are looking at a stage. We are looking at—let us be frank—the only deal on the table. We are looking at a temporary, imperfect compromise, and an uncomfortable one at that—one that, were we to ever enter the backstop, splits the four freedoms of goods, capital, services and people.

The option we have is pretty simple. It is threefold: either we agree with this compromise; or we push for a second referendum, which I think is a terrible idea, as it will simply lead to more uncertainty and more indecision; or we walk away. As I represent a community—I am blessed to represent one of the most beautiful communities in the country—that, sadly, is surrounded by motorways entirely reliant on the port of Dover, there is a danger for us that those motorways will become parking lots, as many hon. Members will have heard me say when I raised this with the Transport Secretary. I am afraid that I cannot go for the referendum and I cannot go for walking away, so I am left really with only one choice. I do not say this with any joy. However, it is not our role to shirk responsibility or to avoid decisions; it is our role to take decisions. When I have excluded the impossible, I am left with only one—and that I have to say with a very heavy heart.

The backstop is not, however, as final as many have said, and here I quote from Policy Exchange’s work by Professor Verdirame, Sir Stephen Laws and Professor Ekins, about what the best endeavours obligation in the withdrawal agreement puts on the EU. They say:​

“EU conduct in breach of such an obligation and indefinitely prolonging the application of the Protocol could thus amount to a material breach of the Withdrawal Agreement and the Protocol. Faced with this situation, the UK would be entitled to invoke this material breach as a ground for the suspension or termination of the Withdrawal Agreement and the Protocol.”

So there is a legal way out, and the legal way out is if the EU does not negotiate with best intent. I am confident that it will, because this is as bad for the EU as it is for us, though, frankly, it is not good for anyone.

I will end simply with a word about the referendum. It was legitimate. It did not go my way, but democracies do not always reflect the way we choose. When we get through this period, the next few years of this country’s history will be truly glorious. We are on the cusp of massive investment. We have companies sitting on cash and ready to throw it into the economy. We have a huge opportunity before us, and I look forward to our grasping it.

Kirsty Blackman – 2018 Commons Speech on Brexit

Below is the text of the speech made by Kirsty Blackman, the SNP MP for Aberdeen North, in the House of Commons on 10 December 2018.

I thank the Prime Minister for advance sight of the statement, and I thank you, Mr Speaker, for the benefit of your words on how we could proceed.

The events of the past few hours have highlighted that this is a Government in a total state of collapse. The Prime Minister has been forced to pull tomorrow’s vote in a stunning display of pathetic cowardice. The vote tomorrow night would have shown the will of this House, but this Government are focused on saving the Prime Minister’s job and her party. Instead of doing what is right for these countries, she is abdicating her responsibility.

The Prime Minister’s deal will make people poorer. It will lead to years of further uncertainty and difficult negotiation, with no guarantee that a trade deal can even be struck. It does not have the support of those on her Back Benches; indeed, it has no support from the majority of those on the Benches across this place, no support from the Scottish Parliament and no support from the Welsh Assembly. Why has it taken the Prime Minister this long to face up to reality? Her deal was dead in the water long before this morning. Last week, it was this deal or no deal. She now needs to be clear with this House about what has changed.

Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, but yet again our views are being ignored, as they have been throughout this disastrous and incompetent Brexit process. Back in 2014, Scotland was promised the strength and security of the UK, but the reality has been Westminster collapse and chaos. We were promised an equal partnership, but we have been treated with contempt.

The Prime Minister has lost the confidence of those on her own Benches, and she has failed to convince this House of her plan for exiting the EU. We simply cannot go on like this. It is clear that the Prime Minister is incapable of taking decisions about the future and that Downing Street cannot negotiate any more—either with the EU or with those on the Tory Back Benches. What the Prime Minister is really scared of is allowing this House to determine the way forward and allowing the public the opportunity to remain in the EU. She knows she has lost, but she is still wasting precious time. We need the Prime Minister to be clear about when the House will vote on this deal.

This Government and the Prime Minister have failed. It is time they got out of the way. Prime Minister, Members across this House do not want your deal. The EU does not want to renegotiate. Is not the only way to break this deadlock to put it to the people?

Jeremy Corbyn – 2018 Commons Speech on Brexit

Below is the text of the speech made by Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, in the House of Commons on 10 December 2018.

I thank the Prime Minister for providing a copy of the statement before we met here this afternoon. We are in an extremely serious and unprecedented situation. The Government have lost control of events and are in complete disarray. It has been evident for weeks that the Prime Minister’s deal does not have the confidence of this House, yet she ploughed on regardless, reiterating “This is the only deal available.” Can she be clear with the House: is she seeking changes to the deal, or mere reassurances? Does she therefore accept the statement from the European Commission at lunchtime, saying that it was the

“only deal possible. We will not renegotiate—our position has…not changed”?

Ireland’s Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, has said it is “not possible” to renegotiate the Irish border backstop, stating that it was the Prime Minister’s own red lines that made the backstop necessary. So can the Prime Minister be clear: is she now ready to drop further red lines in order to make progress? Can the Prime Minister confirm that the deal presented to this House is not off the table, but will be re-presented with a few assurances? Bringing back the same botched deal, either next week or in January—and can she be clear on the timing?—will not change its fundamental flaws or the deeply held objections right across this House, which go far wider than the backstop alone.

This a bad deal for Britain, a bad deal for our economy and a bad deal for our democracy. Our country deserves better than this. The deal damages our economy, and it is not just the Opposition saying that; the Government’s own analysis shows that this deal would make us worse off. If the Prime Minister cannot be clear that she can and will renegotiate the deal, she must make way. If she is going back to Brussels, she needs to build a consensus in this House. Since it appears that business has changed for the next two days, it seems not only possible but necessary that this House debates the negotiating mandate that the Prime Minister takes to Brussels. There is no point at all in this Prime Minister bringing back the same deal again, which is clearly not supported by this House.

We have endured two years of shambolic negotiations. Red lines have been boldly announced and then cast aside. We are now on our third Brexit Secretary, and it appears that each one of them has been excluded from these vital negotiations. We were promised a precise and substantive document, and we got a vague 26-page wishlist. This Government have become the first Government in British history to be held in contempt of Parliament.

The Government are in disarray. Uncertainty is building for business. People are in despair at the state of these failed negotiations, and concerned about what it means for their jobs, their livelihoods and their communities. The fault for that lies solely at the door of this shambolic Government. The Prime Minister is trying to buy herself one last chance to save this deal. If she does not take on board the fundamental changes required, she must make way for those who can.