Jean-Claude Juncker – 2016 State of the Union Address

Below is the text of the speech made by Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, on 14 September 2016 in Brussels, Belgium.

Mr President,

Honourable Members of the European Parliament,

I stood here a year ago and I told you that the State of our Union was not good. I told you that there is not enough Europe in this Union. And that there is not enough Union in this Union.

I am not going to stand here today and tell you that everything is now fine.

It is not.

Let us all be very honest in our diagnosis.

Our European Union is, at least in part, in an existential crisis.

Over the summer, I listened carefully to Members of this Parliament, to government representatives, to many national Parliamentarians and to the ordinary Europeans who shared their thoughts with me.

I have witnessed several decades of EU integration. There were many strong moments. Of course, there were many difficult times too, and times of crisis.

But never before have I seen such little common ground between our Member States. So few areas where they agree to work together.

Never before have I heard so many leaders speak only of their domestic problems, with Europe mentioned only in passing, if at all.

Never before have I seen representatives of the EU institutions setting very different priorities, sometimes in direct opposition to national governments and national Parliaments. It is as if there is almost no intersection between the EU and its national capitals anymore.

Never before have I seen national governments so weakened by the forces of populism and paralysed by the risk of defeat in the next elections.

Never before have I seen so much fragmentation, and so little commonality in our Union.

We now have a very important choice to make.

Do we give in to a very natural feeling of frustration? Do we allow ourselves to become collectively depressed? Do we want to let our Union unravel before our eyes?

Or do we say: Is this not the time to pull ourselves together? Is this not the time to roll up our sleeves and double, triple our efforts? Is this not the time when Europe needs more determined leadership than ever, rather than politicians abandoning ship?

Our reflections on the State of the Union must start with a sense of realism and with great honesty.

First of all, we should admit that we have many unresolved problems in Europe. There can be no doubt about this.

From high unemployment and social inequality, to mountains of public debt, to the huge challenge of integrating refugees, to the very real threats to our security at home and abroad – every one of Europe’s Member States has been affected by the continuing crises of our times.

We are even faced with the unhappy prospect of a member leaving our ranks.

Secondly, we should be aware that the world is watching us.

I just came back from the G20 meeting in China. Europe occupies 7 chairs at the table of this important global gathering. Despite our big presence, there were more questions than we had common answers to.

Will Europe still be able to conclude trade deals and shape economic, social and environmental standards for the world?

Will Europe’s economy finally recover or be stuck in low growth and low inflation for the next decade?

Will Europe still be a world leader when it comes to the fight for human rights and fundamental values?

Will Europe speak up, with one voice, when territorial integrity is under threat, in violation of international law?

Or will Europe disappear from the international scene and leave it to others to shape the world?

I know that you here in this House would be only too willing to give clear answers to these questions. But we need our words to be followed by joint action. Otherwise, they will be just that: words. And with words alone, you cannot shape international affairs.

Thirdly, we should recognise that we cannot solve all our problems with one more speech. Or with one more summit.

This is not the United States of America, where the President gives a State of the Union speech to both Houses of Congress, and millions of citizens follow his every word, live on television.

In comparison to this, our State of the Union moment here in Europe shows very visibly the incomplete nature of our Union. I am speaking today in front of the European Parliament. And separately, on Friday, I will meet with the national leaders in Bratislava.

So my speech can not only compete for your applause, ignoring what national leaders will say on Friday. I also cannot go to Bratislava with a different message than I have for you. I have to take into account both levels of democracy of our Union, which are both equally important.

We are not the United States of Europe. Our European Union is much more complex. And ignoring this complexity would be a mistake that would lead us to the wrong solutions.

Europe can only work if speeches supporting our common project are not only delivered in this honourable House, but also in the Parliaments of all our Member States.

Europe can only work if we all work for unity and commonality, and forget the rivalry between competences and institutions. Only then will Europe be more than the sum of its parts. And only then can Europe be stronger and better than it is today. Only then will leaders of the EU institutions and national governments be able to regain the trust of Europe’s citizens in our common project.

Because Europeans are tired of the endless disputes, quarrels and bickering.

Europeans want concrete solutions to the very pertinent problem that our Union is facing. And they want more than promises, resolutions and summit conclusions. They have heard and seen these too often.

Europeans want common decisions followed by swift and efficient implementation.

Yes, we need a vision for the long term. And the Commission will set out such a vision for the future in a White Paper in March 2017, in time for the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome. We will address how to strengthen and reform our Economic and Monetary Union. And we will also take into account the political and democratic challenges our Union of 27 will be facing in the future. And of course, the European Parliament will be closely involved in this process, as will national Parliaments.

But a vision alone will not suffice. What our citizens need much more is that someone governs. That someone responds to the challenges of our time.

Europe is a cord of many strands – it only works when we are all pulling in the same direction: EU institutions, national governments and national Parliaments alike. And we have to show again that this is possible, in a selected number of areas where common solutions are most urgent.

I am therefore proposing a positive agenda of concrete European actions for the next twelve months.

Because I believe the next twelve months are decisive if we want to reunite our Union. If we want to overcome the tragic divisions between East and West which have opened up in recent months. If we want to show that we can be fast and decisive on the things that really matter. If we want to show to the world that Europe is still a force capable of joint action.

We have to get to work.

I sent a letter with this message to President Schulz and Prime Minister Fico this morning.

The next twelve months are the crucial time to deliver a better Europe:

a Europe that protects;

a Europe that preserves the European way of life;

a Europe that empowers our citizens,

a Europe that defends at home and abroad; and

a Europe that takes responsibility.

A EUROPE THAT PRESERVES OUR WAY OF LIFE

I am convinced the European way of life is something worth preserving.

I have the impression that many seem to have forgotten what being European means.

What it means to be part of this Union of Europeans – what it is the farmer in Lithuania has in common with the single mother in Zagreb, the nurse in Valetta or the student in Maastricht.

To remember why Europe’s nations chose to work together.

To remember why crowds celebrated solidarity in the streets of Warsaw on 1 May 2004.

To remember why the European flag waved proudly in Puerta del Sol on 1 January 1986.

To remember that Europe is a driving force that can help bring about the unification of Cyprus – something I am supporting the two leaders of Cyprus in.

Above all, Europe means peace. It is no coincidence that the longest period of peace in written history in Europe started with the formation of the European Communities.

70 years of lasting peace in Europe. In a world with 40 active armed conflicts, which claim the lives of 170,000 people every year.

Of course we still have our differences. Yes, we often have controversy. Sometimes we fight. But we fight with words. And we settle our conflicts around the table, not in trenches.

An integral part of our European way of life is our values.

The values of freedom, democracy, the rule of law. Values fought for on battlefields and soapboxes over centuries.

We Europeans can never accept Polish workers being harassed, beaten up or even murdered on the streets of Harlow. The free movement of workers is as much a common European value as our fight against discrimination and racism.

We Europeans stand firmly against the death penalty. Because we believe in and respect the value of human life.

We Europeans also believe in independent, effective justice systems. Independent courts keep governments, companies and people in check. Effective justice systems support economic growth and defend fundamental rights. That is why Europe promotes and defends the rule of law.

Being European also means being open and trading with our neighbours, instead of going to war with them. It means being the world’s biggest trading bloc, with trade agreements in place or under negotiation with over 140 partners across the globe.

And trade means jobs – for every €1 billion we get in exports, 14,000 extra jobs are created across the EU. And more than 30 million jobs, 1 in 7 of all jobs in the EU, now depend on exports to the rest of the world.

That is why Europe is working to open up markets with Canada – one of our closest partners and one which shares our interests, our values, our respect for the rule of law and our understanding of cultural diversity. The EU-Canada trade agreement is the best and most progressive deal the EU has ever negotiated. And I will work with you and with all Member States to see this agreement ratified as soon as possible.

Being European means the right to have your personal data protected by strong, European laws. Because Europeans do not like drones overhead recording their every move, or companies stockpiling their every mouse click. This is why Parliament, Council and Commission agreed in May this year a common European Data Protection Regulation. This is a strong European law that applies to companies wherever they are based and whenever they are processing your data. Because in Europe, privacy matters. This is a question of human dignity.

Being European also means a fair playing field.

This means that workers should get the same pay for the same work in the same place. This is a question of social justice. And this is why the Commission stands behind our proposal on the Posting of Workers Directive. The internal market is not a place where Eastern European workers can be exploited or subjected to lower social standards. Europe is not the Wild West, but a social market economy.

A fair playing field also means that in Europe, consumers are protected against cartels and abuses by powerful companies. And that every company, no matter how big or small, has to pay its taxes where it makes its profits. This goes for giants like Apple too, even if their market value is higher than the GDP of 165 countries in the world. In Europe we do not accept powerful companies getting illegal backroom deals on their taxes.

The level of taxation in a country like Ireland is not our issue. Ireland has the sovereign right to set the tax level wherever it wants. But it is not right that one company can evade taxes that could have gone to Irish families and businesses, hospitals and schools. The Commission watches over this fairness. This is the social side of competition law. And this is what Europe stands for.

Being European also means a culture that protects our workers and our industries in an increasingly globalised world. Like the thousands who risk losing their jobs in Gosselies in Belgium – it is thanks to EU legislation that the company will now need to engage in a true social dialogue. And workers and local authorities can count on European solidarity and the help of EU funds.

Being European also means standing up for our steel industry. We already have 37 anti-dumping and anti-subsidy measures in place to protect our steel industry from unfair competition. But we need to do more, as overproduction in some parts of the world is putting European producers out of business. This is why I was in China twice this year to address the issue of overcapacity. This is also why the Commission has proposed to change the lesser duty rule. The United States imposes a 265% import tariff on Chinese steel, but here in Europe, some governments have for years insisted we reduce tariffs on Chinese steel. I call on all Member States and on this Parliament to support the Commission in strengthening our trade defence instruments. We should not be naïve free traders, but be able to respond as forcefully to dumping as the United States.

A strong part of our European way of life that I want to preserve is our agricultural sector. The Commission will always stand by our farmers, particularly when they go through difficult moments as is the case today. Last year, the dairy sector was hit with a ban imposed by Russia. This is why the Commission mobilised €1 billion in support of milk farmers to help them get back on their feet. Because I will not accept that milk is cheaper than water.

Being European, for most of us, also means the euro. During the global financial crisis, the euro stayed strong and protected us from even worse instability. The euro is a leading world currency, and it brings huge, often invisible economic benefits. Euro area countries saved €50 billion this year in interest payments, thanks to the European Central Bank’s monetary policy. €50 billion extra that our finance ministers can and should invest into the economy.

Mario Draghi is preserving the stability of our currency. And he is making a stronger contribution to jobs and growth than many of our Member States.

Yes, we Europeans suffered under a historic financial and debt crisis. But the truth is that while public deficits stood at 6.3% on average in the euro area in 2009, today they are below 2%.

Over the last three years, almost 8 million more people found a job. 1 million in Spain alone, a country which continues to show an impressive recovery from the crisis.

I wish all this was recalled more often – everywhere in Europe where elected politicians take the floor.

Because in our incomplete Union, there is no European leadership that can substitute national leadership.

European nations have to defend the rationale for unity. No one can do it for them.

They can.

We can be united even though we are diverse.

The great, democratic nations of Europe must not bend to the winds of populism.

Europe must not cower in the face of terrorism.

No – Member States must build a Europe that protects. And we, the European institutions, must help them deliver this promise.

A EUROPE THAT EMPOWERS

The European Union should not only preserve our European way of life but empower those living it.

We need to work for a Europe that empowers our citizens and our economy. And today, both have gone digital.

Digital technologies and digital communications are permeating every aspect of life.

All they require is access to high-speed internet. We need to be connected. Our economy needs it. People need it.

And we have to invest in that connectivity now.

That is why today, the Commission is proposing a reform for our European telecommunications markets. We want to create a new legal framework that attracts and enables investments in connectivity.

Businesses should be able to plan their investments in Europe for the next 20 years. Because if we invest in new networks and services, that is at least 1.3 million new jobs over the next decade.

Connectivity should benefit everyone.

That is why today the Commission is proposing to fully deploy 5G, the fifth generation of mobile communication systems, across the European Union by 2025. This has the potential to create a further two million jobs in the EU.

Everyone benefiting from connectivity means that it should not matter where you live or how much you earn.

So we propose today to equip every European village and every city with free wireless internet access around the main centres of public life by 2020.

As the world goes digital, we also have to empower our artists and creators and protect their works.Artists and creators are our crown jewels. The creation of content is not a hobby. It is a profession. And it is part of our European culture.

I want journalists, publishers and authors to be paid fairly for their work, whether it is made in studios or living rooms, whether it is disseminated offline or online, whether it is published via a copying machine or hyperlinked on the web.

The overhaul of Europe’s copyright rules we are proposing today does exactly that.

Empowering our economy means investing not just in connectivity, but in job creation.

That is why Europe must invest strongly in its youth, in its jobseekers, in its start-ups.

The €315 billion Investment Plan for Europe, which we agreed together here in this House just twelve months ago, has already raised €116 billion in investments – from Latvia to Luxembourg – in its first year of operation.

Over 200,000 small firms and start-ups across Europe got loans. And over 100,000 people got new jobs. Thanks to the new European Fund for Strategic Investments I proposed, my Commission developed, and you here in the European Parliament supported and adopted in record time.

And now we will take it further. Today, we propose to double the duration of the Fund and double its financial capacity.

With your support, we will make sure that our European Investment Fund will provide a total of at least €500 billion – half a trillion – of investments by 2020. And we will work beyond that to reach €630 billion by 2022. Of course, with Member States contributing, we can get there even faster.

Alongside these efforts to attract private investment, we also need to create the right environment to invest in.

European banks are in much better shape than two years ago, thanks to our joint European efforts. Europe needs its banks. But an economy almost entirely dependent on bank credit is bad for financial stability. It is also bad for business, as we saw during the financial crisis. That is why it is now urgent we accelerate our work on the Capital Markets Union. The Commission is putting a concrete roadmap for this on your table today.

A Capital Markets Union will make our financial system more resilient. It will give companies easier and more diversified access to finance. Imagine a Finnish start-up that cannot get a bank loan. Right now, the options are very limited. The Capital Markets Union will offer alternative, vital sources of funding to help start-ups get started – business angels, venture capital, market financing.

To just mention one example – almost a year ago we put a proposal on the table that will make it easier for banks to provide loans. It has the potential of freeing up €100 billion of additional finance for EU businesses. So let us please speed up its adoption.

Our European Investment Plan worked better than anyone expected inside Europe, and now we are going to take it global. Something many of you and many Member States have called for.

Today we are launching an ambitious Investment Plan for Africa and the Neighbourhood which has the potential to raise €44 billion in investments. It can go up to €88 billion if Member States pitch in.

The logic is the same that worked well for the internal Investment Plan: we will be using public funding as a guarantee to attract public and private investment to create real jobs.

This will complement our development aid and help address one of the root causes of migration. With economic growth in developing countries at its lowest level since 2003, this is crucial. The new Plan will offer lifelines for those who would otherwise be pushed to take dangerous journeys in search of a better life.

As much as we invest in improving conditions abroad, we also need to invest in responding to humanitarian crises back home. And, more than anything, we need to invest in our young people.

I cannot and will not accept that Europe is and remains the continent of youth unemployment.

I cannot and will not accept that the millennials, Generation Y, might be the first generation in 70 years to be poorer than their parents.

Of course, this is mainly a task of national governments. But the European Union can support their efforts. We are doing this with the EU Youth Guarantee that was launched three years ago. My Commission enhanced the effectiveness and sped up delivery of the Youth Guarantee. More than 9 million young people have already benefitted from this programme. That is 9 million young people who got a job, traineeship or apprenticeship because of the EU. And we will continue to roll out the Youth Guarantee across Europe, improving the skillset of Europeans and reaching out to the regions and young people most in need.

The European Union can also contribute by helping create more opportunities for young people.

There are many young, socially-minded people in Europe willing to make a meaningful contribution to society and help show solidarity.

Solidarity is the glue that keeps our Union together.

The word solidarity appears 16 times in the Treaties which all our Member States agreed and ratified.

Our European budget is living proof of financial solidarity.

There is impressive solidarity when it comes to jointly applying European sanctions when Russia violates international law.

The euro is an expression of solidarity.

Our development policy is a strong external sign of solidarity.

And when it comes to managing the refugee crisis, we have started to see solidarity. I am convinced much more solidarity is needed. But I also know that solidarity must be given voluntarily. It must come from the heart. It cannot be forced.

We often show solidarity most readily when faced with emergencies.

When the Portuguese hills were burning, Italian planes doused the flames.

When floods cut off the power in Romania, Swedish generators turned the lights back on.

When thousands of refugees arrived on Greek shores, Slovakian tents provided shelter.

In the same spirit, the Commission is proposing today to set up a European Solidarity Corps. Young people across the EU will be able to volunteer their help where it is needed most, to respond to crisis situations, like the refugee crisis or the recent earthquakes in Italy.

I want this European Solidarity Corps up and running by the end of the year. And by 2020, to see the first 100,000 young Europeans taking part.

By voluntarily joining the European Solidarity Corps, these young people will be able to develop their skills and get not only work but also invaluable human experience.

A EUROPE THAT DEFENDS

A Europe that protects is a Europe that defends – at home and abroad.

We must defend ourselves against terrorism.

Since the Madrid bombing of 2004, there have been more than 30 terrorist attacks in Europe – 14 in the last year alone. More than 600 innocent people died in cities like Paris, Brussels, Nice, or Ansbach.

Just as we have stood shoulder to shoulder in grief, so must we stand united in our response.

The barbaric acts of the past year have shown us again what we are fighting for – the European way of life. In face of the worst of humanity we have to stay true to our values, to ourselves. And what we are is democratic societies, plural societies, open and tolerant.

But that tolerance cannot come at the price of our security.

That is why my Commission has prioritised security from day one – we criminalised terrorism and foreign fighters across the EU, we cracked down on the use of firearms and on terrorist financing, we worked with internet companies to get terrorist propaganda offline and we fought radicalisation in Europe’s schools and prisons.

But there is more to be done.

We need to know who is crossing our borders.

That is why we will defend our borders with the new European Border and Coast Guard, which is now being formalised by Parliament and Council, just nine months after the Commission proposed it. Frontex already has over 600 agents on the ground at the borders with Turkey in Greece and over 100 in Bulgaria. Now, the EU institutions and the Member States should work very closely together to quickly help set up the new Agency. I want to see at least 200 extra border guards and 50 extra vehicles deployed at the Bulgarian external borders as of October.

We will defend our borders, as well, with strict controls, adopted by the end of the year, on everyone crossing them. Every time someone enters or exits the EU, there will be a record of when, where and why.

By November, we will propose a European Travel Information System – an automated system to determine who will be allowed to travel to Europe. This way we will know who is travelling to Europe before they even get here.

And we all need that information. How many times have we heard stories over the last months that the information existed in one database in one country, but it never found its way to the authority in another that could have made the difference?

Border security also means that information and intelligence exchange must be prioritised. For this, we will reinforce Europol – our European agency supporting national law enforcement – by giving it better access to databases and more resources. A counter terrorism unit that currently has a staff of 60 cannot provide the necessary 24/7 support.

A Europe that protects also defends our interests beyond our borders.

The facts are plain: The world is getting bigger. And we are getting smaller.

Today we Europeans make up 8% of the world population – we will only represent 5% in 2050. By then you would not see a single EU country among the top world economies. But the EU together? We would still be topping the charts.

Our enemies would like us to fragment.

Our competitors would benefit from our division.

Only together are we and will we remain a force to be reckoned with.

Still, even though Europe is proud to be a soft power of global importance, we must not be naïve. Soft power is not enough in our increasingly dangerous neighbourhood.

Take the brutal fight over Syria. Its consequences for Europe are immediate. Attacks in our cities by terrorists trained in Daesh camps. But where is the Union, where are its Member States, in negotiations towards a settlement?

Federica Mogherini, our High Representative and my Vice-President, is doing a fantastic job. But she needs to become our European Foreign Minister via whom all diplomatic services, of big and small countries alike, pool their forces to achieve leverage in international negotiations. This is why I call today for a European Strategy for Syria. Federica should have a seat at the table when the future of Syria is being discussed. So that Europe can help rebuild a peaceful Syrian nation and a pluralistic, tolerant civil society in Syria.

Europe needs to toughen up. Nowhere is this truer than in our defence policy.

Europe can no longer afford to piggy-back on the military might of others or let France alone defend its honour in Mali.

We have to take responsibility for protecting our interests and the European way of life.

Over the last decade, we have engaged in over 30 civilian and military EU missions from Africa to Afghanistan. But without a permanent structure we cannot act effectively. Urgent operations are delayed. We have separate headquarters for parallel missions, even when they happen in the same country or city. It is time we had a single headquarters for these operations.

We should also move towards common military assets, in some cases owned by the EU. And, of course, in full complementarity with NATO.

The business case is clear. The lack of cooperation in defence matters costs Europe between €25 billion and €100 billion per year, depending on the areas concerned. We could use that money for so much more.

It can be done. We are building a multinational fleet of air tankers. Let’s replicate this example.

For European defence to be strong, the European defence industry needs to innovate. That is why we will propose before the end of the year a European Defence Fund, to turbo boost research and innovation.

The Lisbon Treaty enables those Member States who wish, to pool their defence capabilities in the form of a permanent structured cooperation. I think the time to make use of this possibility is now. And I hope that our meeting at 27 in Bratislava a few days from now will be the first, political step in that direction.

Because it is only by working together that Europe will be able to defend itself at home and abroad.

A EUROPE THAT TAKES RESPONSIBILITY

The last point I want to make is about responsibility. About taking responsibility for building this Europe that protects.

I call on all EU institutions and on all of our Member States to take responsibility.

We have to stop with the same old story that success is national, and failure European. Or our common project will not survive.

We need to remember the sense of purpose of our Union. I therefore call on each of the 27 leaders making their way to Bratislava to think of three reasons why we need the European Union. Three things they are willing to take responsibility for defending. And that they are willing to deliver swiftly afterwards.

Slow delivery on promises made is a phenomenon that more and more risks undermining the Union’s credibility. Take the Paris agreement. We Europeans are the world leaders on climate action. It was Europe that brokered the first-ever legally binding, global climate deal. It was Europe that built the coalition of ambition that made agreement in Paris possible. But Europe is now struggling to show the way and be amongst the first to ratify our agreement. Only France, Austria and Hungary have ratified it so far.

I call on all Member States and on this Parliament to do your part in the next weeks, not months. We should be faster. Let’s get the Paris agreement ratified now. It can be done. It is a question of political will. And it is about Europe’s global influence.

The European institutions too, have to take responsibility.

I have asked each of my Commissioners to be ready to discuss, in the next two weeks, the State of our Union in the national Parliaments of the countries they each know best. Since the beginning of my mandate, my Commissioners have made over 350 visits to national Parliaments. And I want them to do this even more now. Because Europe can only be built with the Member States, never against them.

We also have to take responsibility in recognising when some decisions are not for us to take. It is not right that when EU countries cannot decide among themselves whether or not to ban the use of glyphosate in herbicides, the Commission is forced by Parliament and Council to take a decision.

So we will change those rules – because that is not democracy.

The Commission has to take responsibility by being political, and not technocratic.

A political Commission is one that listens to the European Parliament, listens to all Member States, and listens to the people.

And it is us listening that motivated my Commission to withdraw 100 proposals in our first two years of office, to present 80% fewer initiatives than over the past 5 years and to launch a thorough review of all existing legislation. Because only by focusing on where Europe can provide real added value and deliver results, we will be able to make Europe a better, more trusted place.

Being political also means correcting technocratic mistakes immediately when they happen. The Commission, the Parliament and the Council have jointly decided to abolish mobile roaming charges. This is a promise we will deliver. Not just for business travellers who go abroad for two days. Not only for the holiday maker who spends two weeks in the sun. But for our cross-border workers. And for the millions of Erasmus students who spend their studies abroad for one or two semesters. I have therefore withdrawn a draft that a well-meaning official designed over the summer. The draft was not technically wrong. But it missed the point of what was promised. And you will see a new, better draft as of next week. When you roam, it should be like at home.

Being political is also what allows us to implement the Stability and Growth Pact with common sense. The Pact’s creation was influenced by theory. Its application has become a doctrine for many. And today, the Pact is a dogma for some. In theory, a single decimal point over 60 percent in a country’s debt should be punished. But in reality, you have to look at the reasons for debt. We should try to support and not punish ongoing reform efforts. For this we need responsible politicians. And we will continue to apply the Pact not in a dogmatic manner, but with common sense and with the flexibility that we wisely built into the rules.

Finally, taking responsibility also means holding ourselves accountable to voters. That is why we will propose to change the absurd rule that Commissioners have to step down from their functions when they want to run in European elections. The German Chancellor, the Czech, Danish or Estonian, Prime Minister do not stop doing their jobs when they run for re-election. Neither should Commissioners. If we want a Commission that responds to the needs of the real world, we should encourage Commissioners to seek the necessary rendez-vous with democracy. And not prevent this.

CONCLUSION

Honourable Members,

I am as young as the European project that turns 60 next years in March 2017.

I have lived it, worked for it, my whole life.

My father believed in Europe because he believed in stability, workers’ rights and social progress.

Because he understood all too well that peace in Europe was precious – and fragile.

I believe in Europe because my father taught me those same values.

But what are we teaching our children now? What will they inherit from us? A Union that unravels in disunity? A Union that has forgotten its past and has no vision for the future?

Our children deserve better.

They deserve a Europe that preserves their way of life.

They deserve a Europe that empowers and defends them.

They deserve a Europe that protects.

It is time we – the institutions, the governments, the citizens – all took responsibility for building that Europe. Together.

Michel Barnier – 2017 Statement on Article 50 Negotiations

Below is the text of the speech made by Michel Barnier, the European Chief Negotiator on Brexit, in Strasbourg, France on 17 December 2017.

Thank you President,

Thanks to Frans, and to you too, for allowing me to speak at the beginning of your plenary session on the extraordinary negotiation with the United Kingdom and on the first result we reached last Friday.

This is an important step – and there will be many steps to take – but this agreement is important because, with the joint, detailed report – 96 paragraphs, 15 pages – we are first dealing with the difficult subjects of the separation that the United Kingdom wanted.

And if the European Council so wishes, taking into account your own resolution, this first step will allow us to move forward with the negotiations in a calmer manner.

We emphasise also the stability of our continent in a world which is, as we all know, uncertain. Our Union should be able to find rational solutions with the United Kingdom and should therefore, at the same time, be able to concentrate its energy on the initiatives and challenges which we face together, as Frans Timmermans has mentioned, on behalf of the European Commission.

And we also send a message of confidence to a lot of people, a lot of stakeholders, and a lot of citizens who are worried, even distressed, following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.

In this negotiation, our state of mind has never been to make mutual concessions.

This is not about making concessions on citizens’ rights. This is not about making concessions on the peace process or stability on the island of Ireland. Nor is it about making concessions on the thousands of investment projects which are financed by EU policy and the EU budget.

I know that this point has always been shared by the Parliament and the Council. We owe a lot – I must admit – to the permanent cooperation we have with the Council, and the Member States for the agreement reached on Friday. We owe a lot, Members of Parliament, to your permanent and rigorous support.

And I would like to thank you, President Tajani, and to sincerely thank your coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, the members of the Brexit Steering Group, Elmar Brok, Roberto Gualtieri, Danuta Huebner, Gabriele Zimmer and Philippe Lamberts, the presidents of the political groups and also the committee chairs.

Members of Parliament,

Before turning to the main points of our agreement, I want to recall that the objective that you and the European Council gave me last April was to obtain sufficient progress, on an objective basis. That does not mean 100% progress, but real sufficient progress, precise sufficient progress, which commits and forms a solid basis for the next stage in the negotiations. And this was the positive assessment that the Commission and President Juncker gave to the Joint Report.

The political commitments made at the highest level on Friday – and which we translated precisely in the Joint Report – appear to me, in my full responsibility, to fulfil these conditions.

I want to be clear on this point: never, ever, would I have presented this Joint Report as Chief Negotiator if we did not take note of real progress with the UK:

o To secure citizens and their rights;

o To secure beneficiaries of investments financed by the EU budget;

o To secure the peace process on the island of Ireland and the conditions of North-South cooperation.

We will never accept any backtracking on this Joint Report. This progress has now been recorded. It will have to be quickly converted into a legally binding Withdrawal Agreement on each of our three subjects, as well as on other issues which remain to be negotiated or clarified.

This is one of the conditions for the continuation of the negotiations.

* *

At the beginning of this plenary debate, I want to focus principally on the subject that has been our common priority since day one: citizens’ rights.

4.5 million European citizens, whom you represent, decided to live on either side of the Channel, on the basis of EU law on the free movement of people.

Our Joint Report preserves their rights.

It guarantees that European citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU before the date of the UK’s withdrawal will be able to continue living as they do today, with the same guarantees of non-discrimination on the basis of nationality – for their entire life.

This means, for example, that an EU citizen or a UK citizen who decided to live on the other side of the Channel can continue residing there after Brexit. This right of residence will be even wider than it is today. If a citizen decides to leave his/her host country, he/she can be absent for a period of 5 years, rather than only 2 years, as is the rule today.

A British student in one of the EU Member States will not be affected by Brexit: she will be able to continue studying and paying the same tuition fees as the citizens in the host state. She can even work there after her studies. That goes the same for European students in the UK.

Nurses or doctors working before Brexit can continue to work in their host countries. Their professional qualifications will continue to be recognised, just like in other professions.

Family members will maintain their reunification rights in the future after Brexit, in the UK or in the EU. All children will be protected, even those who will be born after Brexit.

Citizens will maintain their rights to healthcare, pensions and other social security benefits, even if they leave their host country to live in another EU country. The same goes for the portability of family allowances, which was debated right up until the last moment.

I also want to be clear on the application of these rights:

o The Withdrawal Agrement will take precedence over national law – whether it is British, French, Slovak or Maltese;

o The guarantees in the Withdrawal Agreement will have direct effect, for the duration of the lifetime of the people concerned;

o There will be no ambiguity in the interpretation of the rights on either side of the Channel: current ECJ case law will be part of the Withdrawal Agreement, and future case law will apply. British courts will have to take “due regard” of case law for the lifetimes of the citizens concerned.

o And finally, the British authorities will create an independent authority to which European citizens can have recourse in the United Kingdom, in the same way as British citizens in the EU can have recourse to the European Commission. The details of this independent authority will be included in the Withdrawal Agreement.

For all the European citizens – 3.5 million people – living and working in the United Kingdom, there is another problem – the UK’s registration procedures. It seems to me – and I know how sensitive you are on this point – that the administrative procedure will be practical and necessary to allow citizens to effectively exercise their rights.

But we have ensured that, as outlined in the Joint Report, the conditions for the administrative procedures will be included in the Withdrawal Agreement with the necessary guarantees. These registration and administrative processes will be for those citizens living in a country that will become a third country on 29 March 2019 at midnight.

We have outlined in the Joint Report that the procedure that the United Kingdom will put in place must be simple to use, based on objective criteria and accompanied with the same procedural guarantees today, notably with regards to a right of appeal.

European citizens who are already permanently resident in the United Kingdom will obtain “special status” for free. For the rest, the cost should not exceed that imposed on British citizens for the issuing of similar documents – around £70.

But I want to repeat that the conditions for this administrative procedure that the UK authorities request will be detailed – you can verify the simplicity of this in the Withdrawal Agreement, which will be submitted to you for ratification,

* * *

Members of Parliament,

We are not there yet, neither on citizens’ rights, nor on the other subjects of the orderly withdrawal. We will therefore remain vigilant.

Theresa May made a commitment on behalf of the British government, the whole British government.

It is now for us to decide if this result is sufficient to open – based on certain conditions – the second phase of negotiations.

If your resolution is positive, and if the European Council on Friday also accepts that there has been sufficient progress, then I will begin – on your behalf – working on the formal drafting of the Withdrawal Agreement. And we can do this quite quickly, on the basis of the Joint Report in particular.

o We will continue the negotiations on the subjects that need more clarification, deepening and negotiation: the governance of the future agreement, other subjects such as geographical indications, the issue of data;

o Ireland will form part of its own specific strand in the negotiations. Each assuming their responsibility, we need to find specific solutions for the unique situation of the island of Ireland.

On the basis of the decision of the European Council, we will also move forward on defining a transition period, which will be short and supervised during which we will maintain the full regulatory and supervisory architecture – and obviously the role of the Court of Justice – as well as European policies.

Finally, we will pursue, if you so wish, our internal preparation at 27 – together with you – on the future relationship. We need to agree ourselves on the framework for the future relationship. I can already tell you – and I say so clearly and calmly – that there are non-negotiable points on the integrity of Single Market, the four indivisible freedoms which are the foundation of the Single Market, and the autonomy of the Union’s decision-making, which the UK has decided to leave.

The United Kingdom will become a third country on 29 March 2019. We think that a close, future partnership remains our common horizon.

We know where we are today; we know where we are going.

I propose today that this important step is recognised.

There are many more steps to make in order for the UK to leave in an orderly manner, which is much better than in a disorderly manner.

I would like to thank you, Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, for the future also, for your support and confidence, and also for your vigilance as the negotiations continue.

Jean-Claude Juncker – 2017 State of the Union Address

Below is the text of the speech made by Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, on 13 September 2017 in Brussels, Belgium.

INTRODUCTION – WIND IN OUR SAILS

Mr President, Honourable Members of the European Parliament,

When I stood before you this time last year, I had a somewhat easier speech to give.

It was plain for all to see that our Union was not in a good state.

Europe was battered and bruised by a year that shook our very foundation.

We only had two choices. Either come together around a positive European agenda or each retreat into our own corners.

Faced with this choice, I argued for unity.

I proposed a positive agenda to help create – as I said last year – a Europe that protects, a Europe that empowers, a Europe that defends.

Over the past twelve months, the European Parliament has helped bring this agenda to life. We continue to make progress with each passing day. Just last night you worked to find an agreement on trade defence instruments and on doubling our European investment capacity. And you succeeded. Thank you for that.

I also want to thank the 27 leaders of our Member States. Days after my speech last year, they welcomed my agenda at their summit in Bratislava. In doing so they chose unity. They chose to rally around our common ground.

Together, we showed that Europe can deliver for its citizens when and where it matters.

Ever since, we have been slowly but surely gathering momentum.

It helped that the economic outlook swung in our favour.

We are now in the fifth year of an economic recovery that really reaches every single Member State.

Growth in the European Union has outstripped that of the United States over the last two years. It now stands above 2% for the Union as a whole and at 2.2% for the monetary area.

Unemployment is at a nine year low. Almost 8 million jobs have been created during this mandate so far. With 235 million people at work, more people are in employment in the European Union than ever before.

The European Commission cannot take the credit for this alone. Though I am sure that had 8 million jobs been lost, we would have taken the blame.

But Europe’s institutions played their part in helping the wind change.

We can take credit for our European Investment Plan which has triggered €225 billion worth of investment so far. It has granted loans to 450,000 small firms and more than 270 infrastructure projects.

We can take credit for the fact that, thanks to determined action, European banks once again have the capital firepower to lend to companies so that they can grow and create jobs.

And we can take credit for having brought public deficits down from 6.6% to 1.6%. This is thanks to an intelligent application of the Stability and Growth Pact. We ask for fiscal discipline but are careful not to kill growth. This is in fact working very well across the Union – despite the criticism.

Ten years since crisis struck, Europe’s economy is finally bouncing back.

And with it, our confidence.

Our 27 leaders, the Parliament and the Commission are putting the Europe back in our Union. And together we are putting the Union back in our Union.

In the last year, we saw all 27 leaders walk up the Capitoline Hill in Rome, one by one, to renew their vows to each other and to our Union.

All of this leads me to believe: the wind is back in Europe’s sails.

We now have a window of opportunity but it will not stay open forever.

Let us make the most of the momentum, catch the wind in our sails.

For this we must do two things:

First, we should stay the course set out last year. We still have 16 months in which real progress can be made by Parliament, Council and Commission. We must use this time to finish what we started in Bratislava and deliver on our own positive agenda.

Secondly, we should chart the direction for the future. As Mark Twain wrote – I am quoting – years from now we will be more disappointed by the things we did not do, than by those we did. Now is the time to build a more united, a stronger, a more democratic Europe for 2025.

STAYING COURSE

Mr President, Honourable Members,

As we look to the future, we cannot let ourselves be blown off course.

We set out to complete an Energy Union, a Security Union, a Capital Markets Union, a Banking Union and a Digital Single Market. Together, we have already come a long way.

As the Parliament testified, 80% of the proposals promised at the start of the mandate have already been put forward by the Commission. We must now work together to turn proposals into law, and law into practice.

As ever, there will be a degree of give and take. The Commission’s proposals to reform our Common Asylum System and strengthen rules on the Posting of Workers have caused controversy, I know. Achieving a good result will need all sides to do their part so they can move towards each other. I want to say today: as long as the outcome is the right one for our Union and is fair to all its Member States, the Commission will be open to compromise

We are now ready to put the remaining 20% of initiatives on the table by May 2018.

This morning, I sent a Letter of Intent to the President of the European Parliament and to the Prime Minister of Estonia – whose strong work for Europe I would like to praise – outlining the priorities for the year ahead.

I will not and I cannot list all these proposals here, but let me mention five which are particularly important.

Firstly, I want us to strengthen our European trade agenda.

Yes, Europe is open for business. But there must be reciprocity. We have to get what we give.

Trade is not something abstract. Trade is about jobs, creating new opportunities for Europe’s businesses big and small. Every additional €1 billion in exports supports 14,000 extra jobs in Europe.

Trade is about exporting our standards, be they social or environmental standards, data protection or food safety requirements.

Europe has always been an attractive place to do business.

But over the last year, partners across the globe are lining up at our door to conclude trade agreements with us.

With the help of this Parliament, we have just secured a trade agreement with Canada that will provisionally apply as of next week. We have a political agreement with Japan on a future economic partnership. And by the end of the year, we have a good chance of doing the same with Mexico and South American countries.

Today, we are proposing to open trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand.

I want all of these agreements to be finalised by the end of this mandate. And I want them negotiated in the greatest transparency.

Open trade must go hand in hand with open policy making.

The European Parliament will have the final say on all trade agreements. So its Members, like members of national and regional parliaments, must be kept fully informed from day one of the negotiations. The Commission will make sure of this.

From now on, the Commission will publish in full all draft negotiating mandates we propose to the Council.

Citizens have the right to know what the Commission is proposing. Gone are the days of no transparency. Gone are the days of rumours, of incessantly questioning the Commission’s motives.

I call on the Council to do the same when it adopts the final negotiating mandates.

Let me say once and for all: we are not naïve free traders.

Europe must always defend its strategic interests.

This is why today we are proposing a new EU framework for investment screening. If a foreign, state-owned, company wants to purchase a European harbour, part of our energy infrastructure or a defence technology firm, this should only happen in transparency, with scrutiny and debate. It is a political responsibility to know what is going on in our own backyard so that we can protect our collective security if needed.

Secondly, the Commission wants to make our industry stronger and more competitive.

This is particularly true for our manufacturing base and the 32 million workers that form its backbone. They make the world-class products that give us our edge, like our cars.

I am proud of our car industry. But I am shocked when consumers are knowingly and deliberately misled. I call on the car industry to come clean and make it right. Instead of looking for loopholes, they should be investing in the clean cars of tomorrow

Honourable Members, the new Industrial Policy Strategy we are presenting today will help our industries stay, or become, the number one in innovation, digitisation and decarbonisation.

Third: I want Europe to be the leader when it comes to the fight against climate change.

Last year, we set the global rules of the game with the Paris Agreement ratified here, in this very House. Set against the collapse of ambition in the United States, Europe must ensure we make our planet great again. It is the shared heritage of all of humanity.

The Commission will shortly present proposals to reduce the carbon emissions of our transport sector.

Fourth priority for the year ahead: I want us to better protect Europeans in the digital age.

Over the past years, we have made marked progress in keeping Europeans safe online. New rules, put forward by the Commission, will protect our intellectual property, our cultural diversity and our personal data. We have stepped up the fight against terrorist propaganda and radicalisation online. But Europe is still not well equipped when it comes to cyber-attacks.

Cyber-attacks can be more dangerous to the stability of democracies and economies than guns and tanks. Last year alone there were more than 4,000 ransomware attacks per day and 80% of European companies experienced at least one cyber-security incident.

Cyber-attacks know no borders and no one is immune. This is why, today, the Commission is proposing new tools, including a European Cybersecurity Agency, to help defend us against such attacks.

Fifth: migration must stay on our radar.

In spite of the debate and controversy around this topic, we have managed to make solid progress – though admittedly insufficient in many areas.

We are now protecting Europe’s external borders more effectively. Over 1,700 officers from the new European Border and Coast Guard are now helping Member States’ 100,000 national border guards patrol in places like Greece, Italy, Bulgaria and Spain. We have common borders but Member States that by geography are the first in line cannot be left alone to protect them. Common borders and common protection must go hand in hand.

We have managed to stem irregular flows of migrants, which were a cause of great anxiety for many. We have reduced irregular arrivals in the Eastern Mediterranean by 97% thanks our agreement with Turkey. And this summer, we managed to get more control over the Central Mediterranean route with arrivals in August down by 81% compared to the same month last year.

In doing so, we have drastically reduced the loss of life in the Mediterranean.

I cannot talk about migration without paying strong tribute to Italy for their tireless and noble work. Over the summer months, the Commission worked in perfect harmony with the Prime Minister of Italy, my friend Paolo Gentiloni, and his government to improve the situation. We did so – and we will continue to do so – because Italy is saving Europe’s honour in the Mediterranean.

We must also urgently improve migrants’ living conditions in Libya. I am appalled by the inhumane conditions in detention or reception centres. Europe has a responsibility – a collective responsibility – and the Commission will work in concert with the United Nations to put an end to this scandalous situation that cannot be made to last.

Even if it saddens me to see that solidarity is not yet equally shared across all our Member States, Europe as a whole has continued to show solidarity. Last year alone, our Member States resettled or granted asylum to over 720,000 refugees – three times as much as the United States, Canada and Australia combined. Europe, contrary to what some say, is not a fortress and must never become one. Europe is and must remain the continent of solidarity where those fleeing persecution can find refuge.

I am particularly proud of the young Europeans volunteering to give language courses to Syrian refugees or the thousands more young people who are serving in our new European Solidarity Corps. These young people are bringing life and colour to European solidarity.

But we now need to redouble our efforts. At the end of the month, the Commission will present a new set of proposals with an emphasis on returns, solidarity with Africa and opening legal pathways.

When it comes to returns, I would like to repeat that people who have no right to stay in Europe must be returned to their countries of origin. When only 36% of irregular migrants are returned, it is clear we need to significantly step up our work. This is the only way Europe will be able to show solidarity with refugees in real need of protection.

Solidarity cannot be an exclusively intra-European affair. We must also show solidarity with Africa. Africa is a noble continent, a young continent, the cradle of humanity. Our €2.7 billion EU-Africa Trust Fund is creating employment opportunities across the continent. The EU budget fronted the bulk of the money, but all our Member States combined have still only contributed €150 million. The Fund is currently reaching its limits. We know – or we should know – the dangers of a lack of funding – in 2015 many migrants headed towards Europe when the UN’s World Food Programme ran out of funds. I call on all Member States to now match their actions with their words and ensure the Africa Trust Fund does not meet the same fate. The risk is high.

We will also work on opening up legal pathways. Irregular migration will only stop if there is a real alternative to perilous journeys. We are close to having resettled 22,000 refugees from Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon and I support UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ call to resettle a further 40,000 refugees from Libya and the surrounding countries.

At the same time, legal migration is an absolute necessity for Europe as an ageing continent. This is why the Commission made proposals to make it easier for skilled migrants to reach Europe with a Blue Card. I would like to thank the Parliament for its support on this.

SETTING SAIL

Dear Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Honourable Members,

I have mentioned just a few of the initiatives we want and must deliver over the next 16 months. But this alone will not be enough to regain the hearts and minds of Europeans.

Now is the time to chart the direction for the future.

In March, the Commission presented our White Paper on the future of Europe, with five scenarios for what Europe could look like by 2025. These scenarios have been discussed, sometimes superficially, sometimes violently. They have been scrutinised and partly ripped apart. That is good – they were conceived for exactly this purpose. I wanted to launch a process in which Europeans determined their own path and their own future.

The future of Europe cannot be decided by decree. It has to be the result of democratic debate and, ultimately, broad consensus. This House contributed actively, through the three ambitious resolutions on Europe’s future which I would like to particularly thank the rapporteurs for. And I want to thank all the colleagues that participated in the more than 2,000 public events across Europe that the Commission organised since March.

Now is the time to draw first conclusions from this debate. Time to move from reflection to action. From debate to decision.

Today I would like to present you my view: my own ‘sixth scenario’, if you will.

This scenario is rooted in decades of first-hand experience. I have lived, fought and worked for the European project my entire life. I have seen and lived through good times and bad.

I have sat on many different sides of the table: as a Minister, as Prime Minister, as President of the Eurogroup, and now as President of the Commission. I was there in Maastricht, Amsterdam, Nice and Lisbon as our Union evolved and enlarged.

I have always fought for Europe. At times I have suffered because of Europe. And even despaired for Europe.

Through thick and thin, I have never lost my love of Europe.

But there is, as we know, rarely love without pain.

Love for Europe because Europe and the European Union have achieved something unique in this fraying world: peace within and peace outside of Europe. Prosperity for many if not yet for all.

This is something we have to remember during the European Year of Cultural Heritage. 2018 must be a celebration of cultural diversity.

A UNION OF VALUES

Our values are our compass.

For me, Europe is more than just a single market. More than money, more than a currency, more than the euro. It was always about values.

That is why, in my sixth scenario, there are three fundamentals, three unshakeable principles: freedom, equality and the rule of law.

Europe is first of all a Union of freedom. Freedom from the kind of oppression and dictatorship our continent knows all too well – sadly none more than central and Eastern European countries. Freedom to voice your opinion, as a citizen and as a journalist – a freedom we too often take for granted. It was on these freedoms that our Union was built. But freedom does not fall from the sky. It must be fought for. In Europe and throughout the world.

Second, Europe must be a Union of equality and a Union of equals.

Equality between its Members, big or small, East or West, North or South.

Make no mistake, Europe extends from Vigo to Varna. From Spain to Bulgaria.

East to West: Europe must breathe with both lungs. Otherwise our continent will struggle for air.

In a Union of equals, there can be no second class citizens. It is unacceptable that in 2017 there are still children dying of diseases that should long have been eradicated in Europe. Children in Romania or Italy must have the same access to measles vaccines as children in other European countries. No ifs, no buts. This is why we are working with all Member States to support national vaccination efforts. Avoidable deaths must not occur in Europe.

In a Union of equals, there can be no second class workers. Workers should earn the same pay for the same work in the same place. This is why the Commission proposed new rules on posting of workers. We should make sure that all EU rules on labour mobility are enforced in a fair, simple and effective way by a new European inspection and enforcement body. It is absurd to have a Banking Authority to police banking standards, but no common Labour Authority for ensuring fairness in our single market. We will create such an Authority.

In a Union of equals, there can be no second class consumers either. I cannot accept that in some parts of Europe, in Central and Eastern Europe,people are sold food of lower quality than in other countries, despite the packaging and branding being identical. Slovaks do not deserve less fish in their fish fingers. Hungarians less meat in their meals. Czechs less cacao in their chocolate. EU law outlaws such practices already. And we must now equip national authorities with stronger powers to cut out these illegal practices wherever they exist.

Third, in Europe the strength of the law replaced the law of the strong.

The rule of law means that law and justice are upheld by an independent judiciary.

Accepting and respecting a final judgement is what it means to be part of a Union based on the rule of law. Our Member States gave final jurisdiction to the European Court of Justice. The judgements of the Court have to be respected by all. To undermine them, or to undermine the independence of national courts, is to strip citizens of their fundamental rights.

The rule of law is not optional in the European Union. It is a must.

Our Union is not a State but it must be a community of law.

A MORE UNITED UNION

These three principles – freedom, equality and the rule of law – must remain the foundations on which we build a more united, stronger and more democratic Union.

When we talk about the future, experience tells me new Treaties and new institutions are not the answer people are looking for. They are merely a means to an end, nothing more, nothing less. They might mean something to us here in Strasbourg or in Brussels. They do not mean a lot to anyone else.

I am only interested in institutional reforms if they lead to more efficiency in our European Union.

Instead of hiding behind calls for Treaty change – which is in any case inevitable – we must first change the mind-set that for some to win others must lose.

Democracy is about compromise. And the right compromise makes winners out of everyone in the long run. A more united Union should see compromise, not as something negative, but as the art of bridging differences. Democracy cannot function without compromise. Europe cannot function without compromise.

A more united Union also needs to become more inclusive.

If we want to protect our external borders and rightly so strengthen them even more, then we need to open the Schengen area of free movement to Bulgaria and Romania immediately. We should also allow Croatia to become a full Schengen member once all the criteria are met.

If we want the euro to unite rather than divide our continent, then it should be more than the currency of a select group of countries. The euro is meant to be the single currency of the European Union as a whole. All but two of our Member States are required and entitled to join the euro once they fulfil the conditions.

Member States that want to join the euro must be able to do so. This is why I am proposing to create a Euro-accession Instrument, offering technical and even financial assistance.

If we want banks to operate under the same rules and under the same supervision across our continent, then we should encourage all Member States to join the Banking Union. We need to reduce the remaining risks in the banking systems of some of our Member States. Banking Union can only function if risk-reduction and risk-sharing go hand in hand. As everyone well knows, this can only be achieved if the conditions, as proposed by the Commission in November 2015, are met. There can only be a common deposit insurance scheme once everyone will have done their national homework.

And if we want to avoid social fragmentation and social dumping in Europe, then Member States should agree on the European Pillar of Social Rights as soon as possible and at the latest at the Gothenburg summit in November. National social systems will still remain diverse and separate for a long time. But at the very least, we should agree on a European Social Standards Union in which we have a common understanding of what is socially fair in our single market.

I remain convinced: Europe cannot work if it shuns workers.

Ladies and Gentlemen, if we want more stability in our neighbourhood, then we must also maintain a credible enlargement perspective for the Western Balkans.

It is clear that there will be no further enlargement during the mandate of this Commission and this Parliament. No candidate is ready. But thereafter the European Union will be greater than 27 in number. Accession candidates must give the rule of law, justice and fundamental rights utmost priority in the negotiations.

This rules out EU membership for Turkey for the foreseeable future.

Turkey has been taking giant strides away from the European Union for some time.

Journalists belong in newsrooms not in prisons. They belong where freedom of expression reigns.

The call I make to those in power in Turkey is this: Let our journalists go. And not only ours. Stop insulting our Member States by comparing their leaders to fascists and Nazis. Europe is a continent of mature democracies. But deliberate insults create roadblocks. Sometimes I get the feeling Turkey is deliberately placing these roadblocks so that it can blame Europe for any breakdown in accession talks.

As for us, we will always keep our hands stretched out towards the great Turkish people and all those who are ready to work with us on the basis of our values.

A STRONGER UNION

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I want our Union to be stronger and for this we need a stronger single market.

When it comes to important single market questions, I want decisions in the Council to be taken more often and more easily by qualified majority – with the equal involvement of the European Parliament. We do not need to change the Treaties for this. There are so-called “passerelle clauses” in the current Treaties which allow us to move from unanimity to qualified majority voting in certain cases – provided the European Council decides unanimously to do so.

I am also strongly in favour of moving to qualified majority voting for decisions on the common consolidated corporate tax base, on VAT, on fair taxes for the digital industry and on the financial transaction tax.

Europe has to be able to act quicker and more decisively, and this also applies to the Economic and Monetary Union.

The euro area is more resilient now than in years past. We now have the European Stabilisation Mechanism (ESM). I believe the ESM should now progressively graduate into a European Monetary Fund which, however, must be firmly anchored in the European Union’s rules and competences. The Commission will make concrete proposals for this in December.

We need a European Minister of Economy and Finance: a European Minister that promotes and supports structural reforms in our Member States. He or she can build on the work the Commission has been doing since 2015 with our Structural Reform Support Service. The new Minister should coordinate all EU financial instruments that can be deployed if a Member State is in a recession or hit by a fundamental crisis.

I am not calling for a new position just for the sake of it. I am calling for efficiency. The Commissioner for economic and financial affairs – ideally also a Vice-President – should assume the role of Economy and Finance Minister. He or she should also preside the Eurogroup.

The European Economy and Finance Minister must be accountable to the European Parliament.

We do not need parallel structures. We do not need a budget for the Euro area but a strong Euro area budget line within the EU budget.

I am also not fond of the idea of having a separate euro area parliament.

The Parliament of the euro area is this European Parliament.

The European Union must also be stronger in fighting terrorism. In the past three years, we have made real progress. But we still lack the means to act quickly in case of cross-border terrorist threats.

This is why I call for setting up a European intelligence unit that ensures data concerning terrorists and foreign fighters are automatically shared among intelligence services and with the police.

I also see a strong case for tasking the new European Public Prosecutor with prosecuting cross-border terrorist crimes.

I want our Union to become a stronger global actor. In order to have more weight in the world, we must be able to take foreign policy decisions quicker. This is why I want Member States to look at which foreign policy decisions could be moved from unanimity to qualified majority voting. The Treaty already provides for this, if all Member States agree to do it. We need qualified majority decisions in foreign policy if we are to work efficiently.

And I want us to dedicate further efforts to defence matters. A new European Defence Fund is in the offing. As is a Permanent Structured Cooperation in the area of defence. By 2025 we need a fully-fledged European Defence Union. We need it. And NATO wants it.

Last but not least, I want our Union to have a stronger focus on things that matter, building on the work this Commission has already undertaken. We should not meddle in the everyday lives of European citizens by regulating every aspect. We should be big on the big things. We should not march in with a stream of new initiatives or seek ever growing competences. We should give back competences to Member States where it makes sense.

This is why this Commission has sought to be big on big issues and small on the small ones and has done so, putting forward less than 25 new initiatives a year where previous Commissions proposed well over 100.

To finish the work we started, I am setting up a Subsidiarity and Proportionality Task Force as of this month to take a very critical look at all policy areas to make sure we are only acting where the EU adds value. The First Vice-President, my friend, Frans Timmermans, who has a proven track record on better regulation, will head this Task Force. The Timmermans Task Force should include Members of this Parliament as well as Members of national Parliaments. It should report back in a years’ time.

A MORE DEMOCRATIC UNION

Honourable Members,

Mr President,

Our Union needs to take a democratic leap forward.

I would like to see European political parties start campaigning for the next European elections much earlier than in the past. Too often Europe-wide elections have been reduced to nothing more than the sum of national campaigns. European democracy deserves better.

Today, the Commission is proposing new rules on the financing of political parties and foundations. We should not be filling the coffers of anti-European extremists. We should be giving European parties the means to better organise themselves.

I also have sympathy for the idea of having transnational lists in European elections – though I am aware this is an idea more than a few of you disagree with. I will seek to convince the President of my parliamentary Group to follow me in this ambition which will bring Europe democracy and clarity.

I also believe that, over the months to come, we should involve national Parliaments and civil society at national, regional and local level more in the work on the future of Europe. Over the last three years, as we promised, Members of the Commission have visited national Parliaments more than 650 times. They also debated in more than 300 interactive Citizens’ Dialogues in more than 80 cities and towns across 27 Member States. This is why I support President Macron’s idea of organising democratic conventions across Europe in 2018.

As the debate gathers pace, I will personally pay particular attention to Estonia, to Latvia, to Lithuania and to Romania in 2018. This is the year they will celebrate their 100th anniversary. Those who want to shape the future of our continent should well understand and honour our common history. This includes these four countries – the European Union would not be whole without them.

The need to strengthen democracy and transparency also has implications for the European Commission. Today, I am sending the European Parliament a new Code of Conduct for Commissioners. The new Code first of all makes clear that Commissioners can be candidates in European Parliament elections under the same conditions as everyone else. The new Code will of course strengthen the integrity requirements for Commissioners both during and after their mandate.

If you want to strengthen European democracy, then you cannot reverse the small democratic progress seen with the creation of lead candidates – ‘Spitzenkandidaten’. I would like the experience to be repeated.

More democracy means more efficiency. Europe would function better if we were to merge the Presidents of the European Council and the European Commission.

This is nothing against my good friend Donald, with whom I have worked intimately and seamlessly together since the beginning of my mandate. This is nothing against Donald or against me.

Europe would be easier to understand if one captain was steering the ship.

Having a single President would simply better reflect the true nature of our European Union as both a Union of States and a Union of citizens.

OUR ROADMAP

My dear colleagues,

The vision of a more united, stronger and more democratic Europe I am outlining today combines elements from all of the scenarios I set out to you in March.

But our future cannot remain a simple scenario, a sketch, an idea amongst others.

We have to prepare the Union of tomorrow, today.

This morning I sent a Roadmap to President Tajani, President Tusk as well as to the holders of the rotating Presidencies of the Council between now and March 2019, outlining where we should go from here.

An important element will be the budgetary plans the Commission will present in May 2018. Here again we have a choice: either we pursue the European Union’s ambitions in the strict framework of the existing budget, or we increase the European Union’s budgetary capacity so that it might better reach its ambitions. I am for the second option.

On 29 March 2019, the United Kingdom will leave the European Union. This will be both a sad and tragic moment. We will always regret it. But we have to respect the will of the British people. We will advance, we must advance because Brexit is not everything. Because Brexit is not the future of Europe.

On 30 March 2019, we will be a Union of 27. I suggest that we prepare for this moment well, amongst the 27 and within the EU institutions.

European Parliament elections will take place just a few weeks later, in May 2019. Europeans have a date with democracy. They need to go to the polls with a clear understanding of how the European Union will develop over the years to come.

This is why I call on President Tusk and Romania, the country holding the Presidency in the first half of 2019, to organise a Special Summit in Romania on 30 March 2019. My wish is that this summit be held in the beautiful city of Sibiu, also known as Hermannstadt. This should be the moment we come together to take the decisions needed for a more united, stronger and democratic Europe.

My hope is that on 30 March 2019, Europeans will wake up to a Union where we stand by all our values. Where all Member States respect the rule of law without exception. Where being a full member of the euro area, the Banking Union and the Schengen area has become the norm for all.

Where we have shored up the foundations of our Economic and Monetary Union so that we can defend our single currency in good times and bad, without having to call on external help. Where our single market will be fairer towards workers from the East and from the West.

I want Europeans to wake up to a Europe where we have managed to agree on a strong pillar of social standards. Where profits will be taxed where they were made. Where terrorists have no loopholes to exploit. Where we have agreed on a proper European Defence Union. Where eventually a single President leads the work of the Commission and the European Council, having been elected after a democratic Europe-wide election campaign.

Mr President, if our citizens wake up to this Union on 30 March 2019, then the European Union will be a Union able to meet their legitimate expectations.

CONCLUSION

Honourable Members,

Europe was not made to stand still. It must never do so.

Helmut Kohl and Jacques Delors, whom I had the honour to know, taught me that Europe only moves forward when it is bold. The single market, Schengen and the single currency: these were all ideas that were written off as pipe dreams before they happened. And yet these three ambitious projects are now a part of our daily reality.

Now that Europe is doing better, people tell me I should not rock the boat.

But now is not the time to err on the side of caution.

We started to fix the European roof. But today and tomorrow we must patiently, floor by floor, moment by moment, inspiration by inspiration, continue to add new floors to the European House.

We must complete the European House now that the sun is shining and whilst it still is.

Because when the next clouds appear on the horizon – and they will appear one day – it will be too late.

So let’s throw off the bowlines.

Sail away from the harbour.

And catch the trade winds in our sails.

Therese Coffey – 2018 Statement on Local Government in Suffolk

Below is the text of the statement made by Therese Coffey in the House of Commons on 8 February 2018.

On 7 November and 30 November respectively I told the House that I was minded to implement, subject to parliamentary approval, locally-supported proposals I had received from the respective councils to merge district councils in east Suffolk and in west Suffolk, and I invited representations before I took my final decisions on these proposals.

Having carefully considered all the representations I have received and all the relevant information available to me, I am today announcing that I have decided to implement, subject to parliamentary approval, both proposals—that is to merge Suffolk Coastal and Waveney ​district councils to become a new single district council named East Suffolk, and to merge Forest Heath District Council and St Edmundsbury Borough Council to become a new single district council named West Suffolk.

I have reached my decisions having regard to the criteria for district council mergers I announced to the House on 7 November. I am satisfied that these criteria are met and that both new district councils are likely to improve local government and service delivery in their areas, command a good deal of local support, and that each council area is a credible geography.

I now intend to prepare and lay before Parliament drafts of the necessary secondary legislation to give effect to my decisions. My intention is that if Parliament approves this legislation the new councils will be established on 1 April 2019 with the first elections to the councils held on 2 May 2019.

William Hague – 2012 Speech at Somali Diaspora Reception

Below is the text of the speech made by William Hague, the then Foreign Secretary, at the Somali Diaspora reception in London on 23 February 2012.

It is a great pleasure to welcome you to Lancaster House ahead of the London Somalia Conference. I know many of you have travelled a long way to be here. I have just met the delegation from Wales – they are particularly welcome, as my wife is keen for me to note – but also from all over the United Kingdom and from Somalia itself. Wherever you have come from, you are very welcome.

Tomorrow the largest gathering of countries and organisations ever to come together to discuss Somalia will meet in this very room. The conference will include the President and Prime Minister of Somalia, the President of Somaliland, seven Somali delegations, leaders from across Africa, the Secretary General of the Union Nations, and many Foreign Ministers from around the world. Our Prime Minister initiated this conference because Somalia matters greatly to the United Kingdom; and the involvement of all these nations and organisations confirms that Somalia’s stability and security matter to the whole world.

And there are just three things that I want to tell about tomorrow’s conference.

The first is that it is not about imposing a solution on the people of Somalia. Only they can determine their future and we cannot make their decisions for them. As the Prime Minister said this week, the aim of the conference is to try “to get the whole of the world behind the efforts of the Somali people who are building a stronger, safer and more prosperous country”. Somalis in Somalia and around the world are at the forefront of our minds as we host this conference. They have endured twenty years of conflict, suffering, deprivation, violence and hunger – but show the most remarkable resilience, courage and love for their country in their determination to rebuild Somalia. I met some of them when I visited Mogadishu three weeks ago, and I pay tribute to them and to all of you here tonight who support Somalia in many different ways. As I pointed out to the House of Commons when we debated this issue ten days ago, the amount of money that Somali people around the world send back to their country is greater than all the international aid from all the countries of the world that the country receives each year, which is a striking illustration of that bond and that commitment. And I believe that, if a country’s greatest asset it its people, then Somalia can consider itself rich indeed.

You are all here tonight as representatives of the Somali people, and we have done our utmost to speak to members of the Somalia diaspora here in Britain and overseas as we prepared the strategy that we will discuss tomorrow. From Cape Town, where I was last week, and in Nairobi before that to Birmingham and Bristol we have held events for British Ministers to meet Somali community groups, and on Monday the Prime Minister hosted a gathering in Number Ten Downing Street for the same purpose. I thank Chatham House and the Council of Somali Organisations for their part in supporting these discussions, which really have made a contribution to our thinking and our policy.

The second thing I want to tell you is that we believe it really is a historic moment of opportunity for Somalia – and we hope you share the same sense of optimism, despite the immense challenges that are still ahead. The fact that I was able to be the first British Foreign Secretary to visit Somalia in twenty years was because of the success African Union Forces and Somali leaders have had in regaining control of Mogadishu and restoring authority in different parts of Somalia. There is an opportunity this summer to forge a more representative political process for the people of Somalia, and to provide more of the development and regional support that the country needs. Now really is the time for us to seize that moment of opportunity and to coordinate international assistance in meaningful ways behind Somali efforts, and that is what I believe all the countries gathered here in London are determined to do.

And I hope that what we have done will give you confidence. I was proud when I visited Mogadishu to do so with our new Ambassador to Somalia for twenty years. And I dug for myself the first hole in the ground where our new Embassy will stand.

And my third message to you is that this really is an important priority for our Government. We know that what happens in Somalia has consequences for the entire region and the whole world. Hundreds of thousands of refugees remain encamped in neighbouring countries. Two decades of chronic insecurity have created in some places a breeding ground for piracy and terrorism which has a direct impact on our own national security here. Sailors from around the world have been kidnapped from the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean. Citizens from Europe and North America have been taken from Kenyan territory and held to ransom. And the terrorist tactics of Al Shabaab are a direct threat to our own security and to many other people around the world, as well as a source of suffering for Somalis.

We are serious about working with others to help Somalia get back onto its feet, and we will maintain that commitment over the coming years. We are also joined this evening by a large number of British Members of Parliament from all Parties including members of the All Party Parliamentary Group and the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, who I thank for their longstanding interest in this area. They are proof of the fact that the people of Somalia have a strong friend in the United Kingdom, and many people who have supported it through thick and thin and will continue to do so in the future.

So tomorrow we hope to agree with our partners a more coherent, and better coordinated, international strategy for Somalia: including action to support the political process, to help eradicate piracy, to support human rights, justice and development and to help the recovery of Somalia.

Tim Loughton – 2012 Speech at Sexual Assault Referral Centre

Below is the text of the speech made by Tim Loughton in Manchester on 23 February 2012.

As you all know, tackling child sexual exploitation is an issue we have put at the very top of the Government agenda – and I am grateful to St Mary’s for the invitation to come along and speak about our plans for the year ahead.

From the Prime Minister down, we are absolutely committed to reducing the number of young people who fall victim to abuse, and we are working closely with the sector to progress last November’s child sexual exploitation plan.

Thanks to the thoughtful and expert contributions of organisations like St Mary’s, we’ve managed to create and implement real reforms. So let me begin by offering my thanks to Bernie and Catherine, as well as Gail, Claire and Naomi for the invaluable work they do as independent sexual violence advisors. I must also thank Lynne for her work as child advocate and, of course, the wider team for their support. I know thousands of victims each year are grateful beyond words for the belief, support and respect they find in St Mary’s – and I thank you for the work you are doing to raise awareness around sexual violence.

For too long, child sexual exploitation has been a hidden issue, with many local areas completely failing to collate any information, facts or figures on the extent of the problem in their communities. We are now gathering better intelligence on the scale of abuse and it’s clear there are no grounds for complacency. CEOP did a major assessment in 2011 and reported practitioners telling them: “If you lift the stone, you’ll find it.”

A young victim quoted in Sue Jago’s University of Bedfordshire paper said, heartbreakingly: “It’s not hidden – you just aren’t looking.” And Barnardo’s released its excellent ‘Puppet on a String’ report last year, after which Anne Marie Carrie, the charity’s chief executive, described sexual violence against children over 10 as “the most pressing child protection issue”.

My strong sense is that this country is waking up to the fact young people are being sexually exploited not in the dozens or the hundreds, but very probably the thousands – and at this point, I must pay thanks to all the Local Safeguarding Children Board chairs who are now knocking at our doors to help tackle this challenge. Slowly but surely, we are making real progress. But there is there is always room, and reason, for improvement and as lead minister, I am personally determined that everything that can be done, is done, to make our children safer.

We took a big step forward by releasing the action plan in November with the close support of the sector – and I want to pay particular thanks to organisations like the Safe and Sound Project in Derby, CEOP, the Home Office, the Department for Health, Barnardo’s, CROP and many others for sharing their expertise with our department.

As many here will know, the plan looks at different aspects of sexual exploitation from the perspective of the young person and their journey, analysing what can go wrong and what should happen at every step.

Together, we identified four key stages where we needed better intervention.

First, raising awareness of this issue with young people, parents and professionals.

Second, taking effective multi-agency action against exploitation and helping children who are victims to get out of it.

Third, securing robust prosecutions and improving court processes to reinforce the fact this is a serious crime that demands serious punishment.

And fourth, helping children and families who are caught up in sexual exploitation to get their lives back on track.

On awareness raising, the plan sets out the need for government to work with ACPO, health professional bodies and the Social Work Reform Board to make sure exploitation is covered in training and guidance for professionals. And we are going to see how we can improve the way young people are taught about sexual consent and relationships.

On multi-agency action, we are working with LSCBs to help them treat child sexual exploitation as a far greater problem than it has been seen in the past. And we are going to continue to help organisations like St Mary’s, with funding already committed to support 87 independent sexual violence advisor posts over the next four years.

On bringing abusers to justice, we are working with police, the CPS, judges and magistrates to ensure young witnesses and victims are fully supported through the legal process. And we are working hard to increase the use of special measures in courts so we can ease the stress and anxiety of criminal proceedings on young people.

Finally, on supporting survivors, (a function St Mary’s performs so expertly) the action plan outlines the need for councils to share their knowledge of what works more widely, so we can spread high quality counselling and support services out across the country.

The big challenge we face this year is to turn the action plan into action, and we will be working to make sure all the different work strands in child protection are brought together cohesively.

In particular, we want to make sure Professor Munro’s review of child protection, our work on adoption and fostering and the child sexual exploitation plan are properly synchronised. There are already some very positive signs that we are on the right track – and we had an encouraging meeting last month with sector representatives to talk about progress so far.

Amongst other things, we are talking to Ofsted about the best way of supporting their inspectors so they can check local authorities are responding appropriately in cases where sexual exploitation has been identified. We have set up a task and finish group, which includes several LSCB chairs among its membership. The group is identifying the barriers facing LSCBs in tackling sexual abuse involving young people, and it is also looking at what can be done to get high quality advice and guidance circulating around the country, as well as best practice.

On top of all this, we are working hard to raise awareness among young people of the potential dangers. Children must be able to make informed choices. They must be able to recognise and manage risk, and they must have the awareness to make safe decisions. This is why sex and relationship education is a key constituent of the wider personal, social, health and economic education review we are undertaking.

At the same time, we are working to raise awareness among practitioners – and I have asked both the Social Work Reform Board, and the College of Social Work, to think about how child sexual exploitation can best be addressed in social work training. We expect to be able to say more about all this in the Spring in the implementation update report we will be publishing.

Finally, I must mention the progress we are making with Sheila Taylor, chair of the National Working Group for Sexually Exploited Children and Young People, to share best practice more effectively. The working group, for those not in the know, is a charity that provides advice and support to 500 members. Sheila has a direct line into 37 different police forces and advises a number of LSCB chairs on how they can tackle exploitation effectively.

There are some authorities out there doing robust and reliable risk assessments of the nature and extent of the issue in their areas – with some examples of good practice in working together to identify abuse and respond to it. But we need every LSCB to treat exploitation as a top priority – not just some. The 2009 statutory guidance contained many valuable lessons yet all too often they have not been acted on. It’s good guidance, it should be used, and every LSCB should be proactively talking about it.

I do not, however, want anyone to leave here under the impression that tackling child sexual exploitation ‘belongs’ to the Department for Education alone. A huge amount of work is underway right across government and it is vital that this is seen for what it is: a complete package of wraparound support for vulnerable young people – not a series of individual, disparate or disconnected offers.

At the Home Office, Lynne Featherstone and her team have set up a working group to address the very specific issues around violence against women and girls in gangs. At the Department for Health, Anne Milton hosted a summit in November with colleagues from the Royal Colleges, NHS and the voluntary sector to discuss the role of health professionals in supporting young victims of sexual exploitation. This group is set to meet a further three times over the coming months. Topics on the table will include how to help health professionals recognise the indicators of sexual abuse in children; how to make sure staff are in a position to ask questions sensitively; and how to help them make the right referrals to local services.

Last but definitely not least, there is substantial progress being made at the Attorney General’s Office and the Ministry of Justice. At the end of last year, we announced that anyone convicted of a second serious sexual or violent offence, including serious child sex offences, will receive a mandatory life sentence – a long overdue, and long awaited amendment to the law I think you’ll agree.

On top of this, we are very clear that courts must improve prosecution procedures, particularly in supporting child victims to act as witnesses. I have heard horror stories of survivors being cross-examined by multiple defence barristers, and this must stop. There are a number of special measures courts can take when vulnerable witnesses are involved – we want to see them used to the full.

Our challenge in the months ahead, is to bring all this work together and make sure it is focused, completely, on the perspective of the victim and their families. The experience of young people who engage with the child protection system and, as I just mentioned, the courts, is still too mixed. Survivors complain about the unsympathetic, grey culture of ticking boxes. They worry they will not be believed; and they are anxious about a system that can describe a 13-year-old girl having sex with a 35-year-old man as ‘consensual’.

Ultimately, this is why so many young people are scared of talking about their experience of abuse. According to figures from St Mary’s, 72 per cent of children do not tell anyone about their ordeal at the time it happens. 31 per cent do not reveal their secret until adulthood.

We must make it easier for children to come forward. We must make it easier for professionals to spot the danger signals. And we must equip parents with the information and guidance they need.

Mothers and fathers have a big role to play in helping youngsters make healthy, informed choices about relationships and sexual health – equipping them, in turn, to avoid situations that put them at risk of exploitation.

I am anxious that too many parents are sleepwalking into danger by failing to recognise the signals or warning signs, and I was chilled by the words of Emma Jackson in the Independent about her experience of abusers, saying (and I quote), that “they’ll have anybody – doctors’ children, lawyers’ children – anybody”.

This is an important point. All the evidence indicates that child sexual exploitation can affect any family – and I can’t over emphasise that the fact it takes place in a particular family does not mean that the family is a ‘bad’ one, or that the parents have failed. Before coming here today, I watched a sobering video in which a father from St Mary’s likened the shock of discovering that his child had been abused to “having your own heart ripped out” – and we should never forget that victims, and their families, often require long term support and counselling.

The Whitney Dean case in Eastenders touched on many of these issues and I applaud the BBC for its sensible, sensitive and insightful treatment of the storyline. On top of this, I know St Mary’s has worked with the producers of Hollyoaks to provide expert advice on the presentation of issues around sexual violence – and I commend you for it. We cannot do too much to raise awareness of child exploitation or to educate those involved of its dangers.

Let me finish with a final thank you to St Mary’s and its staff for hosting today’s conference. I labour this point in every speech I make because it is an important one. But I must repeat my message that the vast majority of children in this country grow up safe from harm. The work you are doing is vital to ensuring this remains the case and I hope our action plan shows we are heading in the right direction.

Thank you.

Boris Johnson – 2018 Speech on Brexit

Below is the text of the speech made by Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, on 14 February 2018.

The other day a woman pitched up in my surgery in a state of indignation. The ostensible cause was broadband trouble but it was soon clear – as so often in a constituency surgery – that the real problem was something else.

No one was trying to understand her feelings about Brexit. No one was trying to bring her along. She felt so downcast, she said, that she was thinking of leaving the country – to Canada. It wasn’t so much that she wanted to be in the EU; she just didn’t want to be in a Britain that was not in the EU.

And I recognised that feeling of grief, and alienation, because in the last 18 months I have heard the same sentiments so often – from friends, from family, from people hailing me abusively in the street – as is their right.

In many cases I believe the feelings are abating with time, as some of the fears about Brexit do not materialise. In some cases, alas, I detect a hardening of the mood, a deepening of the anger.

I fear that some people are becoming ever more determined to stop Brexit, to reverse the referendum vote of June 23 2016, and to frustrate the will of the people. I believe that would be a disastrous mistake that would lead to permanent and ineradicable feelings of betrayal. We cannot and will not let it happen.

But if we are to carry this project through to national success – as we must – then we must also reach out to those who still have anxieties.

I want to today to anatomise at least some of the fears and to show to the best of my ability that these fears can be allayed, and that the very opposite is true: that Brexit can be grounds for much more hope than fear.

There are essentially 3 types of concern about the momentous choice the nation has made.

Strategic

The first is that this is simply a strategic or geo-strategic mistake. On this view Britain is an offshore island comprising fewer than 1% of humanity, and we need to be bound up in the European Union for protection – partly for our protection, and partly so that Britain can fulfil its historic role of providing protection for the other countries of the European continent. I come across quite a few people who think that Brexit has cast us adrift – made our geostrategic position somehow more vulnerable, while weakening the security of the whole of Europe.

Spiritual

The second anxiety is essentially spiritual and aesthetic – that by voting to leave the EU we have sundered ourselves from the glories of European civilisation. People believe that we have thrown up a figurative drawbridge, made it less easy to live, study, work abroad; and decided to sacrifice the Europeanness in our identities. They fear that the Brexit vote was a vote for nationalism and small-mindedness and xenophobia. They think it was illiberal, reactionary and the British have shown the worst of their character to the world; indeed that it was in some sense un-British.

Economic

And the third objection is the one that occupies most of the debate – the economic fear that we have voted to make ourselves less prosperous; that membership of the EU is vital for UK business and investment, and that the panoply of EU legislation has helped to make life easier for companies and for citizens. People fear the disruption they associate with change, and that our friends and partners in the EU may make life difficult for us. Sometimes these economic anxieties are intensified by the other fears – about identity or security – so that hitherto recondite concepts like the single market or the customs union acquire unexpected emotive power.

Well I believe that whatever the superficial attractions of these points, they can be turned on their head.

I want to show you today that Brexit need not be nationalist but can be internationalist; not an economic threat but a considerable opportunity; not un-British but a manifestation of this country’s historic national genius.

And I can see obviously that I’m running the risk in making this case of simply causing further irritation. But I must take that risk because it is this government’s duty to advocate and explain the mission on which we are now engaged; and it has become absolutely clear to me that we cannot take the argument for granted.

We cannot expect the case to make itself. That was the mistake of the pro-EU elite in this country when they won the last referendum in 1975.

As the Guardian journalist the late Hugo Young points out in his book, This Blessed Plot:

The most corrupted trait I kept encountering was the sense – so prevalent among the Euro-elite, that having won the decision they had won the argument. Many exhibited the unmistakable opinion not only that the battle was over but that the other side, however loud it shouted, had simply lost and should now shut up.

And he went on to say:

The noisier the contest became during the early 1990s, the heavier the silent gloating that accompanied it, from the class that knew it commanded every operational forum from the ante-chambers of Whitehall to the boardrooms of big business, from Brussels committee rooms where a thousand lobbyists thronged, to the outposts of the Commission.

Well the boot is now on the other foot, at least in theory. For all their power and influence – every major political party, the CBI, Barack Obama and so on – those voices did not prevail.

But is this the time now for the referendum winners to gloat? Should we sit back in silent self-satisfaction? I don’t think we should.

It is not good enough to say to remainers – you lost, get over it; because we must accept that the vast majority are actuated by entirely noble sentiments, a real sense of solidarity with our European neighbours and a desire for the UK to succeed.

All I am saying is that by going for Brexit we can gratify those sentiments – and more.

So let me take the 3 anxieties in turn.

Security: a strong Britain and a strong EU

To all who worry about our strategic position and the supposed loss of Britain to European security I can offer this same vital reassurance that the Prime Minister has made so many times and that I believe is welcomed by our partners.

Our commitment to the defence of Europe is unconditional and immoveable. It is made real by the 800 British troops from 5th Battalion The Rifles I saw recently at Tapa in Estonia, who have since been relieved by 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh.

Already this country is the single biggest spender in the EU both on aid and defence. Although we represent only 13% of the EU’s population, we contribute 20% of defence spending – and the RAF’s giant C17 transport aircraft represent 100% of the heavy lift capacity of the whole of Europe – as well as 25% of the overseas aid budget.

It makes sense for us to continue to be intimately involved in European foreign and security policy. It would be illogical not to discuss such matters as sanctions together, bearing in mind that the UK expertise provides more than half of all EU sanctions listings.

We will continue to be Europeans both practically and psychologically, because our status as one of the great contributors to European culture and civilisation – and our status as one of the great guarantors of the security of Europe – is simply not dependent on the Treaty of Rome as amended at Maastricht or Amsterdam or Lisbon.

Spiritually British, European and global

So let us next tackle the suggestion that we are somehow going to become more insular. It just flies in the face of the evidence. It was my Labour predecessor Ernie Bevin who said, “my foreign policy is to go down to Victoria station and go anywhere I damn well please.”

That is pretty much what the British people already do. We have a bigger diaspora than any other rich nation – 6 million points of light scattered across an intermittently darkening globe.

There are more British people living in Australia than in the whole of the EU, more in the US and Canada. As I have just discovered we have more than a million people who go to Thailand every year, where our superb consular services deal with some of the things that they get up to there.

The statistical trajectory suggests that this wanderlust is most unlikely to abate. In 2016 the British people paid 71 million visits to other countries – and that is a 70% increase since the mid-1990s, and now more than one foreign trip per person per year.

If we get the right deal on aviation and on visa-free travel – both of which are in our mutual interest – this expansion of UK tourism will continue, not just beyond the EU, but within the EU itself; and we will continue to go on cheapo flights to stag parties in ancient cities where we will, I’m sure, receive a warm welcome and meet interesting people, fall in love, struggle amiably to learn the European languages – knowledge of which, by the way, has suffered a paradoxical decline during our membership of the EU.

There is no sensible reason why we should not be able to retire to Spain or indeed anywhere else (as indeed we did long before Spain joined what was then called the common market). We can continue the whirl of academic exchanges that have been a feature of European cultural life since the middle ages, and whose speed of cross-pollination has been accelerated by the internet as well as by schemes like Horizon or Erasmus – all of which we can continue to support, and whose participating scholars are certainly not confined to the EU.

For those who really want to make Britain less insular, and we all want to make Britain less insular don’t we – the answer is not to submit forever to the EU legal order, but to think about how we can undo the physical separation that took place at the end of the Ice Age.

Fly over the Channel at Dover and you see how narrow it is, the ferries plying back and forth like buses in Oxford street, and as you measure the blue straits with your fingers you can see that this moat is really an overgrown prehistoric river that once flowed down from the mountains of Norway and was fed by its tributaries, the Thames and the Seine and the Rhine. Indeed Britain and Holland used to be joined in the old days by a territory known as Doggerland.

In 1986 Margaret Thatcher and Francois Mitterrand had the vision to heal the rupture with a first dry crossing; and it is notable that Eurotunnel is now calling for both sides of the Channel to prepare for a second fixed link. It does indeed seem incredible to me that the fifth and sixth most powerful economies in the world, separated by barely 21 miles of water, should be connected by only one railway line.

I accept that the solution is still a few years off – though the need will be upon us fast – but I say all this to signal something about the attitudes that should inform Brexit.

It’s not about shutting ourselves off; it’s about going global.

It’s not about returning to some autarkic 1950s menu of spam and cabbage and liver. It’s about continuing the astonishing revolution in tastes and styles – in the arts, music, restaurants, sports – that has taken place in this country, in my lifetime, not so much because of our EU membership (that is to commit the fallacy known in the FCO as post hoc ergo propter hoc) but as a result of our history and global links, our openness to people and ideas that has brought 300 languages on to the streets of London, probably the most diverse capital on earth.

In that sense Brexit is about re-engaging this country with its global identity, and all the energy that can flow from that.

And I absolutely refuse to accept the suggestion that it is some un-British spasm of bad manners. It’s not some great V-sign from the cliffs of Dover.

It is the expression of a legitimate and natural desire for self-government of the people, by the people, for the people.

It is to fulfil the liberal idealism of John Stuart Mill himself, who recognised that it is only the nation – as he put it, “united among themselves by common sympathies which do not exist between themselves and others”. Only the nation could legitimate the activities of the state.

It was only if people had this common sympathy that they would consent to be governed as a unit, because this feeling of national solidarity would “make them cooperate more willingly than with other people, desire to be under the same government, and desire it should be government by themselves or a portion of themselves exclusively.”

And there is good reason for insisting on this national solidarity, or common sympathy, because government involves tremendous impositions, by which we collectively agree to taxation that pre-empts half our income, and obedience to laws not all of which we think are necessarily sensible.

If we are going to accept laws, then we need to know who is making them, and with what motives, and we need to be able to interrogate them in our own language, and we must know how they came to be in authority over us and how we can remove them.

And the trouble with the EU is that for all its idealism, which I acknowledge, and for all the good intentions of those who run the EU institutions, there is no demos – or at least we have never felt part of such a demos – however others in the EU may feel.

The British people have plenty of common sympathies with the people of France, of course we do – but it is hard to deny that they also share common sympathies with plenty of non-EU people – the Americans, the Swiss, the Canadians, the Pakistanis; Thais, and that is one of the reasons why we in the UK have had such difficulty in adapting to the whole concept of EU integration.

To understand why EU regulation is not always suited to the economic needs of the UK, it is vital to understand that EU law is a special type of law, unlike anything else on earth. It is not just about business convenience. It is expressly teleological. It is there to achieve a political goal.

The aim is to create an overarching European state as the basis for a new sense of European political identity. British politicians, Labour and Tory, have always found that ambition very difficult. It is hard to make it cohere with our particular traditions of independent parliamentary and legal systems that go back centuries.

And in spite of many sheep-like coughs of protest from the UK, the process of integration has deepened, and the corpus of EU law has grown ever vaster and more intricate, and ever more powers and competences were handed to EU institutions, culminating in the Treaty of Lisbon.

We now have arrangements of such complexity and obscurity that I ask even my most diehard of remainer friends if they can explain their Spitzenkandidaten process – which has genuinely delighted the MEPs in Strasbourg but has mystified us in the UK; or the exact relationship between the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, justiciable in Luxembourg, and the European Convention on Human Rights whose court sits in Strasbourg. Starter for ten: how many people in this room actually know the answer to those questions – I think very few. I think the answer to the second one is unknowable. How many know the name of their Euro-MPs?

And that is the point I sometimes make when I get the chance to throw the ball back over the net, to those who hail me in the street with cheery 4-letter epithets.

That’s the point, isn’t it. At least they know roughly who I am and roughly what I do, generally speaking.

If we wanted to find the person responsible for drafting the next phase of EU integration – in which Tony Blair and others would presumably like us to take part – we wouldn’t know where to find them, who they are, let alone how to remove them from office.

That is why people voted Leave – not because they were hostile to European culture and civilisation, but because they wanted to take back control.

That is why it is so vital that we don’t treat Brexit as a plague of boils or a murrain on our cattle, but as an opportunity, and above all as an economic opportunity.

The Brexit economic opportunity

Which brings me to the last crucial reassurances that my side of the argument must give.

We would be mad to go through this process of extrication from the EU, and not to take advantage of the economic freedoms it will bring.

We will stop paying huge sums to the EU every year and as the PM herself has said, this will leave us with more to spend on our domestic priorities, including, yes, the NHS.

We will be able to take back control of our borders – not because I am hostile to immigrants or immigration. Far from it. We need talented people to come and make their lives in this country – doctors, scientists, the coders and programmers who are so crucial to Britain’s booming tech economy.

It was my proudest boast as Mayor of London that we had 400,000 French men and women in the British capital – high-earning and high-spending types – while only about 20,000 UK nationals went the other way and were living in Paris. And we must stay that way, we must remain a magnet for ambition and drive.

But we also need to ask ourselves some hard questions about the impact of 20 years of uncontrolled immigration by low-skilled, low-wage workers – and what many see as the consequent suppression of wages and failure to invest properly in the skills of indigenous young people.

We do not want to haul up the drawbridge; and we certainly don’t want to minimise the wonderful contribution they have made and certainly don’t want to deter the international students who make such a vital contribution to our HE economy, with 155,000 Chinese students alone.

But we want to exercise control; and if we are going to move from a low-wage, low-productivity economy to a high-wage, high productivity economy – as we must – then Brexit gives us back at least one of the levers we need.

And the contrast in this country is very striking with some of the other countries and the Schengen countries, where no such control is possible, and where the far right is alas on the rise.

And as the PM has repeatedly said, we must take back control of our laws. And it would obviously be absurd, as Theresa May said in her Lancaster House and Florence speeches – which now have the lapidary status of the codes of Hammurabi or Moses – it would be absurd if we were obliged to obey laws over which we have no say and no vote.

As the PM said at Lancaster House remaining within the single market “would to all intents and purposes mean not leaving the EU at all.”

The British people should not have new laws affecting their everyday lives imposed from abroad, when they have no power to elect or remove those who make those laws. And there is no need for us to find ourselves in any such position.

To those who worry about coming out of the customs union or the single market – please bear in mind that the economic benefits of membership are nothing like as conspicuous or irrefutable as is sometimes claimed.

In the last few years there have been plenty of non-EU countries who have seen far more rapid growth in their exports to the EU than we have – even though we pay a handsome membership fee, as I have mentioned many times.

In spite of being outside the stockade, the US has been able to increase its exports twice as fast. I think there are 36 countries around the world that have done better than us in exporting into the EU, even though they are not members.

And for those of us within the stockade, the cost of EU regulation was estimated at 4% of GDP by Peter Mandelson and 7% by Gordon Brown. Authorities which for the purposes of this argument I do not propose to dispute.

It is only by taking back control of our laws that UK firms and entrepreneurs will have the freedom to innovate, without the risk of having to comply with some directive devised by Brussels, at the urgings of some lobby group, with the specific aim of holding back a UK competitor. That would be intolerable, undemocratic, and would make it all but impossible for us to do serious free trade deals.

It is only by taking back control of our regulatory framework and our tariff schedules that we can do these deals, and exploit the changes in the world economy.

It is a striking fact that our exports to the EU have grown by only 10% since 2010, while our sales to the US are up 41%, to China 60%, to Saudi Arabia 41, New Zealand 40, Japan 60, South Korea 100%. Those figures reflect the broader story that the lion’s share of the growth is taking place outside the EU, and especially in the Asia-Pacific region.

In a world that demands flexibility and agility, we should be thinking not of EU standards but of global standards, and a regulatory framework to suit the particular needs of the UK, a country that already exports a higher share of its GDP outside the EU than any other EU country.

We already boast an amazing economy, diverse and very different from rest of EU. We are the nation that has moved highest and furthest up the value chain of the 21st century economy.

We are a nation of inventors, designers, scientists, architects, lawyers, insurers, water slide testers – I met one in my constituency, Toblerone cabinet makers – all the Toblerone cabinets in Saudi Arabian airports are made in Uxbridge I am glad to tell you. There are some sectors, such as AI or bulk data where we really excel, we are streets ahead and in the future we may want to do things differently.

Of course we will need to comply with EU regulation in so far as we are exporting to the EU. (though we should realise that the single market is not quite the Eden of uniformity that it is cracked up to be: you try becoming a ski instructor in France, not that I have tried myself; and I discovered the other day that we have totally different standards in this country for flame retardant sofas, to say nothing of plugs).

But in a global marketplace, where we are trading in products that hadn’t been conceived even 5 years ago, serving markets that were poverty stricken 20 years ago, it seems extraordinary that the UK should remain lashed to the minute prescriptions of a regional trade bloc comprising only 6% of humanity wonderful as it may be – when it is not possible for us or any EU country to change those rules on our own.

In so far as we turn increasingly to the rest of the world – as we are – then we will be able to do our own thing.

We will be able, if we so choose, to fish our own fish, to ban the traffic in live animals, end payments to some of the richest landowners in Britain while supporting the rural economy; and we will be able to cut VAT on domestic fuel and other products.

We can simplify planning, and speed up public procurement, and perhaps we would then be faster in building the homes young people need; and we might decide that it was indeed absolutely necessary for every environmental impact assessment to monitor 2 life cycles of the snail or to build special swimming pools for newts – not all of which they use in my experience – but it would at least be our decision to do that.

Freed from EU regimes, we will not only be able to spend some of our Brexit bonus on the NHS; but as we develop new stem cell technology – in which this country has long been in the lead – it may be that we will need a new regulatory framework, scrupulous and moral, but not afraid to be different. The same point can be made of innovative financial services instruments, where the FCA already leads the way.

We will decide on laws not according to whether they help to build a united states of Europe, noble goal that that may be, but because we want to create the best platform for the economy to grow and to help people to live their lives

And the crucial thing is that when we are running ourselves – when all these freedoms open before us – we will no longer be able to blame Brussels for our woes, because our problems will be our responsibility and no-one else’s.

And indeed no one should think that Brexit is some economic panacea, any more than it is right to treat it as an economic pandemic. On the contrary, the success of Brexit will depend on what we make of it

And a success is what we will make of it – together.

And that very success will be the best thing for the whole of continental Europe – a powerful adjacent economy buying more Italian cars and German wine than ever before. I never tire of telling you we are the single biggest consumers not just of champagne but of prosecco as well and we want to go on in that role.

And so I say to my remaining Remainer friends – actually quite a numerous brunch – more people voted Brexit than have ever voted for anything in the history of this country.

And I say in all candour that if there were to be a second vote I think it would be another year of turmoil and wrangling and feuding in which the whole country would be the loser. So let’s not go there.

So let’s instead unite about what we all believe in – an outward-looking liberal global future for a confident United Kingdom. Because so much of this is about confidence and self-belief.

We love to run ourselves down – in fact we are Olympic gold medal winners in the sport of national self-deprecation.

And in the current bout of Brexchosis we are missing the truth: that it is our collective job to ensure that when the history books come to be written Brexit will be seen as just the latest way in which the British bucked the trend, took the initiative – and did something that responds to the real needs and opportunities that we face in the world today. That we had the courage to break free from an idea – however noble its origins – that had become outdated, at least for us.

Konrad Adenauer said that every nation had its genius, and that the genius of the British people was for democratic politics. He was right, but perhaps he didn’t go far enough.

Yes, it was the British people who saw that it was not good enough for Kings and princes to have absolute power and who began the tradition of parliamentary democracy in a model that is followed on every continent.

It was also Britain that led the industrial revolution and destroyed slavery and the British people who had the wit to see through the bogus attractions of protectionism and who campaigned for free trade that has become the single biggest engine of prosperity and progress.

And so I say to my constituent – don’t go to Canada, or anywhere else, lovely though Canada is.

This, the UK, is the country that is once again taking the lead in shaping the modern world. And it is our stubborn attachment to running ourselves that will end up making our society fairer and more prosperous.

In its insistence upon democracy, in its openness, its belief in the rights of the individual, in its protection of our legal system; its scepticism about excessive regulation; its potential for devolving power downwards; and in its fundamental refusal to discriminate between all the other peoples of the earth. And in its central distinction between a political loyalty and obedience to the EU institutions, and our eternal love for European culture, and values, and civilisation.

Brexit is not just the great liberal project of the age, but a project that over time can unite this whole country. So let’s do it with confidence together.

Thank you very much.

Penny Mordaunt – 2018 Speech at End Violence Summit

Below is the text of the speech made by Penny Mordaunt, the Secretary of State for International Development, on 14 February 2018.

I’d like to say thank you to End Violence, the Swedish government and WePROTECT Global Alliance for hosting today’s important event.

One of the objectives of this summit is that we all leave today believing that we can end violence against children – and I believe we can.

And to help that I was going to talk about what DFID had done, what works, our future plans and to talk about the announcement we’re making today of new funding to protect children from physical and sexual abuse.

But with apologies for my hardworking team and to you, because I know I’m preaching to the choir, I think my time here is better spent delivering another message.

The sexual exploitation of vulnerable people, vulnerable children, is never acceptable. But when it is perpetrated by people in positions of power, people we entrust to help and protect, it rightly sickens and disgusts. And it should compel us to take action.

The recent revelations about Oxfam, not solely the actions perpetrated by a number of those staff but the way the organisation responded to those events – should be a wake up call to the sector. They let perpetrators go, they did not inform donors, their regulator or prosecuting authorities. It was not just the processes and procedures of that organisation that were lacking but moral leadership.

We cannot end violence against children unless zero tolerance means something.

I will be guided in my decisions about Oxfam depending on the charity’s response to requirement and questions I have raised with them, and by the Charity Commission’s investigation.

But no organisation is too big or our work with them too complex for me to hesitate to remove funding from them if we cannot trust them to put the beneficiaries of aid first.

I’ve held meetings with charity bosses, regulators and experts over the last few days and tomorrow I will be meeting with the National Crime Agency. While investigations have to be completed and any potential criminals prosecuted accordingly, what is clear is that the culture that allowed this to happen needs to change, and it needs to change now.

I am writing to every single charity which receives UK aid, demanding full transparency and set out assurances about their safeguarding procedures. If our standards are not met, then the British taxpayer will not continue to fund them.

Unless you safeguard everyone in your organisation that comes into contact with you, including beneficiaries, staff and volunteers – we will not fund you.

Unless you create a culture that prioritises the safety of vulnerable people and ensures victims and whistleblowers can come forward without fear – we will not work with you.

And unless you report every serious incident or allegation, no matter how damaging to your reputation – we cannot be your partners.

The same message goes out to any organisation or partner – whether they are in the public, private or third sector which receives UK aid – and this includes the component parts of the UN.

We want procedures to change. We want leaders to lead with moral authority. We want staff to be held accountable for their actions, no matter where they are.

Sexual abuse and exploitation is an issue the entire development sector needs to confront.

The UN reported that there were 300 incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse, including child rape, carried out by UN peacekeepers and civilian staff in 2016. That figure is as morally repugnant and it is unacceptable.

We will not wait for the UN and other organisations to step up. The British government will take action now.

My department has created a new unit to review safeguarding across all parts of the aid sector, both in the UK and internationally. Among other things, we will urgently look into how we can stop sexual abusers and predators from being re-employed by charities, including the possibility of setting up of a global register of development workers.

Secondly, we will step up our existing work with UN Secretary-General to stop abuses under the UN flag. There will be no immunity for rape and sexual abuse and I welcome the recent statement from the UN to that effect and note the recent work that Unicef has done. We cannot let the UN flag provide cover for despicable acts.

Thirdly, my department and the UK Charity Commission will hold within a month a safeguarding summit, where we will meet with representatives across the aid sector, and discuss new ways of vetting and recruiting staff, to ensure protecting vulnerable people is at the forefront of our minds.

We are all taking necessary actions to ensure criminals are brought to justice, organisations are held to account, and procedures to change and stop sexual exploitation, abuse and rape.

And today, I’m calling on all of us to work together to do this. It is only through working together that we can achieve our shared goal of ending violence against children. And everyone in this room has a duty to ensure change within their own organisations. We must ensure we all have the highest safeguarding standards.

This past week has to be a wake up call. If we don’t want the actions of a minority of individuals to tarnish and endanger all the good work that we do, then we must all respond quickly and appropriately.

We must regain the trust of the public.

We must make staff aware of their moral responsibilities as well as their legal duties.

But above all else, we must strive to ensure that no child, no one is harmed by the people who are supposed to be there to help.

Boris Johnson – 2018 Speech in Bangladesh

Below is the text of the speech made by Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, in Bangladesh on 14 February 2018.

Thank you your Excellency, it’s wonderful to be here in Bangladesh on my first visit. This is a relationship that is incredibly important for the UK. It is hard to overstate the cultural, commercial and personal links between Britain and Bangladesh. We are proud to have I think 500,000 people of Bangladeshi origin in our country and I want to convey an important message, which is that once we are leaving the European Union, we will want to intensify our bilateral relations and do more in trade together, as well as of course trading with the rest of the Europe.

I also want to congratulate Bangladesh and the people and the government of Bangladesh on the way they have handled one of the biggest humanitarian crisis we have seen in the last few decades. I think that the government of Bangladesh has shown immense compassion, speed and mercy in dealing with a challenge that I think any government would have found very daunting indeed. I am going tomorrow to Cox’s Bazar to look at the camps, to look at some of the contribution that the UK is able to make to helping with that extraordinary Bangladeshi humanitarian effort.

And the third thing I want to say is that, we had an excellent meeting, I thought, with the Prime Minister. It went, it was very long and very friendly, and we discussed all the issues of cooperation between the UK and Bangladesh, the success of Bangladesh, as it rises up inexorably and the population grows more successful, we also discussed the importance of a free press and free, fair and democratic elections.

And I am delighted that the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will be coming to our Commonwealth Summit in April where she is going to be majoring on female education, 12 years of quality female education which is again one of the areas where Bangladesh has got an absolutely outstanding track record.

So, thank you again for having me along today, see you all soon!

Theresa May – 2018 Statement at Stormont House

Below is the text of the speech made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, at Stormont House in Northern Ireland on 12 February 2018.

Today I have been meeting the leaders of the main parties involved in the talks and I have urged them to make one final push for the sake of the people here in Northern Ireland.

It has been thirteen long months since we last saw devolved government here and I think we are now at the point of where it is time for the locally elected representatives to find a way to work together and to deal with and tackle the many pressing issues facing Northern Ireland.

I have had full and frank conversations with the five parties. I’ve also met with the Taoiseach.

And while some differences remain I believe that it is possible to see the basis of an agreement here. There is the basis of an agreement and it should be possible to see an Executive up and running in Northern Ireland very soon.

The DUP and Sinn Fein have been working very hard to close the remaining gaps. But I would also like to recognise the contribution of other parties here in Northern Ireland too.

What I am clear about is that we are all fully committed to doing everything we can to support this process – and as far as Westminster is concerned we stand ready to legislate for the re-establishment of an Executive as soon as possible after an agreement.