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.

Theresa May – 2016 Speech to the Gulf Co-operation Council

Below is the text of the speech made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, in Manama on 7 December 2016.

I am delighted to be here in Manama, following in the footsteps of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales in celebrating 2 centuries of relations between Bahrain and the United Kingdom. And I am very grateful to His Majesty King Hamad for bestowing on me this special honour – to be invited to address the leaders of the Gulf Co-operation Council.

We meet at a time of great change in the world. Political change, economic change, social change; in almost every sphere we are confronted with change and uncertainty.

The risks to our shared security are growing and evolving, as terrorists operate across national borders to plot attacks against our people; as new threats emerge from the malevolent use of the internet, and as certain states continue to act in ways that undermine stability in your region – undermining, in turn, our own security in the West and further reinforcing the need for all of us to work together.

We, in the West, face the challenge of trying to manage those forces of globalisation that have in recent times left some of our people behind.

Here in the Gulf you, too, are facing the challenges of securing jobs and opportunities for your peoples and building what I call an economy that works for everyone.

In this uncertain world, people are searching for direction and leadership and we have a responsibility to provide it. I believe it is more than a responsibility. For if we work together, it is also an unparalleled opportunity to show that we understand the scale of the change people need; understand truly what lies behind it; and most importantly of all; that we as leaders are trusted to deliver.

One of the prevailing sentiments in all my conversations with GCC leaders over the last 5 months since I became Prime Minister has been this sense that in challenging times, you turn to your oldest and most dependable friends.

That is the spirit in which I come here today.

We have a rich history on which to build. From the very first treaties, in the mid-17th century, which saw the East India Company reach agreements on British trade and a military presence in Oman, to our deep partnership as Cold War allies, the UK has been proudly at the forefront of a relationship between the Gulf and the West that has been the bedrock of our shared prosperity and security.

And as the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, I am determined that we should seize the opportunity to get out into the world and to shape an even bigger global role for my country: yes, to build new alliances but more importantly, to go even further in working with old friends, like our allies here in the Gulf, who have stood alongside us for centuries.

There has never been a more important, or more challenging time to do so. In the face of growing extremism and radicalisation, not unique to this region but here in its most egregious form; in the face of threats to the rules-based order which has underpinned not just our shared security but also the foundations for our shared prosperity, the UK stands here today seeking not just to reaffirm a relationship that is of great historic value but to renew a partnership that is absolutely fundamental to our shared future.

So in accepting the honour of addressing GCC leaders, I seek not just to offer a message of continuity, but to begin to build a bold new chapter in our co-operation; not to develop a transactional relationship but rather to forge a strategic relationship, a relationship based on true partnership and an enduring commitment between our countries and our peoples; a relationship through which together we can meet these great challenges to our shared security and prosperity, and grab this opportunity to build an exciting future for the generations that follow us.

So let me set out some of the ways in which the UK will step up its relationship with the GCC. And let me start with security.

Gulf security is our security

Gulf security is our security. Extremists plotting terror attacks here in this region are not only targeting the Gulf but, as we have seen, targeting the streets of Europe too. Whether we are confronting the terrorism of Al Qaeda or the murderous barbarity of Daesh, no country is a more committed partner for you in this fight than the United Kingdom.

Today UK servicemen and women are putting their lives on the line at the heart of the international mission against Daesh in Iraq and Syria. We are making progress. And as we are seeing with the current operations in Mosul, the days of Daesh as an occupying force are numbered.

Through our close co-operation on counter-terrorism we are succeeding in foiling terrorist plots and a range of threats against citizens in all our countries. For example, intelligence we have received in the past from Saudi Arabia has saved potentially hundreds of lives in the UK.

And by focusing not just on violent extremism, but on the whole spectrum of extremism, violent and non-violent, at home and abroad, we are not just going after the terrorists but working to address the causes of this terrorist threat by targeting the ideology of extremism and all those who seek to spread it.

As we address new threats to our security, so we must also continue to confront state actors whose influence fuels instability in the region. So I want to assure you that I am clear-eyed about the threat that Iran poses to the Gulf and the wider Middle East.

The UK is fully committed to our strategic partnership with the Gulf and working with you to counter that threat. We secured a deal which has neutralised the possibility of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons for over a decade. It has already seen Iran remove 13,000 centrifuges together with associated infrastructure and eliminate its stock of 20% enriched uranium. That was vitally important for regional security. But we must also work together to push back against Iran’s aggressive regional actions, whether in Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, Syria or in the Gulf itself.

We must also continue to work together to achieve a just and comprehensive settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian issue, building on efforts such as the Arab Peace Initiative and harnessing the influence of all of us around this table to bring together those with a stake in a lasting peace, built around a 2-state solution. This remains fundamental to the long-term security and prosperity of the whole Middle East.

In recent years we have retained the ability to defend our mutual interests when threatened by deploying UK assets to the region, as we did when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, and as we are continuing to do with HMS Ocean – which I visited yesterday – as it begins its deployment here in Bahrain.

But as part of the renewed relationship that I want to forge with you, the United Kingdom will make a more permanent and more enduring commitment to the long-term security of the Gulf.

We will invest in hard power, with over £3 billion of defence spending in the region over the next decade, spending more on defence in the Gulf than in any other region of the world.

Through the construction of HMS Jufair, and thanks to the generosity of the Kingdom of Bahrain, we will create a permanent presence in the region, the first such facility east of Suez since 1971, with more British warships, aircraft and personnel deployed on operations in the Gulf than in any other part of the world.

At the same time, a regional land training hub in Oman is establishing a permanent British army presence in the region. And I am delighted to announce that Saif Sareea 3 will take place in Oman in 2018 – the largest UK-Omani exercise for 15 years.

We will also go further in deepening our defence co-operation through a new Strategic Partnership between the UK and the GCC, supporting the development of your defence capacity and capability, including for humanitarian operations and crisis response planning.

As part of this we will establish a new British Defence Staff in Dubai to co-ordinate our regional activities and, here in Bahrain, we will embed a dedicated military officer with the Ministry of Interior bomb disposal unit to provide bomb scene management support and training.

We will establish a new Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism and Border Security and a new National Security Dialogue at GCC level to protect critical national infrastructure, facilitate faster intelligence sharing on suspected foreign terrorist fighters and implement traveller screening systems to detect terrorists attempting to pass through any GCC airport.

And because we know that our enemies are increasingly using the internet against us, we will use our expertise in cyber security technologies to build our resilience, and that of our international partners.

So we are appointing world-leading cyber experts with extensive backgrounds in delivering cyber security in the UK to provide focused advice to Gulf States on developing your own capacity – as well as a new Cyber Industry Representative based in the region who will build links between cyber sectors in the UK and the Gulf.

In all of these ways, I am determined that the UK will be at the forefront of a wider Western effort to step up our defence and security partnership. Not just to provide greater stability and security to the region but also to protect the rules-based order that has been so fundamental to our shared prosperity.

When I think of the growth of this region over the past 50 years, from the transformation of Dubai to the position of the Gulf as the UK’s third largest export market, I never forget that the bedrock of this prosperity and stability has been the relationship between the Gulf and the West.

Now, in this period of uncertainty, is the time to recommit to this relationship. That is why I am here – to signal my commitment to this relationship and to build on the foundations of our continued partnership in security and prosperity for decades to come.

Your prosperity is our prosperity

For just as Gulf security is our security, so your prosperity is also our prosperity.

Already the Gulf is a special market for the United Kingdom. Last year alone, trade between the UK and GCC was worth more than £30 billion.

At the same time Gulf investment in the UK is helping to regenerate cities from Aberdeen to Teeside, and from Manchester to London.

I am determined that we should do everything possible to build on this and elevate our trade and investment to an even more ambitious level.

So I will continue the work that the UK has been leading over the past 3 years to make London one of the great capitals of Islamic finance anywhere in the world. And as Britain leaves the European Union so we intend to take a leap forward, to look outwards and seek to become the most committed and most passionate advocate of free trade in the world.

For free trade makes us all richer. It creates jobs. It increases investment. It improves productivity. It transforms living standards and creates opportunities for all of our citizens.

And nowhere is that more important than here with our friends and allies in the Gulf.

So first, I am delighted that we agreed yesterday to set up a new Joint Working Group to examine how we can unblock remaining barriers to trade and take steps to further liberalise our economies for the benefit of our mutual prosperity.

For example, we have just reached a new agreement with Saudi Arabia to allow British businesses to obtain 5-year multiple entry visas for the first time, creating new opportunities for more bilateral business. And we have agreed that in March next year, the UK will host an event on Gulf national transformation and economic diversification plans at the Mansion House – for centuries, a home of finance and trade at the heart of the City of London.

These steps are exactly the sort of measures that we can pursue together to advance everything that is possible from business and trade for the benefit of all of our economies and therefore all of our citizens.

Second, I can confirm that the UK will take part in Dubai’s Expo 2020 continuing the tradition started in Britain with The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations in Hyde Park in 1851.

Dubai 2020 will offer an enormous commercial opportunity. There will be over 180 nations taking part with more than 25 million visitors expected – from the world’s top business leaders to its biggest investors. It is an opportunity which I am determined we should seize together.

And third, I want these talks at official level to pave the way for an ambitious trade arrangement for when the UK has left the EU. And I want us to be imaginative about the scale and reach of this.

I want us to explore whether in this dynamic and diverse market, we could forge a new trade arrangement for the whole of the Gulf area.

I want to leave no-one in any doubt about the scale of my ambition or the extent of my determination to establish the strongest possible trading relationships between the UK and the Gulf.

Building societies that work for all

Just as we take every possible step to break down the barriers that are restricting our trade and prosperity; it is also important that we continue the work to bring our peoples together and to ensure that the benefits of greater prosperity are shared by all.

In Britain I have talked about the need to create a country that works for everyone.

In doing so, I have set out Britain’s great global opportunity to lead the way in managing the unintended negative forces of globalisation so that large segments of our society are not left behind; and so we restore trust between citizens and institutions.

Just as we face some major economic and social challenges in the West, so in your own economies you also face the challenge of helping to secure jobs and opportunities for your peoples.

We all recognise that there is some way to go before we can say that these economies really work for everyone. But I have been encouraged by recent economic and social reforms you have taken forward and by the bold vision set out by all of the Gulf States for more fundamental and lasting change, most recently with Saudi Arabia’s vision for 2030.

We in the UK are determined to continue to be your partner of choice as you embed international norms and see through the reforms which are so essential for all of your people.

And this is only possible because the strength of the relationship between our countries, and the respect that we have for each other, enables us to speak frankly and honestly as friends.

Together we can meet the challenges of these changing times and secure greater prosperity and security. But to do so will require more than an occasional meeting or a visit every few years. It will require a strengthening of relationships between our countries at every level.

So I look forward to the next chapter of the Manama Dialogue run by the UK’s International Institute for Strategic Studies which the Foreign Secretary will attend later this week.

This vital strategic relationship between the UK and the Gulf – a partnership steeped in so much history and so full of potential for our future – now demands even more concentrated efforts.

That is why I want to continue the hugely positive discussions we are having this week in this first ever UK-GCC dialogue at leader level.

I am delighted that you have agreed to make this an annual event. And I look forward to welcoming you to London next year.

Conclusion

In the face of some of the greatest challenges to our security and our prosperity, we will succeed together. We will succeed through our continued commitment to the rules-based order on which our prosperity has been built. And we will succeed by deepening our security co-operation, expanding our trade and working harder than ever to build economies and societies that work for everyone.

I believe there has never been a more important moment for us to get this right. And under my leadership, Britain will play its full part in delivering on that vision.

Baroness Anelay – 2016 Speech on Human Rights

Below is the text of the speech made by Baroness Anelay, the Minister of State for the Commonwealth, on 8 December 2016.

Introduction

Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, distinguished guests, colleagues. Welcome to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It is a pleasure to see so many of you here tonight.

The theme of this year’s UN Human Rights Day is ‘stand up for someone’s human rights’. It is more relevant this year than ever, because all around the world people’s human rights are under threat every single day. Whether it is through a squeeze on civil society space, a stifling of public debate or free speech, or a ban on freedom of assembly: it all means the same thing: our human rights are at risk. A short while ago, Hannah who helps me with all my human rights work, asked me what human rights mean to me. Human rights are the right to be yourself without fear of prosecution or persecution, because that runs a theme across everything that makes human beings who they are and who they can be.

Importance of civil society

That is why the role of civil society is so important to ensure that human rights can be both promoted, and where they do exist, preserved. It is also why this year’s theme is so relevant to our work here in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, with our focus on civil society and democracy. I share the Foreign Secretary’s belief that human rights, vital in themselves, are also good for the security, prosperity and development of countries around the world. If the Foreign Secretary were here today – as he would very much like to have been – he would tell you how much he personally values civil society as the mechanism through which all citizens can exercise their freedoms and make their voices heard.

Today I would like to talk to you about the work that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is doing to support civil society, and our commitment to promote and defend human rights around the world.

Work of FCO

Many of you are regular visitors to this building and may have attended some of our recent events – such as our ground breaking conference in October on freedom of religion or belief as a bulwark against extremism, or last month’s Week of Women events. Some of you were with us just this week for the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery; or at Australia House for the event we co-hosted an event on the Abolition of the Death Penalty. Those are just a few examples of the human rights work we do here in London.

Overseas, our Embassies and High Commissions are also working on human rights every day. Whether it is supporting organisations that defend human rights, lobbying host governments or debating rules in international fora, our diplomats put human rights at the heart of everything they do. They promote and defend human rights not just because it is the right thing to do, but because it is integral to our national interest and our international reputation.

Their efforts are making a real and positive impact – for example, in helping to create the Human Rights Council’s first ever mechanism to combat violence and discrimination against LGBT communities – that was crucial work they did. When that mandate was challenged at the UN General Assembly, our diplomats helped rally support around the world, to ensure that challenge was defeated, as it should be.

Our work with the UN is crucial, and the UK has been a member of the Human Rights Council for 8 of the last 10 years. I was delighted that earlier this autumn we were re-elected last month to serve a further 3-year term.

Traditional diplomacy like this is still highly effective but we are also moving with the times and adapting how we promote human rights and democracy. Today, that means harnessing traditional and social media channels to get our messages across. They are enabling us to reach some of the most hostile and least democratic corners of our world. An example of this media diplomacy is our support via social media to the UN’s “16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence”, which concludes on Human Rights Day. Naturally, we all know that we need more than 16 days to achieve our goals. Our commitment to promote human rights is for the long term.

Civil society space

I mentioned earlier that one of our current priorities is to counter the “shrinking of civil society space” we are seeing happening around the world. It is a problem that has been on the rise for some time: our last 2 annual Human Rights Reports both noted the alarming rise of anti-NGO legislation and other practices that stifle basic human rights, such as public debate and freedom of assembly. The evidence is clear that shrinking civil society space harms a country’s stability, economic prospects and wider social development.

One example of where we are seeing this is Egypt. I am concerned that the new law on non-governmental organisations passed by the Egyptian Parliament on 29 November will be used to prevent Egyptians from contributing to their country’s future, and will create obstacles for international support for Egypt. At a time of economic hardship, Egypt needs civil society more than ever before, and I hope Egypt accepts the UK’s friendly offer of support.

Human rights defenders

In this context of shrinking space for civil society, the work of human rights defenders has never been more important than it is now. In their efforts to stand up for the human rights of others, they exemplify the theme of this year’s Human Rights Day as well as the wider principles and values of democracy and the rule of law. They deserve our support and protection and they are going to be the focus of our social media activity on Human Rights Day this year. You’ll be able to see some of our clips being played in the background tonight.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office works with human rights defenders around the world, sharing information with them and learning from them. We hugely value their courage and dedication. They are a crucial dimension of the projects that we support. This year we are funding 129 human rights projects in over 60 countries through our Magna Carta Fund for Human Rights and Democracy, and that fund is reaching some of the harder to reach communities, who are benefiting from that. But we know we can learn how to do more. Since 2014 the Fund has supported 9 NGO-led projects focused specifically on the work of human rights defenders.

Colombia, which I visited earlier this year, remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for human rights defenders. We are running a project to open up dialogue between human rights defenders, local and national government, and the international community. It aims to foster a common understanding of the many challenges they face, and of the potential solutions.

We are also investing in the next generation of human rights defenders, through awarding 60 Chevening scholarships for postgraduate studies in human rights. Our scholars are selected for their academic talent and their future leadership potential, and we are confident they will be a force for good when they return home. As I travel the world for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, it is always a joy to be able to meet our Chevening scholars and see the work they are achieving. They tell me how the opportunity offered to them is making a difference on issues of human rights in their country.

Conclusion

An active civil society is the hallmark of a mature society; a healthy society: one that is open to challenge and able to protect the rights of its citizens. Governments should open the space for civil society, not close it down. They should commend human rights defenders – not condemn them.

That is our message from across the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, that we will continue to promote, at home and abroad. This Human Rights Day, let’s all stand up for human rights.

Thank you for working with us.

Keir Starmer – 2016 Speech at Bloomberg

Below is the text of the speech made by Keir Starmer, the Shadow Secretary of State for Brexit, on 13 December 2016.

I would like to thank Bloomberg for hosting this speech today.

At this time of year, it is natural to reflect.

To look back on the year that has passed and to look forward to the year ahead.

Years that are so full of significance that the year itself becomes a shorthand for a set of events are rare.

But there can be no doubt that 2016 will go down as one of the truly defining years of the 21st century.

Two years ago today – on 13 December 2014 – I was in St Pancras Church opposite Euston Station.

I was speaking to hundreds of Labour Party members, having just been selected to succeed Frank Dobson as Labour’s candidate for my home constituency of Holborn & St Pancras.

How different the world looked then.

Is it any wonder that we are still attempting to understand the world as it has now become and how we got to here?

But the real challenge is not just to interpret the past but to chart a path towards the future.

And that is my task for today.

Coming here to Bloomberg to deliver a speech on Britain and the European Union might be considered to be tempting fate.

When David Cameron spoke here in January 2013 he decided – as was so often the case – to put short-term political considerations ahead of the national interest.

My speech today will be guided by a different lodestar – our country’s interest.

I want to talk about how Labour should respond to Brexit in the national interest.

First, the context.

The Labour Party campaigned to stay in the EU.

I campaigned to stay in the EU.

The vote was to leave.

A high turnout.

A relatively close result.

But a clear result.

Yes, there were half-truths and untruths told in the campaign – none more egregious than the promise of £350 million a-week for our NHS that was daubed on the Vote Leave bus.

Yes, the tone of the referendum was deeply divisive, with social consequences that we all have a duty to tackle.

But we had a referendum and we have a clear result.

Had it gone the other way, those of us who passionately campaigned for Remain would have expected the result to be accepted and respected.

And that cuts both ways.

Now we face an uncertain future.

The first step is for the Prime Minister to distil the diverse and divergent views within her own party into a model of Brexit that can be negotiated with the EU.

I understand what a difficult position the Prime Minister is in.

Her predecessor, leading a government in which she served as Home Secretary, oversaw one of the greatest derelictions of duty of a British government in modern times.

The decision not to undertake any preparations whatsoever for a vote to leave has left the country without a plan and the government without direction.

The stakes could not be higher and the risks of getting this wrong should not be underestimated.

The Prime Minister must embark on the most difficult and complicated negotiations this country has undertaken since the end of the Second World War.

The outcome will determine not just our place in Europe but also our place in the world.

The role of the opposition is crucial.

This is not business as usual.

Setting out what Labour would do in 2020 does not suffice.

This is real opposition in real time.

By 2020, we will be living in a different world.

So how should Labour approach the task?

Some have argued that Labour should adopt the stance taken by the Liberal Democrats.

Frustrate the process: vote against the triggering of Article 50, block the road and somehow turn the clock back to 22 June this year.

Insofar as those advocating this course of action fear that in exiting the EU we risk becoming isolated, abandoning our values of tolerance and damaging our economy, I can understand the plea.

But it is the wrong response for three reasons.

First, as a matter of principle, no serious political party can claim to accept and respect the outcome of the referendum and in the next breath say that it will seek to prevent the Prime Minister from even starting the Article 50 negotiations.

A short point; but an important one.

Second, any political party with an ambition simply to frustrate the process cannot unify or heal the country.

Since I was appointed to my current role, I have travelled all over the UK – including to Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

I have met groups and individuals, held public events, talked to businesses large and small and discussed Brexit with different political parties and leaders.

From this, the evidence is clear: As a society we are more divided now than at any time in my life.

The divide is deep and, in some instances, it is bitter.

The surge in hate crime across the country and the reaction to the High Court judges who delivered judgment in the Article 50 case are testament to this.

In some London constituencies, 75% of those voting in the referendum voted to Remain.

Yet in other areas the precise opposite is the case.

Last Friday, I was in the Midlands, where in some areas 75% of those voting voted to leave.

A new fracture in politics has emerged.

And it is real.

The role of any responsible government ought to be to repair the breach.

Bring the country back together.

Unify.

But from the start, the Prime Minister has only had a message for one side of the divide.

The Conservative Party failed to act in the national interest by not planning for Brexit.

And this Conservative Prime Minister has set aside the national interest once again by serving the interests of just one side of the divide.

It is a double dereliction of duty.

Extrapolating the view of a group within the 52%, who were seriously concerned about freedom of movement and immigration, the Prime Minister has issued a ‘loud and clear’ warning that control over immigration will be prioritised over jobs, the economy and living standards.

I’m not going to shy away from the question of immigration, or to suggest that it was not a powerful factor in the referendum debate and outcome.

But by clinging to the discredited promise to get immigration into the tens of thousands, the Prime Minister is raising Brexit expectations which cannot be fulfilled without seriously harming our economy and public services.

Most reasonable people expect that the government should aim both for economic security and for the fair management of migration.

Not that it would sacrifice jobs and living standards to make arbitrary reductions in immigration.

Pursuing Brexit in the partisan interest might make Tory party management easier in the short run.

But as David Cameron could tell Theresa May: stray too far from the national interest, and you will be found out in the end.

The Prime Minister’s approach is also alienating the 48% of voters who voted to remain in the EU.

They feel increasingly despondent and despairing.

The government is treating them as if they voted themselves out of their own future.

They did no such thing.

And no party that proceeds against our economic interests in such a divisive way deserves to govern for long.

The government should be negotiating in the national interest, pulling the 52% and the 48% together, imagining and striving for a future that works for the 100%.

But those who advocate frustrating the Article 50 process are making the same mistake.

The Liberal Democrats hold out the false promise to the 48% of being able to frustrate the process.

But what have they got to say to the 52%?

Absolutely nothing.

How can their stance unify the country?

It can’t.

And Labour should not fall into the same trap.

A party that can only speak to and for half a nation cannot heal the rift in our society.

A party that can only speak to and for half a nation does not deserve to govern.

A party that can only speak to and for half a nation cannot forge a bold inclusive vision of the future capable of working for everyone.

The same is true of UKIP’s approach to Brexit.

Immediate withdrawal, without even bothering to negotiate a deal.

The hardest of hard Brexits.

Not only would this be deeply divisive – ignoring the 48% and many more besides – it would be disastrous for our economy, for jobs and for working class communities across the country.

That brings me to the third reason why Labour should not set its sights simply on frustrating the Article 50 process.

That is because to do so would mean walking away from the bigger battle that we must fight.

As we stand on the brink of profound change, it is clear that there are two versions of our future that could be negotiated.

The first is a future that tears us apart from our EU partners.

Standing outside and shut off from the European market of 500 million people who could buy our products and services.

Reverting to World Trade Organisation rules, which as the CBI have said “would do serious and lasting damage to the UK economy and those of our trading partners”.

A global race to the bottom which would not only put our economy and jobs at risk, but which would also abandon our shared scientific, educational and cultural endeavours with the EU.

So-called ‘Hard’ Brexit.

The second version of our future is a version where we exit the EU but build a new and strong relationship with our EU partners based on the principles of co-operation, collaboration and mutual benefit.

A future which preserves our ability to trade in goods and services with our biggest market of 500 million people.

A future that values joint scientific, educational and cultural work with our EU partners, and maintains our status as a global scientific superpower.

A future that guarantees our continued co-operation in the fight against organised crime and terrorism.

A future which allows the UK to retain its leading position in the world, influencing and contributing to developments across Europe and beyond.

The battle between these two versions of our future is the battle of our times.

It will be fought out over the next few years.

Labour needs to be leading that battle.

As the opposition, we need to be fighting the battle for the future of Britain.

If we do not, the chance to shape the future of our country will be lost.

Future generations will not forgive us for such a dereliction of duty.

But accepting and respecting the referendum result is not the end of the process; it is the beginning.

The referendum answered the question of what we should do, but provided no answer to how we should do so.

That question was not on the ballot paper on 23rd June.

It was not in the Conservative Party manifesto.

And it was not addressed by Theresa May before she became Prime Minister.

But it is the now the most pressing question Britain has faced for generations.

So what does fighting for the right version of our future entail?

Let me start with trade.

A good deal of ink has been spilt in the last few months on the finer distinctions of the single market and the customs union.

I’m not sure how much clarity that has provided.

So let me attempt to put Labour’s position succinctly by focussing on function not form.

Put simply, Labour will push for a Brexit model which maintains and protects our ability successfully to trade goods and deliver services with and to the EU.

That means:

A model that ensures continued tariff-free trade for UK businesses with the EU

A model that ensures that any new regulatory frameworks do not add bureaucratic burdens or risk harmful divergence from the EU market.

A model that protects the competitiveness of our services and manufacturing sectors; and

A model that ensures that existing protections at work provided by the EU are maintained.

These tests complement the aims set out by John McDonnell earlier this year and set a blueprint against which the government’s endeavours can be measured.

Significantly, the Government has provided far less clarity about its approach.

It has veered between a hard, extreme Brexit and some other undefined, vaguer form of Brexit.

The Prime Minister’s conference speech outlined the former: a UK out of any EU rules based systems altogether.

Necessarily isolated and detached.

When I visited Brussels shortly afterwards, it was clear this had been received by our EU colleagues as the Prime Minister wanting to take the UK out of the single market, out of the customs union and adopting the stance of a remote third party to the EU.

Hence the description, “Hard Brexit”.

Contrast that with the tone struck by the Business Secretary Greg Clark when he announced Nissan’s welcome investment in Sunderland.

We were told that the Government had given private assurances to Nissan that the UK would seek to achieve ‘continued access’ to the single market ‘without tariffs and without bureaucratic impediments’.

Amid those two very different visions of Brexit we have had a range of contradictory messages from Cabinet Members, as well as leaks, hints and Boris Johnson’s never ending running commentary.

Given the complexity of the issues before us and the deliberate lack of planning by the Cameron government, it is perhaps not surprising that we have this level of chaos and confusion.

But it needs to end now.

That is why Labour’s victory last week in securing a commitment from the government to publish a plan before invoking Article 50 was so important.

During the debate last week, I set out five tests for the plan to satisfy:

Does it end uncertainty surrounding the Government’s position on fundamental issues such the access to the single market, the customs union and transitional arrangements?

Does it include sufficient detail to allow the Brexit select committee and other relevant Parliamentary bodies to carry out their scrutiny functions effectively?

Does it enable the Office of Budget Responsibility to do its job properly in assessing the economic impact of Brexit?

Does it include sufficient detail to allow the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to be assured that their particular and specific concerns are being addressed?

Will it help build a national consensus on Brexit?

A late vague plan will not do.

And I have put the government on notice that if no meaningful plan emerges, Labour will seek to amend any Article 50 Bill brought forward early next year.

Anyone who thinks that the government has been handed a blank cheque is very much mistaken.

Let me now turn to freedom of movement.

If Labour has the ambition to bring the 52% and the 48% together and to build a national consensus on Brexit, we have to recognise that changes to the way freedom of movement rules operate in the UK have to be part of the Brexit negotiations.

When I was Shadow Immigration Minister I spent months visiting every region of the UK to listen to views on immigration.

I know how important the issue is to many voters.

I know that any party that seeks to govern needs to listen to their concerns and come up with adequate and appropriate responses.

No comprehensive approach to Brexit or response to the referendum result can ignore the issue of freedom of movement.

As Len McCluskey recently said:

“There is no doubt that concerns about the impact of the free movement played a significant part in the referendum result, particularly in working-class communities…We are well past the point where [this] issue can be ignored”.

Labour needs a bold and ambitious response.

The rules must change.

And our new relationship with the EU will have to be one which is based on fair migration rules and the reasonable management of migration.

If Brexit forces us to confront the appalling and enduring skills gap in the UK, that is a good thing.

If Brexit forces us to confront low pay exploitation, that is also a good thing.

But the status quo is not an option.

Labour’s response must, of course, be driven by our values.

As President Obama recently said, the rapidly changing nature of:

“….politics in all of our countries is going to require us to manage technology and global integration…in a way that makes people feel more control, that gives them more confidence in their future, but does not resort to simplistic answers or divisions of race or tribe, or crude nationalism”.

The Labour Party and the wider Labour movement have always been at the forefront of fighting discrimination and building a fairer, more equal society.

Labour recognises that without the hard work and skill of migrants our public services, our businesses and our economy would suffer.

But we have also always been the party that values strong, cohesive communities.

It was striking that the referendum results showed the areas in the country with the highest levels of immigration voted most strongly to Remain.

But the areas with the highest pace of change voted most strongly to Leave.

That tells me that the British people are open and tolerant; but that they also expect change to be managed, rather than simply allowing the free market to rip through communities.

This is not to pretend that arguing for changes to freedom of movement will not make a deal on single market access harder.

It will.

But in the negotiations to come, it is incumbent on the government to fight for the fullest possible market access and reasonable management of migration.

We should demand nothing less.

But our new relationship with the EU has to go beyond an economic argument and protecting our ability to trade in goods and services – vital though they are.

Underpinning everything we have done with our European partners since the war have been shared values – British values.

Of peace.
Of co-operation.
Of collaboration.
The rule of law.
Human rights.
Shared security and safety.

As we forge a new future outside the EU, it is vital that we re-assert these values and use them to guide us through the turbulent times ahead.

Labour must argue for a bold, progressive domestic policy post-Brexit.

It is true – as many of us argued during the referendum campaign – that EU legislation has been a driver of progressive UK policy in areas such the environment, consumer rights and employment rights.

Protecting these gains is essential.

Particularly since some Conservative MPs have already signalled an intention to use the Great Repeal Bill as an opportunity to water down or erode these vital rights and standards.

But defending the status quo should never be the summit of Labour’s ambitions.

Enshrining rights in our law is important, but we should also pursue more progressive, more ambitious policies than those enshrined in EU law.

Not to match EU standards but to use Labour values to go beyond them.

And, in doing so, to seek to address some of the underlying causes of the division in our society.

So to conclude.

Many of the certainties and policy assumptions we have made for more than four decades are now up for grabs.

That is why the role of the opposition is so important right here; right now.

The future of Britain is being decided and Labour will be at the centre of it.

Respecting the result.

Fighting for a confident and outward looking country and a co-operative, collaborative and values-led version of our future.

Bringing a fractured country back together.

Responding to Brexit in the national interest.

That is Labour’s task.

Sarah Olney – 2016 Winning Speech at Richmond Park By-Election

Below is the text of the speech made by Sarah Olney following her by-election victory in Richmond Park on 2 December 2016.

Let me start by thanking the other candidates for a hard-fought campaign – and to Zac Goldsmith in particular, I wish you well and assure you that I will continue your fight against the expansion of Heathrow.

I also would like to thank the returning officer, the staff that have worked so hard today and yesterday and of course the police. I want to thank my amazing campaign team led by James Lillis and the thousands of volunteers who have taken time to support me over the course of the campaign. I want to thank my family and friends for the wonderful support they’ve given me – particularly my husband Ben and our children. I want to thank our leader Tim Farron, and all the other party members who could not have been more supportive. And I’d like to thank the Greens, More United, the Women’s Equality Party and all the other people beyond the Lib Dems who have supported me in this campaign.

A year and a half ago, I wasn’t involved in politics. I wasn’t a member of a political party. I’d never been involved in a political campaign. I’d never thought about being a politician. But I knew I was a Liberal – I believed in openness, tolerance, compassion, working with our neighbours at home and around the world – and when I saw what happened at the General Election and I felt I had to get involved.

I think a lot of people in this community had the same feeling this summer. Richmond Park is full of people like me who felt that something was going wrong. That the politics of anger and division were on the rise. That the liberal, tolerant values we took for granted were under threat. We were seeing the UKIP vision for Britain in the ascendancy – intolerant, backward-looking, divisive; just as we see it in America and across Europe.

Well today we have said no. We will defend the Britain we love. We will stand up for the open, tolerant, united Britain that we believe in. The people of Richmond Park and North Kingston have sent a shockwave through this Conservative Brexit Government. And our message is clear: we do not want a ‘hard Brexit’; we do not want to be pulled out of the Single Market; and we will not let intolerance, division and fear win.

Boris Johnson – 2016 Speech on the UK’s Policy in the Gulf

Below is the text of the speech made by Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, in Bahrain on 9 December 2016.

It is a great honour to be speaking here at this Manama dialogue in this 200th anniversary year of the friendship between Britain and Bahrain.

I have just come from an audience with His Majesty King Hamad during which we hailed the strength of a friendship that has been unbroken, and that was inaugurated in 1816 by one Captain William Bruce, who rejoiced in the title of British Resident in the Gulf.

In between chasing slavers and harrying pirates he discovered that the milk from the local cows was a cure for smallpox.

As he said: “Of the truth of it I have not the smallest doubt. I have asked some 40 or 50 persons” which strikes me as a pretty solid piece of medical research.

Perhaps lured by this magic milk the British came in growing numbers to the region until 1861 when the UK and Bahrain signed a “treaty of perpetual peace and friendship” and through two world wars assisted by all sorts of formalities of friendship and fealty the relationship progressed until 1968 and then something went wrong. Not here. Not in the Gulf. But in London.

And so, Ladies and Gentlemen, I want us tonight to drag our eyes back from this splendid dinner to a less opulent scene – to Britain in January 1968, a nation in the grip of a freezing winter with debts so bad that we were dependent – as Harold Wilson put it – on the mercy of the gnomes of Zurich (apologies to any gnomes for his political incorrectness).

A Britain where the snow was so deep that kids couldn’t get to school; the Beatles were on the verge of breaking up and the national self-confidence had sunk like mercury in the thermometer and I want to take you into that Cabinet room where two powerful figures were battling over the direction – the whole orientation – of the country.

On the one side there was Roy Jenkins, the urbane Chancellor of the Exchequer, with his frog-like beam who yearned to take Britain into what was then called the European Common Market, even though the UK had already been rejected twice by “nos amis” and in the other corner there was the colourful and brilliant Foreign Secretary George Brown, the man who gave the euphemism “tired and emotional” to the English language.

A man who once went up to a lovely scarlet clad creature at an embassy soiree in Peru and asked for the honour of dancing a waltz and was rebuffed on three grounds. The first was that he was drunk, the second was that this was not a waltz but the Peruvian national anthem and the third was that his interlocutor was the Cardinal Archbishop of Lima.

Those were the two adversaries, Roy Jenkins and George Brown, and the argument went on in the Cabinet for 7 consecutive meetings, breaking sometimes for only a brief meal, lasting a total of 36 hours.

And what was that argument about? It was about Britain’s role in the Gulf, and everywhere East of Suez; and whether the country, my country, could any longer afford it. Roy Jenkins said that British overseas expenditure was already £381 million a year (less than we give today in overseas aid to some countries these days) and he said this spending had to be cut back.

George Brown came back strongly. Yes, Europe was important, he accepted, but so was the rest of the world. And he made the key point that military and political partnerships went hand in hand with trade, and economic growth. On and on went the debate in tones that contemporaries described as “icy”, “bad-tempered”, “furious” until I am afraid Harold Wilson, the Prime Minister, summed up in favour of the defeatists and the retreatists.

George Brown lost; the flag came down; the troops came home, from Borneo, from the Indian Ocean, from Singapore, and yes from the Gulf and we in the UK lost our focus on this part of the world.

And so tonight I want to acknowledge that this policy of disengagement East of Suez was a mistake and in so far as we are now capable, and we are capable of a lot, we want to reverse that policy at least in this sense: that we recognise the strong historical attachment between Britain and the Gulf, and more importantly, we underscore the growing relevance and importance of that relationship in today’s uncertain and volatile world.

We are here at the Manama dialogue – and I am following a stellar series of emissaries including the Prince of Wales and the Prime Minister to make a strategic point that was symbolised by the GCC inviting our Prime Minister, Theresa May to be guest of honour at their summit. That any crisis in the Gulf is a crisis for Britain – from day one; that your security is our security and that we recognise the wisdom of those who campaigned for a policy of engagement east of Suez – that your interests military, economic, political – are intertwined with our own. Of course I don’t believe we can run the Union Jack Flag back up on every outpost around the world even if anyone else wanted us to do so – and they don’t – but we are reopening HMS Jufair, a naval support facility here in Bahrain, which His Majesty the King said he remembered from his childhood before our disengagement.

We are renewing military ties with old friends: Britain’s Gulf Defence Staff is being located in Dubai. The Al-Minhad air base in the UAE provides a hub for the RAF. In Oman, the British Army is establishing a Regional Land Training centre – one of only four in the world – and creating a permanent present in the Sultanate.

We cooperate intensively with our friends in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere on counter-terrorism, in sharing military technology, in what is still a highly dangerous geopolitical landscape where the spores of terrorism can be incubated and are incubated not just in the Middle East, but in our own country as well.

And it is absolutely right that we should so share and cooperate because our interests and our problems are shared.

That is why Britain has in total 1,500 military personnel in the region and 7 warships, more than any other Western nation apart from the US. We are spending £3 billion on our military commitments in the Gulf over the next 10 years and that is deepening a partnership that is stronger than with any other group of nations in the world outside NATO.

Together with our allies in the Gulf, we are fighting together to defeat Daesh in Iraq and Syria, and we are winning. The RAF is the second biggest contributors to the airborne strike missions after the Americans. And together we have helped dramatically to reduce the footprint of that terrorist organisation.

We are steadily exposing the absurdity of their pretensions to be a caliphate. And of course we all know the immensity of the challenges we face in this region. Helping – when stability is finally restored – Iraq to rebuild and unify that country. And we all know, as the Prime Minister said only a few days ago, that we must be clear-eyed and vigilant about the role of Iran.

And yes, I believe that it was worth spending 12 years to negotiate the JCPOA, the nuclear agreement with Iran. I think it was a genuine achievement of diplomacy that has helped to make the world a safer place. And I think we must build on this foundation and try to develop a better relationship with Tehran. But that can only happen if Iran plays by the same rules, and exercises its influence by diplomacy and by dialogue.

And so when you look at what is happening in Yemen – where the hand of Iran is clearly visible – I of course understand Saudi concerns about security and the paramount importance of Saudi Arabia securing itself from bombardment by the Houthis.

But I must also share my profound concern – which I’m sure is universal in this room – about the present suffering of the people of Yemen and I think we can all agree on this key point: that force alone will not bring about a stable Yemen. And that is why we in London have been working so hard with all our partners to drive that political process forwards and the same point – about the need above all for a political solution – can be made about every other conflict and struggle in this region.

Yes, it may very well be true that after months of barbaric bombing Bashar al-Asad and his Russian and Iranian sponsors are on the point of capturing the last of rebel-held Aleppo – perhaps within a matter of days, we can’t know. But if and when that happens it will assuredly be a victory that turns to ashes, it is but a Pyrrhic victory.

Remember that two thirds of Syria is currently outside Asad’s control, and that he is still besieging 30 other areas containing 571,000 tormented inhabitants. Surely to goodness, there can be no lasting peace in Syria, if that peace is simply re-imposed by a man who has engendered such hatred among millions of his own people.

And that’s why there must be a political solution in which the people of Syria take the lead. Of course we can all work together to try and bring about peace and stability.

But ultimately it must be up to the people of those countries to find the leadership and the solutions from within themselves – to reach out across communities and to build unity with their own new and uplifting national narratives and the best way we can all help, all of us, the whole region is to answer the social and economic challenge to meet the demands of this amazingly young and growing population and what they need is the prospect of an exciting economic future. They need jobs. And it’s here I think there is so much that we can do together.

And I think now is the time for us to recognise the wisdom of those “East of Suez” cabinet members around the table in 1968– to build partnerships and relationships that deliver for all of our constituents whether in the UK or in the Gulf. And now is the time for us in the UK to seize the opportunities of leaving the EU.

And let me stress as I have told so many representatives from the Gulf who have been to see me that though we may be extricating ourselves from the treaties of the European Union we are not leaving Europe. That would be geographically, culturally, physically, intellectually, aesthetically, morally impossible to do. You couldn’t take Britain away from the European continent unless you towed us out into the middle of the Atlantic and tried to shell us, it’s not going to happen.

We are going to be part of Europe we will be part of Europe’s security architecture, we will be there to work for European peace and stability. And by the way, we will still be able to stick up for our friends and partners in the Gulf. But now for the first time since the 1970s we will additionally be able to do new free trade deals and we will be able to build on the extraordinary commercial relationships that already exist between the UK and the Gulf.

You may remember that I used to be Mayor of London. Look at the impact of the Gulf on London. The Shard – which I opened myself, at least twice. The only building in the world that looks as though it is actually erupting through the skin of the planet like the tip of a super-colossal cocktail stick erupting through a gigantic pickled onion. Owned by the Qataris as they own the Olympic village, Harrods, Chelsea Barracks.

The UAE owns the Excel exhibition centre and the Tidal Array, so much of our energy comes from that vital green investment in the Thames estuary. It is thanks to the Gulf that we have such vital pieces of transport infrastructure as the DP World Port. And of course the Emirates cable car, an indispensable mode of transport, thank you very much for that. And do I hear a small murmur of assent there from the audience? It is a little known fact that Kuwait owns City Hall itself. I didn’t know it until today but I’m stunned to find out.

I don’t know whether our Kuwaiti friends want to claim credit for all City Hall’s policies – including the popular cycle superhighways which we are now extending but when you consider that we have 20,000 Gulf students in London and they are very welcome may I say, as are their fees when you think the academic exchanges, the cultural exchanges you can see why London is sometimes called the eighth Emirate. I think I may have made that up myself, but we’re proud of it. And of course we get the ball back over the net in our own modest British way – Brits pay 1.7 million visits to the Gulf every year.

We export colossal and ever growing numbers of Jaguar cars and Land Rovers. Marks and Spencer is here in force. I was told just now we have done a big deal to sell Rolls Royce engines to Gulf Air. And it really is true that for the purposes of some golf bunkers we have managed to export sand to Saudi Arabia. It’s true. And all that adds up to an export market for the UK in the Gulf region worth £20 billion per year, we sell more to the Gulf than any other non-EU export market, second only to the United States.

Almost 50 years since that famous disagreement in the British cabinet, which went the wrong way, I hope that we can conclude this evening that the conversation has ended in a triumphant vindication of George Brown, at least in this sense that Britain is back East of Suez not as the greatest military power on earth, though we certainly pay our share and we certainly have a fantastic capability.

Not as the sole guarantor of peace, although we certainly have a huge role to play. But as a nation that is active in and deeply committed to the region. And I want to stress that this is not just about politics, not just about trade, not just about strategic support. This is about building on and intensifying old friendships. Britain has been part of your story for the last two hundred years, and we will be with you for the centuries to come.

Thank you very much.

Sajid Javid – 2016 Speech on Cornwall

Below is the text of the speech made by Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, in Penhale, Cornwall, on 8 December 2016.

It’s great to be here, many thanks to Joel for the invite.

Thanks to Barclays for hosting us today.

And thank you all for coming along.

I know you’re all busy people with businesses to run.

But this is a very good opportunity for me to tell you what government is up to, and for you to tell me what more we need to do.

Like most of you I’m a businessman at heart.

I’m a relative novice at politics.

I spent the first 20 years of my adult life working in international finance.

Some would say that’s not a good thing.

I remember when I became culture secretary in 2014, some leading lights of the arts world asked “what does this banker know about culture?”

At least I think they said “banker”.

I don’t know if you saw, earlier this week, the new list of Britain’s most and least-trusted professions.

Nurses, doctors and teachers are at the top, the people the public thinks are most likely to tell the truth.

And down at the very bottom, the least-trusted professions included government ministers, politicians generally, and of course bankers!

Three out of three for me!

For my next job, I’m going to become an estate agent.

Joking aside, I know that everyone in this room went into business or politics for the right reasons.

We all want to make things better.

It might mean passing laws or allocating funding that make a difference.

It might mean delivering a service or a product that nobody else can deliver.

We’re all here because we want to serve our communities in the best way we can.

From what I’ve seen today I think that’s particularly true of smaller businesses here in Cornwall.

It’s a place that has a very strong sense of identity and community, and a very real pride in that.

And that’s something I applaud.

The last time I was back in the south west of England was in October, speaking at a business event in Exeter.

And I talked about how all the counties in the south-west of England can achieve even more when they work together on issues that affect all the people who live here.

This seemed to upset a few people, certainly on Twitter, who thought I was talking up some kind of regional assembly idea.

I think the comment that hurt most was “what do you expect from someone who went to university in Devon!”

But the critics couldn’t be more wrong.

Cornwall is a unique place. A very special place.

By far the biggest county in southern England, it has its own history, its own culture, its own needs.

I’ve absolutely no interest in steamrollering Cornwall into some kind of forced regional identity.

The failed vision of a South West Assembly has rightly been consigned to the scrapheap of history, and there it will stay.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Cornwall exists in isolation.

Devon lies just across the Tamar.

The rest of the South West and the United Kingdom lie beyond.

And, while it’s vitally important that we protect and respect the Cornish identity, there are undoubtedly areas in which working across boundaries can bring benefits to the people of this very special county.

In 2016 people live, work and shop across county lines, across national borders even.

Supply chains and customer bases for even the smallest companies can stretch for hundreds or thousands of miles.

Joined-up, strategic thinking can bring huge benefits to employers, employees and the general public alike.

There are plenty of cases where that’s happening already.

Thanks to Devon and Cornwall Police you have some of the lowest crime rates in the country.

Exeter and Plymouth universities operate in both counties too, with numerous projects that help people right across the south west and beyond.

It just shows how locally-led co-operation is much more effective than top-down, Westminster-imposed regional government.

Which is precisely why I’m an enthusiastic supporter of the Cornwall Devolution Deal.

The devolution deal was conceived locally, refined locally and now it’s going to be delivered locally.

It will bring the county closer together and give it a stronger voice when dealing with the wider south west and the rest of the UK.

And, most importantly, it puts power over decisions that affect Cornwall right back where it should be.

In the hands of Cornish people.

That doesn’t mean central government is just leaving Cornwall to get on with it, to sink or swim alone.

We’re still very much on your side.

For starters, we’re guaranteeing funding for European Union projects signed before the UK’s departure from the EU.

You don’t need me to tell you that this move is particularly important for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

The area has an allocation of almost £350 million in the current European Regional Development Fund round, nearly £160 million of which has already been allocated.

This guarantee gives Cornish businesses the certainty they need, allowing you to plan for funding that’s already in place and even apply for further EU funding right up until the moment we leave.

And let me be very, very clear that we WILL be leaving the European Union.

The majority of people in Cornwall voted for it, the majority of people right across the UK voted for it.

There will be no backdoor attempts to remain a member, and certainly no second referendum.

Now, you’re all business leaders.

You know as well as I do that you don’t go into a negotiation with all your cards on the table – at least not if you want a good outcome!

When I worked in finance, I knew that the key to landing the best deal was always having better information.

Knowing the stuff the guys on the other side of the table didn’t.

It gave us leverage, it gave us power and it repeatedly gave us success.

So I can’t give you the inside track on our negotiating position.

We won’t be giving you a running commentary on every twist and turn as the negotiations unfold.

But know this.

We’re going to secure a deal that works for all British businesses.

Large and small, international and local, online and high street, in the service sector, in tourism, in the creative industries, in manufacturing, in fisheries, in farming…

Nobody will be left behind.

Of course, there’s more to life than Brexit.

You might not believe it from reading the papers recently, but it’s true!

So our commitment to Cornwall’s economy goes beyond simply steering you through our departure from the EU.

Over the past few years we’ve invested tens of millions of pounds in Cornwall and Isles of Scilly through Local Growth Deals.

The latest round of funding will be announced shortly, but to see the kind of impact it can make you just have to look at the Newquay Growth Area, which I visited earlier today.

£2 million from the first Local Growth Deal paid for transport improvements that have opened up the enterprise zone and created countless jobs for Cornish people.

In the grand scheme of things it’s a relatively small amount of money.

But thanks to the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) it was carefully targeted exactly where it would make the biggest difference.

And that’s what local growth funding is all about.

Local business leaders working with local political leaders to deliver local economic success

You’ve got a great LEP here in Cornwall.

I know that your brilliant local MPs are really closely involved with it.

And if you’re not already engaging with the LEP I’d urge you to do so.

After all, you understand Cornish business needs far better than any politician or Westminster bureaucrat. But I know there are some things that ALL businesses want and need.

Top of that list is a strong, stable, growing economy.

And that’s exactly what this government has helped give you for nearly 7 years now.

The economy is 14.3 per cent bigger than it was in 2010

The deficit has been cut by two-thirds.

In 2014, we were the fastest growing economy in the G7.

And in ‎2015 only the US did better than us.

But this isn’t just a paper recovery, something of interest only to economists.

It’s changing real lives.

Since 2010, the number of unemployed people in Cornwall has halved.

Nationwide, more people are in work than ever before.

We’ve gone from a record-breaking recession to record-breaking employment.

The number of households in which nobody works has fallen by more than 20%t.

And more than a million private sector businesses have been created, a 20% rise.

We want that success to continue.

So we’re cutting Corporation Tax to 17%, the lowest in the G7.

We’re doubling Small Business Rate Relief and cutting the Business Rates of 900,000 smaller properties.

We’re increasing the Employment Allowance by £1,000, helping half a million businesses.

And we’re helping small businesses secure the funding they need in order to grow, with the British Business Bank supporting more than £3 billion of finance.

Businesses leaders like the people in this room are capable of doing great things.

All you need is the right conditions, the right environment.

And I’m proud to say you’ve got a government that’s totally committed to giving you just that.

Maintaining that success for another six, seven, eight years or more is not going to be easy.

There are storm clouds over the global economy.

There are challenges ahead.

And leaving the European Union will be a momentous change for many businesses in this country.

But we’re here today to talk about moving forward in business.

Not looking back, not pondering what might have been.

So let’s look forwards.

Let’s move forwards.

And let’s work together.

So I don’t want to just stand here and talk at you all afternoon.

I’d much rather hear from you.

The truth is, in this job, it’s very easy to spend too much time stuck in London surrounded by politicians, lobbyists and Civil Servants.

If we’re going to make Brexit work, if we’re going to make LEPs work, if we’re going to maintain Cornwall’s incredible record of success, we can’t just be a government of Westminster navel-gazers.

That’s why this government got behind initiatives like the creation of the Tourism Industry Council.

It gives the people who actually work in the tourism sector a direct line to government.

And it helps us all work together to deliver the change you need.

Nobody knows Cornwall better than you.

Nobody else knows as much as you do about what investment is needed where, about what regulations are causing you problems, about what infrastructure needs updating in order to let the economy grow.

So there’s no point me coming here and just giving you the usual sales pitch for half an hour or more.

I’d rather have a conversation.

I’d rather hear what’s on your minds.

If we talk together we can work together.

And if we work together we can do what we’re all here today to do.

We can build a Cornwall that works for everyone.

Thank you.

Theresa May – 2016 Speech to CBI Annual Conference

theresamay

Below is the text of the speech made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, at the CBI Annual Conference on 21 November 2016.

A week ago, I spoke at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet at the Guildhall and set out Britain’s historic global opportunity – to lead the world in understanding the extent to which some people feel left behind by the forces of capitalism, and embracing a new approach that ensures everyone shares in the benefits of economic growth.

Today, I want to talk about how – by working together – we can seize that opportunity and deliver the change that people want.

But it is not just an opportunity. It is a responsibility too.

For we believe in free markets. They are the means by which we spread opportunity and lift people out of poverty.

We believe in capitalism – the means by which we drive economic growth, putting people into work to provide for their families.

And we believe in business – the entrepreneurs and the innovators who employ millions of people up and down this country – the basis for our prosperity.

The government I lead will always believe in these things.

But I am here today not just to reaffirm these core beliefs, but to say that – if this is what we value – we need to be prepared to adapt and change.

For if we support free markets, value capitalism and back business – and we do – we must do everything we can to keep faith with them.

And with not enough people feeling that they share in the wealth created by capitalism – and with the recent behaviour of a small minority of businesses and business leaders undermining the reputation of the corporate world as a whole – the way to keep that faith is to embrace reform.

To do things differently. To recognise that some people – particularly those on modest to low incomes – people worried about the future of their children and their grandchildren – see these forces working well for a privileged few, but not always for them.

So today, I want to ask you to join me in shaping this new approach and seizing this opportunity.

I want to ask you to work with me to show that the forces of capitalism, globalisation and free trade offer the best hope for the problems facing so many people in our country.

I want you to help me show those who feel let down, left behind or marginalised that we can respond. We can change.

And that together, we can meet this great national moment with a great national effort to seize the opportunities ahead and build a stronger, fairer Britain – a country that works for everyone.

A new approach

For this is a true national moment. The decision of the British people on 23rd June gives us a once-in-a-generation chance to shape a new future for our nation: the chance to build a stronger, fairer country.

That’s the kind of change people voted for – not just to leave the European Union, but to change the way our country works – and the people for whom it works – forever.

And I am determined that we will deliver the change they need.

So we will do things differently. Not carrying on with ‘business as usual’, but opening our minds to new ways of thinking – those of us in government, and those in business too.

For government, it means not just stepping back and leaving you to get on with the job, but stepping up to a new, active role that backs British business and ensures more people in all corners of the country share in the benefits of your success.

For business, it means doing more to spread those benefits around the country, playing by the same rules as everyone else when it comes to tax and behaviour, and investing in Britain for the long-term.

All things that I know the vast majority of businesses do already. Not just by creating jobs, by supporting smaller businesses, training and developing your people, but also by working to give something back to communities and supporting the next generation.

I have no doubt at all about the vital role business plays – not just in the economic life of our nation, but in our society too. But as Prime Minister, I want to support you to do even more.

That is why, when the Chancellor delivers the government’s Autumn Statement on Wednesday, he will lay out an agenda that is ambitious for business and ambitious for Britain.

He will commit to providing a strong and stable foundation for our economy: continuing the task of bringing the deficit down and getting our debt falling so that we can live within our means once again. He will build on the actions that our independent Bank of England has already taken to support our economy. And he will do more to boost Britain’s long-term economic success, setting out how we will take the big decisions we need to invest in our nation’s infrastructure so that we can get the country – and business – moving.

And he will show how we will do everything possible to make the UK outside the EU the most attractive place for businesses to grow and invest.

Leaving the European Union

I know that leaving the European Union creates uncertainty for business. I know that some are unsure about the road ahead or what your future operating environment will look like. And there will certainly be challenges – a negotiation like the one on which we are about to embark cannot be done quickly, or without give and take on both sides.

But there are opportunities too. Opportunities to get out into the world and do new business with old allies and new partners. To use the freedoms that come from negotiating with partners directly, to be flexible, to set our own rules and forge new and dynamic trading agreements that work for the whole UK. Opportunities to become the true global champion of free trade.

And opportunities to demonstrate how a free, flexible, ambitious country like Britain can trade freely with others according to what’s in their own best interests and those of their people.

That is our aim and our ambition. And I am ambitious for Britain.

I believe that if we approach the difficult negotiations to come in the right way, with the right spirit, we can strike a deal that’s right for Britain and right for the rest of Europe too.

And the right approach is not to rush ahead without doing the ground work, but to take the time to get our negotiating position clear before we proceed. It’s not to seek to replicate the deal that any other country has, but to craft a new arrangement that’s right for us and right for Europe – recognising that a strong EU is good for Britain. It’s not to provide a running commentary on every twist and turn, but to acknowledge that businesses and others need some clarity – so where I can set out our plans without prejudicing the negotiation to come, I will.

That’s why I have been able to set out the timetable for triggering Article 50 – before the end of March next year. Why I want an early agreement on the status of UK nationals in Europe and EU nationals here, so that you and they can plan with certainty. And why we have been engaging heavily with businesses over the past few months to understand your priorities and concerns, and why we will continue to do so.

A modern industrial strategy

But while the negotiation to come will be critical, we must not lose sight of the wider message people sent on 23rd June.

And so, we must use this opportunity to build a more prosperous, more equal country – where prosperity is shared and there is genuine opportunity for all.

We have already received massive votes of confidence in Britain’s long-term future from some of the world’s most innovative companies. Nissan’s decision to build 2 next-generation models at its plant in the North East, securing 7,000 jobs. A record £24 billion investment from Softbank in Britain’s future; a £500 million expansion and 3,000 jobs from Jaguar Land Rover; a £200 million investment from Honda, £275 million from GlaxoSmithKline; investment in a new headquarters from Apple; an estimated £1 billion investment and 3,000 new jobs from Google; and this morning Facebook have announced a 50% increase in their workforce in the UK by the end of 2017.

Yet there is more that government can do – not just to encourage businesses to invest in Britain, but to ensure those investments benefit people in every corner of the country.

That’s why one of my first actions as Prime Minister was to establish a new department with specific responsibility for developing a modern Industrial Strategy.

A strategy that will back Britain’s strategic strengths and tackle our underlying weaknesses.

Our strengths are clear. We are an open, competitive, trading economy. We compete with the best in autos, aerospace and advanced engineering. We are breaking new ground in life sciences and new fields like robotics, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing. We are leaders in global professional services from architecture to accountancy from law to consulting.

We’ve world beating universities and the highest research productivity of the top research nations. We have a vibrant creative industry, producing an extraordinary level of talent recognised and respected the world over. And of course we’re leaders in global finance – not just banking, but investment management and insurance too.

But as we celebrate these strengths, so we should also be frank about some of our weaknesses.

We have more Nobel Laureates than any country outside the United States, but all too often great ideas developed here end up being commercialised elsewhere.

We are home to one of the world’s financial capitals, but too frequently fast-growing firms can’t get the patient long-term capital investment they require, and have to sell-out to overseas investors to access the finance they need.

We have truly world class sectors and firms, but overall business and government investment remains lower than our competitors.

We have outstanding firms and clusters in every part of this country, but taken as a whole our economic success is still too unbalanced and focused on London and the south east.

We have gold-standard universities, but we are not strong enough in STEM subjects, and our technical education isn’t good enough.

And while the UK’s recovery since the financial crisis has been one of the strongest in the G7, our productivity is still too low. But if we want to increase our overall prosperity, if we want more people to share in that prosperity, if we want bigger real wages for people, if we want more opportunities for young people to get on, we have to improve the productivity of our economy.

So these are the long-term, structural challenges the Industrial Strategy aims to address. It is not about propping up failing industries or picking winners, but creating the conditions where winners can emerge and grow. It is about backing those winners all the way to encourage them to invest in the long-term future of Britain. And about delivering jobs and economic growth to every community and corner of the country.

That is the ambition – and we need your help to put it into practice. We cannot create a proper industrial strategy without listening to industry and we want to work with you and shape it together. So we will publish a green paper before the end of the year to seek your views before issuing a white paper early in the new year.

Research and development

But today I want to sketch out some of the first steps and spell out some specific things we will do to turn our ambition into reality.

We’re ambitious for Britain to become the global go-to place for scientists, innovators and tech investors. We will continue to welcome the brightest and the best – but can only do so by bringing immigration down to sustainable levels overall so we maintain public faith in the system.

Today, Britain has firms and researchers leading in some of the most exciting fields of human discovery. We need to back them and turn research strengths into commercial success.

That means not only investing more in research and development, but ensuring we invest that money wisely. Supporting technologies and sectors that have the potential to deliver long-term benefits for Britain.

In the last Parliament, despite the deficit we inherited, we protected the basic science budget, even when that meant we had to take difficult decisions to control other spending.

But our competitors aren’t standing still. They’re investing heavily in research and development.

So in the Autumn Statement on Wednesday, we will commit to substantial real terms increases in government investment in R&D – investing an extra £2 billion a year by the end of this Parliament to help put post-Brexit Britain at the cutting edge of science and tech.

A new Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund will direct some of that investment to scientific research and the development of a number of priority technologies in particular, helping to address Britain’s historic weakness on commercialisation and turning our world-leading research into long-term success.

And we will also review the support we give innovative firms through the tax system.

Since 2010 we have made the Research and Development Credit more generous and easier to use – and support has risen from £1 billion to almost £2.5 billion a year.

Now we want to go further, and look at how we can make our support even more effective – because my aim is not simply for the UK to have the lowest corporate tax rate in the G20, but also a tax system that is profoundly pro-innovation.

Start-ups to scale-ups

This is a comprehensive package designed to set us on the path to becoming one of the best places for research and development in the world.

But there is no point having great ideas, great products, great start ups, if you can’t get the investment you need to grow your business here. For while the UK ranks 3rd in the OECD for the number of start-ups we create, we are only 13th for the number that go-on to become scale-up businesses.

I want us to turn our bright start-ups into successful scale-ups by backing them for the long-term. To do this we need to better understand where the barriers are, so I am pleased to announce we will launch a new Patient Capital Review – led by the Treasury – that will examine how we can break down the obstacles to getting long-term investment into innovative firms. The review will be supported by a panel of experts, and I am pleased to announce that Sir Damon Buffini has agreed to chair that panel.

So we are backing the innovators, and backing the long-term investors.

But government can also step up to help drive innovative procurement, particularly from small businesses – just as the United States does so effectively. There, strategic use of government procurement not only spurs innovation in the public sector, it gives new firms a foot in the door. In fact, many of the technologies in your smartphone, from touchscreens to voice recognition, were originally commissioned, not by Apple or Microsoft, but by the US government.

So I can announce today that we will review our Small Business Research Initiative and look at how we can increase its impact and give more innovators their first break. And that Cambridge entrepreneur David Connell will lead the review and report back next year.

Our modern Industrial Strategy will be ambitious for business and ambitious for Britain.

It is a new way of thinking for government – a new approach. It is about government stepping up, not stepping back, building on our strengths, and helping Britain overcome the long-standing challenges in our economy that have held us back for too long.

It’s about making the most of the historic opportunity we now have to signal an important, determined change.

Reforming corporate governance

But just as government needs to change its approach, so business needs to do so too.

For we all know that in recent years the reputation of business as a whole has been bruised. Trust in business runs at just 35% among those in the lowest income brackets.

The behaviour of a limited few has damaged the reputation of the many. And fair or not, it is clear that something has to change.

For when a small minority of businesses and business figures appear to game the system and work to a different set of rules, we have to recognise that the social contract between business and society fails – and the reputation of business as a whole is undermined.

So just as government must open its mind to a new approach, so the business community must too.

That is why we will shortly publish our plans to reform corporate governance, including executive pay and accountability to shareholders, and proposals to ensure the voice of employees is heard in the boardroom.

The UK rightly has a strong reputation for corporate governance – the Cadbury, Greenbury and other reforms, built on the strong foundations of the Companies Act and the Corporate Governance Code, have made the UK a prime location for listing and headquartering.

But we can’t stand still – we must continue to make improvements where these result in better companies and improved confidence in business on the part of investors and the public.

Much can be done by voluntary improvements in practice – in the representation of women on company Boards and in senior positions for example, or in broadening diversity. But where we need to go further we will.

So there will be a green paper later this autumn that addresses executive pay and accountability to shareholders, and how we can ensure the employee voice is heard in the boardroom.

This will be a genuine consultation – we want to work with the grain of business and to draw from what works. But it will also be a consultation that will deliver results.

And let me be clear about some important points.

First, while it is important that the voices of workers and consumers should be represented, I can categorically tell you that this is not about mandating works councils, or the direct appointment of workers or trade union representatives on boards.

Some companies may find that these models work best for them – but there are other routes that use existing board structures, complemented or supplemented by advisory councils or panels, to ensure all those with a stake in the company are properly represented. It will be a question of finding the model that works.

Second, this is not about creating German-style binary boards which separate the running of the company from the inputs of shareholders, employees, customers or suppliers. Our unitary board system has served us well and will continue to do so.

But it is about establishing the best corporate governance of any major economy, ensuring employees’ voices are properly represented in board deliberations, and that business maintains and – where necessary – regains the trust of the public.

There is nothing anti-business about this agenda. Better governance will help companies to take better decisions, for their own long-term benefit and that of the economy overall.

So this is an important task. We will work with you to achieve it, and I know you will rise to the challenge.

Conclusion

This amounts to a big and ambitious agenda: but the times we are living through demand nothing less.

For change is in the air – and when people demand change it is the job of politicians to respond.

But we cannot do so alone. You who employ the people and generate the prosperity on which our country depends, must be part of this endeavour. You who are so often on the frontline of our engagement with the world – whose actions so often project our values in the world – must also play your part.

By joining us to shape this new approach, helping us put it into practice, and embracing the change we need.

Investing in Britain for the long-term, generating wealth and opportunity in every corner of the country, and reforming corporate governance to call out the bad in order to promote the good.

So let us join together and show that we can rise to meet this moment. Let us respond to the public’s demand for change.

Let us restore their faith and prove that capitalism can deliver them a better future. And let us build a stronger, fairer Britain together. Thank you.

Chris Grayling – 2016 Speech on Public Transport in County Council Areas

chrisgrayling

Below is the text of the speech made by Chris Grayling, the Secretary of State for Transport, in Guildford on 7 November 2016.

Introduction

Thank you for inviting me to speak today.

It’s a pleasure to join you.

And it is a particular pleasure to be here to speak about transport.

I make no secret that, before the reshuffle, I let it be known to the Prime Minister that if a vacancy were to become available, I would be happy with a post in transport.

And one reason is because transport is intrinsically local, to an extent that few other parts of government can match.

Transport is, above all, about places and people.

It’s about particular towns and villages,

Their particular roads and bridges; particular stations, ports and airports; and the people who live near them, use them, and depend on them.

In transport, there are no generalities.

No transport policy can ever be divorced from the places and people it is designed to serve.

That is why everyone has a view about transport in their area.

Transport is sometimes controversial.

Often contested.

But always important.

Pragmatism about devolution

Today I’d like to mention some of the things we’re doing to improve transport in county council areas.

But first I’d like to say something about my approach to devolution.

And if I could sum-up that approach in a single word, it would be pragmatism.

I want structures of power, accountability and responsibility that work.

And when I say that, I don’t mean structures that work for the Department for Transport, for Parliament, for transport operators, or even county councils.

I mean structures that work for passengers.

I have a straightforward test for any transport network.

Does it enable people to get where they need to go, safely, quickly, cleanly and affordably?

If so, it is working, and we are succeeding.

But if journeys are beset by congestion, delay, crowding, needless cost, or preventable pollution, then we are not succeeding, and we need to take action.

Now, in some cases, devolution will be part of the solution.

Transport for London is an obvious example.

TfL has been at the forefront of innovation in areas like smart ticketing and cycling.

The devolvement of responsibility for rail services on Merseyside is also working well for passengers.

We are now seeing other metropolitan areas take advantage of the opportunities provided by devolution.

Greater Manchester, for example.

And the West Midlands.

But the devolution we’ve seen for cities might not be the right choice everywhere.

Counties, for example, have different requirements.

Your transport challenges include maintaining extensive local road networks.

Providing rural bus services.

And keeping widely-dispersed populations connected.

In the north-east, areas have not been able to agree on what improvements should be delivered by whom.

So devolution should not be seen as automatically beneficial for every area.

It’s also important to recognise that county councils already hold significant transport powers, and they use them well.

So I welcome any county’s proposal for how things could work even better.

But when we talk about devolution we should do so on the basis of evidence of what’s likely to improve things for passengers and other transport users.

That means the commuter catching his or her daily train to work; the motorist trying to avoid congestion; the truck driver moving freight for a living; the young person on their way to school; or the retired person taking the bus to the high street.

I’m no fan of devolution for devolution’s sake, or of changes that might be attractive from an administrative or political perspective, but that to drivers and passengers look like the endless rearrangement of deckchairs.

The same goes for sub-national transport bodies.

If we are to set up new public bodies, funded by taxpayers, we need very good reasons for doing so.

In several places, we have those reasons.

Bodies such as Transport for the North and Midlands Connect are doing fantastic work, proving the benefits that come from local decision-making.

I am sure bodies like these could be part of the solution in other areas too, even if they are not the answer for every part of the country.

So I am happy to talk devolution with any county council.

But as Transport Secretary, I will never forget that, just like county councils, I am ultimately accountable to the public, particularly the passenger and the everyday transport user.

Investment in local areas

And, sometimes, the best way to get things done is just for the government to stump up the cash.

That’s exactly how, in many areas, we are already making significant, long-overdue improvements.

The Bay Gateway Road in Lancashire, for example.

It was first proposed in 1948.

Lancashire County Council made the case and in 2013 we backed it with over £100 million of government funds.

The road opened to traffic just last week.

It’s the biggest new road to open in the county for decades, giving better access to Morecambe and the Port of Heysham.

Then there’s the new Bedale Bypass in North Yorkshire.

It opened this summer following £30 million of government investment.

It’s reduced congestion in the town centre, improved journey times into the Yorkshire Dales, and provided better access to the Leeming Bar Industrial Estate.

And in Cornwall we’re funding improvements to the A30, meaning that by the spring it will be possible to drive from Central London to Cambourne on dual-carriageway-standard roads for the first time.

In Nottinghamshire there’s the Hucknall Town Centre Improvement Scheme, currently under construction with the government’s support.

It’s going to take traffic out of the town centre, improve local quality of life and increase access to public transport.

And in Suffolk, we’ve provided £150 million for new bridges at Ipswich and Lowestoft.

These are major schemes that will open sites for economic development, improve connectivity and stimulate growth in the region.

Local Enterprise Partnership working well

Yet across the country as a whole, I’ve been impressed by the achievements of the Local Enterprise Partnerships.

They’ve done a great job considering transport in the context of local needs, such as housing, employment and economic development.

Thanks to their work, over 500 schemes are in planning or construction for completion this Parliament.

So there’s a huge amount of work going on; all of which will make everyday life better for passengers, drivers and cyclists, and all of it proof that it isn’t just the big cities benefitting from the government’s investment in transport, but the whole country.

Conclusion: thanks to councils

In closing I’d like to turn the focus onto what you do every day to keep transport moving.

Often, the newspaper headlines focus on big projects such as Crossrail, HS2 or Heathrow’s new runway.

Yet I’ll never forget the local services that are maintained by county councils.

The local roads that people travel on every day.

The concessionary bus passes you issue to older and disabled people.

Last year, almost 10 million of them.

And all this, and more, underpinned by the local transport plans that guide my department in the allocation of funds.

Keeping on top of all that isn’t easy.

But, overwhelmingly, county councils do a brilliant job.

And, ultimately, local transport is what keeps businesses in touch with their local markets, connects families and friends, and gives people access to jobs, education and training.

So, thank you for working for people in your area.

And thank you for keeping your areas moving.

Thank you.

Sajid Javid – 2016 Speech on Future of County Councils

CBI Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, in Guildford on 7 November 2016.

Good evening everyone, it’s great to be here.

And it’s a pleasure to be speaking alongside some really great people.

Unfortunately I won’t be here to catch Ben Page’s talk tomorrow.

I know that in 2013 he did a presentation that featured, in huge bold text, the message “ERIC PICKLES WAS RIGHT”.

That’s about the best endorsement any DCLG (Department for Communities and Local Government) Secretary of State has ever had!

I’m hoping tomorrow he’ll have a slide that says “SAJID’S OK TOO”…

Ben’s team at Ipsos Mori have also found that local government is the most trusted part of government in England.

That’s certainly something you should be proud of.

Although of course it’s all relative.

Saying you’re the most popular kind of politician is a bit like saying you’re the most pleasant form of root canal surgery!

Given the choice, most people would rather not have any at all…

When I left the banking industry a few years ago I was the only new MP who came to politics from a less popular profession!

When I’m done with Westminster I might go for the hat-trick, become an estate agent.

Joking aside, I fully understand why the public put more faith in their local representatives.

It’s precisely because you’re local.

You’re right there.

You deliver the day-to-day services we all rely on.

And you tirelessly dedicate yourselves to the people you serve.

County councils also have a special place in English hearts and history.

Most of you, including our hosts here in Surrey, have been around since Victoria was on the throne.

I’m not talking about you, Dave!

In many cases the areas you serve reflect boundaries that have been there for centuries more.

And with that history comes a strong sense of local identity and pride.

Passions can run high, as I found in my home town of Rochdale recently.

I met a woman who said “You’re in charge of local government? Well I’m not happy about you making Rochdale part of Manchester!”

I assumed she was talking about the new devolved administration we’re creating there, so I tried to reassure her.

But no.

She was still angry about 1974!

I told her it really wasn’t my fault, I was 5 years old then.

Didn’t help.

“Typical politician, always making excuses …”

But for all that history, local government in England has always evolved to meet the needs of the day.

And that’s as true of the counties as it is of the cities.

After all, I’m not standing here tonight speaking at the Network of Wapentakes, Hundreds and Quarter Sessions!

Although I do like a nice Wapentake!

Times change, boundaries shift, responsibilities are taken on or given away.

I don’t believe in change for the sake of change.

But I’m sure you all agree that, where something can be done better, more effectively or more efficiently, you need a very good argument to stand in the way.

When change comes, even if you’re not entirely happy with it, the best course of action is to embrace it.

To make the most of it.

To make it work.

That’s what’s happening on the national stage with the Brexit negotiations.

MPs and ministers who voted remain are working to secure the best possible deal.

And I’m delighted to see so many examples of it at county council level too.

Just look at funding.

Over the past 6 years we in central government have asked a lot of you.

And you have certainly delivered.

The savings you have achieved have been nothing short of remarkable.

I know it’s not been easy.

But you’ve got on with it.

You’ve done the job we asked of you.

We asked you to put forward efficiency plans and sign up for 4-year funding settlements.

And nearly every council in England has done exactly that, including almost all of you here this evening.

It’s a great step forward that means more certainty for councils and better services for taxpayers.

You’ve also embraced change in the way you drive economic growth.

We asked you to work with the Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and, again, you’ve done exactly that.

Time and again, when I speak to leading figures from LEPs, I hear praise for the proactive, can-do attitude of their local councils.

Maybe some of you still long for the days of the Regional Development Agencies?

I don’t know.

What matters is that you’ve embraced the new way of doing things.

You’ve made it work for the people you serve.

More investment, more jobs, more growth.

I really couldn’t have asked for anything more.

With funding and with efficiency plans and with local growth councils have done so well because they’ve thought for themselves.

We in central government have set out a destination – better value for money, business-led development – and you have worked out your own way of getting there.

That for me is what localism is all about.

Local ideas.

Local implementation.

Delivering for local people.

Councils figuring out what’s right for their areas and getting on with it.

Not sitting around waiting to be told what to do by DCLG.

That’s why my door will always be open to councils with interesting, locally driven solutions to the challenges we face.

I’ve seen councils sharing services, pooling back-offices, rationalising their physical footprints.

Meanwhile, some councils are even prepared to think about changing the very structure of local government itself.

For example, Buckinghamshire has just delivered a detailed, innovative and original proposal to transform the county into a single unitary authority.

Obviously there’s a long way to go yet.

A lot of conversations to be had.

A lot of decisions to be made.

And I certainly don’t want to say anything today that could prejudice any of that.

But the plans put forward by Martin Tett and his team in Aylesbury are exactly the kind of proactive, locally driven thinking I want to see.

They were conceived locally.

They were developed locally.

And they have a firm focus on what’s best for local people.

Now, let me be absolutely, 100% clear.

I think unitary status can be a great model.

It certainly seems to be working well in Durham and Wiltshire.

And, as we’ve seen from the CCN reports being published last week, it has the potential to save a lot of money.

But I’m not for one moment saying it’s for everyone.

I’m not even saying it’s definitely right for Bucks.

And – don’t worry Gary Porter! – I’m certainly not saying that I want to make every council go unitary.

This is not compulsory.

It’s not going to be imposed.

If you choose to stick with a 2-tier model I’m not going send Lord Heseltine round to play with your kids’ pet dog!

However, if the people of your county want it, and if it’s going to make their services and their lives better, I’ll do my best to help you make it happen.

The same goes for any reform that can offer better local services, greater value for money and stronger local leadership.

And that final point, stronger local leadership, is particularly important.

Because the main lesson from the result of the EU referendum was that the people of Britain want to take back control.

We don’t want our country to be run by a remote, anonymous elite.

We don’t want our taxes to be spent by a faceless bureaucracy.

The opposite is true.

We want to know who’s in charge.

Who holds the purse strings.

Who’s making the decisions.

And we want to be able to chuck them out if they’re not doing a good job!

That’s why increasing accountability is at the heart of the devolution deals I’ve been working on.

Now, I get that directly elected mayors aren’t universally popular within local government.

And I know that’s especially true of the counties.

Even up here I can see the eyes starting to roll!

I’ve heard all the arguments.

Mayors are something that cities have.

The counties are too big, too rural, for one person to control.

Everything’s fine as it is, we don’t need change.

And, again, if you don’t want a directly elected leader, that’s fine.

I’m not going to demand that you have one.

But I’m not going to devolve significant new powers and more taxpayers’ money without a corresponding increase in local accountability.

It’s a real red line for me when it comes to negotiating devolution deals.

So a directly elected leader can get you the full Monty.

Everything I can offer under the terms of the 2016 Act.

Powers we’ve handed out so far include additional investment of tens of million of pounds for the next 30 years.

Multi-year transport budgets.

Strategic planning powers.

Adult education budget funding.

And greater local influence on employment support.

But people want to know who is in charge of spending that money.

Who is in charge of delivering those services.

So I’m not going to devolve power without clearer responsibility.

I often get told that directly elected leaders are only suitable for huge urban centres.

And yes, the office of mayor has transformed how London works.

Yes, next year will see mayoral elections in the urban areas centred on Liverpool, Manchester, and Birmingham.

But elected leaders are also being rolled out in places like Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, and the West of England.

In both cases, local leaders have stepped up to the mark and negotiated agreements that work for their communities.

And, in return, they’re being given a much greater level of control over their affairs.

Once again, it’s about councils putting themselves at the heart of change.

About actively seeking new opportunities.

About shaping your own destiny in a changing world instead of just hoping things will go back the way they were.

This kind of thinking is especially relevant around education.

For decades, it’s something local authorities had a monopoly on.

Today that’s all changed.

Academies and free schools are here to stay.

And councils need to think about the role they want to play now that education is no longer their sole dominion.

Again, my door is open to ideas.

Rather than complaining about extremely popular policies, tell me how you can work with them.

Pining for the past will not serve our children well.

The innovations of a forward-thinking council will.

Seize the opportunity.

Shape your own future.

None of this means you’re on your own.

Central government is not leaving you to sink or swim.

For example, something that always keeps my inbox full is adult social care.

While I was Business Secretary I was very proud to create the National Living Wage.

It’s a much-needed and well-earned pay rise for millions of hardworking people, and one that will help grow the economy too.

But I know it’s causing some concern for councils, especially around the impact on provision of adult social care.

So let me reassure you.

This government has provided and will continue to provide support to local authorities to manage this important change.

And I know demand pressures keep many of you awake at night.

I understand this.

That’s why we’re giving councils access to £3.5 billion of new support for social care by the end of this Parliament.

As part of this, the social care precept will give you the flexibility to raise taxes if you need to, potentially bringing in £2 billion to help some of your most vulnerable people.

I know that some councils can’t raise as much as others this way.

That’s why we’re providing additional funding for the Better Care Fund through a separate grant to local government.

One that targets support where it’s needed most.

And that’s why, together, we are undertaking the Fair Funding Review.

I know many of you work hard to join up with the NHS and give local people a seamless service.

And I know that’s not always easy.

So we’re continuing to work with you and with the NHS to make health and social care integration a success.

Health is not just hospitals and the NHS.

We need a place-based approach, with strong local leaders working to shape provision around the needs of their communities.

And we need them to push forward the integration of health and social care.

The people of England voted for it in 2015, and by 2020 it’s exactly what they’ll get.

But it will only be a real success if it is locally led.

Through all this change, all this turbulence, I want you to remember one thing.

I’m on your side.

We might not always see eye-to-eye.

We might not agree on the best way forward.

We might not find much common ground.

But I am the Secretary of State for Local Government.

And that means I am your secretary of state.

Your voice in Cabinet.

Other ministers may occasionally drift into your orbit.

You’ve already heard from Chris Grayling on transport today.

Jeremy Hunt is in charge of health.

Justine Greening runs education.

They all have some interest in different areas of local government.

But I’m there for you and you alone.

That’s my job.

I know we’ve asked a lot of you over the past few years.

I wish I could say the tough times are behind us.

But unfortunately there are plenty of difficult decisions that still need to be made.

We need to decide where and how to build the hundreds of thousands of homes this country needs, and you have a vital role in that.

We need to decide how to make local government more effective, more efficient and more accountable.

We need to deliver the training that young people and adults need.

We need to make choices about infrastructure and economic development.

We need to meet the ever-changing needs of an ever-growing population in an ever-changing world. That’s a quite intimidating to-do list!

But this is also a hugely exciting time for local government.

Devolution deals are re-energising and re-shaping local democracy.

Local Enterprise Partnerships are breaking down old barriers and bringing communities together to create jobs.

Initiatives like the Midlands Engine and Northern Powerhouse are putting England’s regions on the world stage.

And you’re about to take control of £26 billion of business rates.

By 2020, every council represented in this room is going to be self-financing.

Your taxpayers’ money being spent in your areas.

It’s something you’ve been calling for for decades and I’m hugely proud that it will be delivered on my watch.

You really deserve nothing less.

Our local councils are the bedrock of our democracy, our local councillors are its foot soldiers.

You do so much for so many, and yet you seldom get the credit you deserve.

And that’s particularly true of the counties.

You quietly get on with delivering word-class services to millions of hardworking people – just as you have done since the 19th century.

That’s why people trust you.

That’s why I trust you.

And that’s why we’re devolving so much.

The changes we’re introducing give unprecedented independence and control to county councils.

I know that change can sometimes be difficult.

But if you put yourself at the heart of it…

If you embrace change and strive to succeed…

Well, the opportunities for county councils are almost limitless.

And I will be working every day to help you make the most of them.

Thank you.