James Brokenshire – 2018 Speech to Conservative Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, at the Conservative Party Conference held in Birmingham on 1 October 2018.

Thank you to Shazia for your kind words of introduction.

Shazia is a great example of Conservatives making a difference in local government and making a difference in the communities they serve.

Thank you for your public service and all that you do.

Can I also introduce my fantastic team at the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government.

My ministers Kit Malthouse, Jake Berry, Rishi Sunak, Heather Wheeler and Nigel Adams. Our tireless PPSs Chris Philp and Leo Docherty and our whip Jeremy Quin.

Friends, it’s been quite a year for me and today is a particular personal milestone.

When I addressed our Conference twelve months ago, I didn’t know it, but I had lung cancer.

In some of my darker moments earlier this year, I questioned whether I would be here at all – let alone fit, well and able to speak on this stage today.

When you receive a cancer diagnosis… when you are forced to confront your own mortality head on… it makes you appreciate what’s important… what makes life worth living.

I know I couldn’t have got through this period without the incredible love and support of my wife Cathy and our three children, Sophie, Jemma and Ben.

They’ve kept me positive, they’ve helped get me through surgery, through my recovery and back to strength.

But I also know that if it wasn’t for our amazing NHS I wouldn’t be here today.

They saved my life and in some way will have touched the lives of every person in this hall.

To all those who work in our NHS – thank you.

You are amazing and we pay tribute to all that you do.

Now I may be part of one lung lighter, but it hasn’t diminished my passion for our party, my pride in our country and my earnest belief that our best days lie ahead of us and not behind us.

That is what makes us Conservatives.

And a key part of this is building the homes our country needs.

The Prime Minister is right in seeing this as our biggest domestic priority.

And I am proud to serve alongside her to meet the challenges of our time and harness the opportunities of the future.

We must respond to the uncomfortable truth that through decades of under-investment and lack of political will for too many a home of your own is unaffordable and out of reach.

Everyone deserves a decent, affordable and secure place to call home.

When a generation is locked out of the housing market it hurts us as a country.

It’s the impact it has on the lives of individuals and their families.

It’s about social justice, opportunity and building a fairer, stronger Britain.

A Britain where ‘Generation Rent’ can become ‘Generation Own’.

A Britain where we turn the vision of a place you call home into a reality.

The last time a Government committed to building 300,000 homes a year was in 1951 when Harold Macmillan was Conservative Housing Minister.

Super Mac did it then and we will do it again.

We will build 300,000 homes a year by the mid 2020’s.

And we have made an important start.

Since 2010 one point one million new homes built.

Nearly half a million families are now home owners thanks to Help to Buy and Right to Buy.

And a million first time buyers are expected to benefit from our cuts to stamp duty with 80% of first time buyers paying no stamp duty at all.

If you aspire to own your own home then I want to say this to you.

We will help you.

We will build the homes our country needs.

We will support you to save for your deposit.

We will break down the barriers standing between you and the opportunities you deserve.

We will fix our broken housing market and make it work for you.

As for Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party they may have given the Red Flag a reboot, but it’s the same old socialism that brought our country to its knees and would do so again.

Under the last Labour government house building fell to levels not seen since the 1920’s.

The number of first time buyers collapsed by over 50%.

Housing became more unaffordable, not less.

Labour doesn’t believe in increasing home ownership.

They would suspend Right to Buy and shatter people’s hopes and dreams of the chance to buy their own home.

It’s same old story from the same Old Labour.

No matter what they say, you know we’ll all have to pay.

But I know that there is much more to do to get the homes we need built.

We need to be bold and radical to remove unnecessary barriers and speed up delivery.

And in doing so we need a reformed planning system that is effective and responsive.

In July I published the new planning rule book.

It provides greater certainty and clarity for developers and communities alike.

To know the requirements and expectations and encourage a plan led approach to development.

Strengthening the protections for our environment and our precious Green Belt.

But we need to be smarter on how we use land and the space available.

Prioritising brownfield but also looking at land that’s already been built on.

That’s why I will publish proposals to permit people to build up on existing buildings rather than build out to use more precious land.

And give Councils greater powers to deliver the garden communities of the future.

But it’s not just about getting homes built – it’s about fairness.

Some practices in the leasehold market – such as unexpected costs that rise every year and bear no relation to services – can turn a homeowner’s dream into a nightmare.

That’s why we’re banning the unjustified use of leaseholds on new houses and limiting future ground rents for long leases to a peppercorn.

But we also need to address quality issues in new homes too.

That’s why I can announce today the creation of a New Homes Ombudsman.

This new watchdog will champion home buyers, protect their interests and hold developers to account.

And give confidence that when you get the keys to a new home you get the quality build you expect and the finish you’ve paid for.

Getting a fair deal extends to private renters too.

We’ve created a Rogue Landlords database to identify the worst offenders.

We are banning unfair letting agent fees being passed onto tenants.

And Capped deposit costs too.

Fairness also needs to be felt by people living in social housing.

That’s why I want to see a new deal for social housing tenants.

To deliver decent homes, strengthen redress and break unjustified stigma.

Equally as Conservatives we are committed to supporting the most vulnerable in our society.

It is simply unacceptable in modern Britain that there are still people living out on our streets with no roof over their head.

Our rough sleeping strategy and rough sleeping initiative are focusing efforts to drive change to give support to those most in need.

So that we end rough sleeping for good.

Most profoundly though, people should be safe in their own homes.

It’s been over a year since the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire.

This unimaginable horror has rightly shocked us all and underlined the need to do all that we can to see that such a disaster cannot happen again.

My work with Grenfell United and the wider community has been hugely helpful in keeping this issue right at the top of the government’s agenda.

And that is why today I can confirm that I will change the building regulations to ban the use of combustible materials for all new high rise residential buildings, hospitals, registered care homes and student accommodation.

And bring about a change in culture on building safety.

In advancing our ambitious housing agenda we need to create strong, prosperous, confident communities socially and economically.

Giving a sense of identity, a sense of place and an affinity to the places where we live, where we work, where we spend our time.

Communities where we recognise diversity and heritage.

How this makes us stronger;

How we all have so much more in common than divides us.

We have to defend the civility of civil society against hatred and separation.

We have to be robust in challenging anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim hatred and division based on religion, heritage or background.

There is no place in our country for bigotry and intolerance.

And as Conservatives we will stand up against this in all its forms.

At the heart of our communities are our towns and high streets.

Our high streets are the beating heart of a local economy.

And local businesses are their lifeblood.

That’s why I’m proud that we’ve launched the Great British High Street Competition.

To recognise, to champion and to celebrate innovation and success.

But we know technology is changing the way we live our lives and the challenges this brings.

I look forward to receiving the work of our new high streets advisory panel led by Sir John Timpson.

So that we can take further action to support our high streets and help them continue to do what they do best.

I know that so much local success relies on the dedication and hard work of Conservatives in local government around the country.

I want to thank all of our Councillors who work tirelessly for their communities.

It’s because of you people understand that with a Conservative council you get quality services and lower taxes.

We asked Conservative councils to help fix the mess left by the last Labour government and they delivered.

In return we’ve devolved power, localised business rates, created a swathe of city region mayors, founded Local Enterprise Partnerships, kick started local industrial strategies.

Through the fair funding review and business rate retention we have the opportunity to drive further change, to support innovation and get the very best from local government.

But I know an ageing population and growing demand are creating real pressures on public services.

Health and social care are inextricably linked and any reforms must be aligned.

That’s why I’m working with Matt Hancock – recognising local government’s direct interests – towards the publication of the Social Care Green Paper.

This will include plans to reform social care, provide better integration of services and put the care system on a long term sustainable footing.

As we leave the EU we should be confident and positive about the potential of each part of our country and the contribution they can make to drive our future prosperity.

Through the Northern Powerhouse, the Midlands Engine and Silicon Vale linking Oxford, Cambridge and Milton Keynes.

Through City Deals and Local Growth Funds.

Through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund supporting continued regional investment.

Helping deliver a country that works for everyone.

And we will harness the opportunities that are presented to us.

In 2022 Birmingham will host the Commonwealth Games.

It will provide the platform for this great city to shine on a global stage.

The chance to drive economic potential.

The chance to create a sense of pride – not just in this city but our country as a whole.

That’s why I’m proud today to announce the Government funding for the construction of the Athletes Village.

We will invest £165 million to help support the delivery of 5,100 new homes, but just as importantly create a long lasting legacy for Birmingham and from the Commonwealth Games.

And this is part of our Conservative mission.

To create a legacy.

A legacy of new homes and communities for your children and mine.

To show, that to be Conservative is to want to build for the future not turn away from it, and in doing so draw on our traditions, history and knowledge.

Whether through new homes, villages, towns, cities or communities, we Conservatives are working to build a new Britain.

A people reconnected to our nation with renewed pride and energy.

Optimistic and hopeful for the future.

Because the nation we are building is one where opportunity is for all and no one is left behind.

James Brokenshire – 2018 Speech at National Housing Federation Summit

Below is the text of the speech made by James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government, at the National Housing Federation Summit on 20 September 2018.

Thanks to Baroness Warwick for that kind introduction.

It’s a great pleasure to be here – albeit on a site that I understand once housed one of Britain’s so-called ugliest buildings.

Some of you may remember – and even mourn – the County Hall Island Block apartments that stood empty here for 20 years before a 6-year old boy got his wish to set the bulldozers in motion.

Now we may all have our different views on architecture and design.

But I think we can agree that you know you’ve succeeded when you’re not constructing buildings that 6-year-olds want to demolish!

It’s also genuinely a great privilege to be speaking before we hear from David [Orr] for the final time in his role as the National Housing Federation’s (NHF) Chief Executive.

Though, I understand, it’s not just his speeches which are much much-anticipated.

I hear his performances at NHF karaoke nights, too, are also quite a draw.

And while I can’t promise to match David’s musical talents, I’ll do my best as the warm-up act!

Before I go on, I want to firstly applaud the tremendous leadership and public service David has shown through a long and distinguished career.

I also want to welcome your successor, Kate Henderson, and say how much I’m looking forward to working with Kate.

I know you’ll be putting your own stamp on the role, but what a great legacy to build on.

David, you have transformed the housing association sector and inspired and challenged us all to raise our game for people living in social housing and, indeed, all parts of our community, including the most vulnerable.

I think that’s the thing I have been most struck by, David’s passion, leadership, and humanity too – it comes from the heart and we have all been strengthened by it.

And I’m especially grateful for your contribution to the Rough Sleeping Advisory Panel which helped develop the Rough Sleeping Strategy we published recently – an issue that I know matters greatly to us both.

This Strategy – and, indeed, all our work on housing – is driven by the belief that everyone must have the security, dignity and opportunities they need to build a better life.

As the Prime Minister said yesterday, this mission is absolutely central to this government’s priorities – and very much in keeping with your founding ideals as a sector.

And, working with you, we’re delivering on it.

Housing associations played a big role in helping us deliver 217,000 homes in 2016 to 2017 – the highest level in all but one of the last 30 years. And I’m hugely grateful for all of your efforts.

But we know you can and want to do more.

Which is why we’ve listened to what you’ve told us – about wanting more certainty and stability to be able to protect and boost supply – and have responded.

We’ve put billions into affordable housing, including homes for social rent, and given housing associations a leading role in delivering this through long term funding deals.

We’ve given you more certainty over your rental income.

We’ve retained the funding for supported accommodation within Housing Benefit.

We’ve enabled councils to borrow more to build more.

We’re supporting Homes England to take a more strategic, assertive approach – putting more certainty into the system – and reforming planning to get Britain building.

We’re also taking action on other issues that you’ve raised such as doing more to capture increases in land value for the public good through:

changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF),

Section 106 planning obligations,

and the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL)

But I know there is more to do.

And as the Prime Minister said yesterday, we’ll be responding shortly to a consultation on developer contributions that includes proposals to help councils capture land values more effectively.

So the sector has never been better placed to really step up and help deliver the homes our country needs.

But this isn’t just about getting the numbers up.

It’s also about changing the false attitudes towards social housing.

Challenging the mistakes and flawed perceptions about people living in social housing.

About improving the experience of tenants – and rebalancing their relationship with landlords through stronger regulation.

And following the terrible tragedy at Grenfell Tower, ensuring, above all, that homes are decent, safe and well-maintained.

Which is what the social housing green paper published last month aims to do.

My thanks to David and housing associations for their enthusiasm and support for the extensive engagement that we carried out with residents that helped inform this work.

Yes, the Paper reminded us of the challenges that people living in social housing face.

Stigma.

The need for landlords to be more transparent and accountable.

Concerns about how complaints are handled.

To quote one resident we spoke to: “I feel privileged and lucky to be a housing association tenant. Having an affordable secure and quality home means everything and has helped me into employment. And the security has also helped my children be happy and successful.”

As the Prime Minister said, we need to do more to reinforce that pride in social housing.

That sense that it can be both a safety net and a springboard to a better life

Something we treasure in the way we do our NHS.

That’s why we’re investing in the sector and giving you the longer-term certainty that will help you build more, faster – both now and into the future.

In July, I announced 8 longer-term strategic partnerships between housing associations and Homes England worth around £590 million which will yield about 14,000 new affordable homes, including for social rent.

And which will see us championing modern methods of construction and more small and medium sized builders playing their part in a more diverse market.

And I want to thank both the NHF and Homes England – under David and Nick Walkley’s leadership respectively – for their valuable work on making this happen.

The Prime Minister’s announcement, yesterday, of the £2 billion initiative – enabling the most ambitious housing associations to apply for funding over the next decade – takes this to the next level.

This bold, new scheme is the first time any government has offered you this kind of long-term funding certainty and stability.

As such, it promises to be a game-changer – not just because it will help you get tens of thousands of new affordable and social homes built and provide a strong impetus for you to go further.

But because the certainty and stability that underpins it signals a new approach to the way we invest in and deliver housing in this country.

An approach that is a real vote of confidence in housing associations and places you firmly in the driving seat – to be industry leaders in building more and better, in driving innovation and setting higher standards for the way social housing is managed and the people who live in it are supported.

With your – as Diana put it yesterday – special combination of a “core social purpose” and “good business sense” you are uniquely well placed to pick up this baton.

So I urge you to make the most of this opportunity to help us deliver a new generation of social housing and help secure the high quality homes that people who can’t afford to buy or rent privately deserve.

These have to be homes that meet their needs.

And having listened to residents, we’ve decided, for example, not to implement the provisions in the Housing and Planning Act to make fixed term tenancies mandatory for local authorities at this time.

We understand that lifetime tenancies are, for some people, for some communities, essential for providing the security and stability they need to make a place truly feel like home.

That’s why it’s right that all social landlords should have the freedom to offer them.

Now, it’s also right and fair that social housing can be a springboard to home ownership.

And I want to commend the vital work by David and the NHF with this government on the Voluntary Right to Buy agreement.

This has already helped hundreds of housing association tenants to buy their homes and thousands more are set to benefit from the latest, large-scale Midlands pilot that launched last month.

We will be monitoring this closely; in particular in relation to replacing homes that are sold.

This groundbreaking partnership between government and the sector is an important step towards extending the dream of home ownership.

With that in mind, we have to challenge what I believe to be false choices.

In particular that you can either boost the supply of rented properties or support home ownership – that you can’t do both.

This doesn’t have to be the case.

Whilst championing better standards for renters, we should not apologise for backing the aspiration around home ownership.

Two thirds of social housing residents would like to be home owners.

These people – who run our businesses, keep our public services going, contribute to society in countless ways – are just as hard-working, ambitious and keen to improve their communities as anyone else.

We should recognise that ambition and provide that opportunity to which they aspire.

The social housing green paper sets out how we can do this, whilst also ensuring that councils can replace homes sold.

There’s nothing contradictory about this – about building more affordable homes and helping people meet the aim of home ownership.

I believe to say otherwise, is a false choice.

We have to do both.

And nor is there anything contradictory about promoting ownership and tackling stigma – another all too common false choice.

To do otherwise would be to ignore the ambition of the vast majority of social housing tenants.

All I want is to help each person living in social housing to make the right choice for themselves – not have it made for them.

And the same goes for another false choice that pits building more homes against building better homes.

We’re determined to deliver 300,000 homes on average a year by the middle of the next decade, but not at any price.

These are not just a roof over our heads. They are the foundations on which our lives and communities are built.

As the philosopher Sir Roger Scruton put it: “We are needy creatures and our greatest need is for home…All our attempts to make our surroundings look right – through decorating, arranging, creating – are attempts to extend a welcome to ourselves and to those whom we love.”

So good design and style matter – arguably more, not less, for people living in social housing and combatting the stigma that surrounds it.

It’s not our job in government to dictate what this looks like, but we all know how it feels.

Good design produces places that people have helped shape and are proud to call home.

It protects and strengthens the beauty of our natural environment.

It adds to the value of existing settlements for years to come, making it more likely that new development will be welcomed rather than resisted.

Therefore, building better will, in fact, help us build more – something that our social housing green paper recognises and how that must apply to social and affordable homes as it does to any other types of housing.

So it’s time we rejected these false choices.

Accept we can and should extend home ownership as well as deliver more quality affordable rented homes.

Accept that there is nothing incompatible or contradictory about these goals which, after all, have the same end: more people having decent, secure, comforting places they call home.

Accept that they are goals which are within our grasp.

The truth is that the best communities; the most interesting and successful communities, where most people want to live, tend to be mixed and diverse.

Places where people from all backgrounds, living in all types of housing, can come together, bound by a strong sense of belonging and identity.

Yes, we are facing a huge challenge.

But I know that there’s no sector better placed than you to meet it.

As the Prime Minister said, you have blazed a trail for many high quality and, yes, beautiful homes that have stood the test of time and served the public good.

That make a mockery of arguments that high density and affordability have to equal low quality and a lack of character.

This is the difference that I know we all want to see as we look forward.

As David said in the aftermath of the Grenfell fire, we have an “obligation…to make this a moment of change”.

It’s clear that, to do this, to make this difference, to meet that obligation, we need all parts of the sector to pull together.

We’ve responded to your calls for more support.

And I’m looking forward to seeing housing associations; with your unique and impressive track record, seizing this unprecedented opportunity and leading the charge.

To deliver the homes we need and the brighter future our people deserve.

James Brokenshire – 2018 Statement on Housing Policy

Below is the text of the statement made by James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, in the House of Commons on 2 July 2018.

Since we published our Housing White Paper last year, we have been making significant progress in fixing the broken housing market, reforming our planning system and increasing housing ​supply to start to improve affordability, as well as taking steps to ensure that communities have the safe and high-quality homes they need to thrive.

Our new national planning policy framework—coming into force this summer following our consultation—will transform the planning system, and at of autumn Budget we set out £15 billion the new financial support for housing, taking our total investment to £44 billion over the next five years. Since 2010 we have delivered over a million new homes, and in 2016-17 we saw 217,350 new homes delivered—the highest number in all but one of the last 30 years.

Our new national housing agency, Homes England, is taking a more assertive approach to getting homes built. This has already started—for example in Burgess Hill, a site that is desperately needed for affordable housing but which sat undeveloped. Homes England has now stepped in, bought the land and is delivering the infrastructure. Today I am announcing a plan to build over 3,000 homes on the site.

But we need to go further, and in particular we recognise the housing market needs an injection of innovation and competition. Getting new players into the market and embracing modern methods of construction will allow us to build faster and drive up choice and quality for consumers.

To help do this, today I am announcing that the local authority accelerated construction programme is moving into its delivery phase. Through this fund, we are releasing £450 million to speed up delivery of homes on surplus local authority land and encouraging the use of modern methods of construction and SME builders. Homes England has started the process of funding negotiations with a number of local authorities to ensure their sites can deliver greater pace and innovation in house building.

But this is not just about the number of homes, it is also about ensuring we deliver the right homes in the right places, and building communities that people are happy to call home.

Today I am announcing that we have launched a new Homes England programme to deliver the community housing fund. Community groups and local authorities in all parts of England outside London are now able to apply for capital and revenue funding to bring community-led housing schemes forward. Homes England has published a prospectus on its website at: www.gov.uk/topic/housing/funding-programmes.

Through this fund, housing will be delivered where the mainstream market is unable to deliver. The housing it helps provide will be tailored to meet specific local needs and will remain locally affordable in perpetuity. It will help sustain local communities and local economies and help raise the bar in design and construction standards. Now that it is launched, it will unlock a pipeline of thousands of new homes and help this innovative sector grow to make a substantial additional contribution to housing supply. A similar programme is being developed for London—delivered by the GLA—and an announcement on that will be made shortly.

We also want to protect the rights of tenants in the private rented sector and give them more security. That is why I am publishing today an eight-week consultation on overcoming the barriers to landlords offering longer tenancies to tenants in the private rented sector.​
Longer tenancies will help tenants, particularly those with children, who are currently on short-term contracts and who are unable to plan for the future. Longer tenancies can benefit landlords too by helping to avoid the costs of finding new tenants. The aim is to collect views on what could be done to provide tenants with greater security while providing flexibility for landlords to regain their properties if their circumstances change. In the consultation, we propose a new model tenancy agreement of three years with a six-month break clause and options on how to implement the model which include legislation, financial incentives for landlords, and voluntary measures to encourage its use. Copies of the consultation will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses and are available online.

Finally, for too long, the leasehold market has been left to evolve without much attention to who actually benefits. We are determined to reform the leasehold market to make it work for consumers. We have announced a programme of leasehold reform including a ban on new leasehold houses, restricting ground rents to a peppercorn and making enfranchisement easier, quicker and cheaper. We will bring forward legislation at the earliest opportunity, but we want the industry to change in advance of legislation and have written to developers setting out our expectations.

Today I can also confirm that Government funding schemes for housing supply will no longer support the unjustified use of leasehold for new houses, wherever possible, and that we will hardwire this as a condition into any new schemes. In future, ground rents on new long leases in flats will be limited to a peppercorn.

James Brokenshire – 2017 Speech to European Policy Centre

Below is the text of the speech made by James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, to the European Policy Centre on 6 November 2017.

It’s a great pleasure to be here in Brussels today … and I’m grateful for the opportunity to update you on the current situation in Northern Ireland.

During my visit today I am taking the opportunity to brief senior members of the Commission along with MEPs as the UK Government continues its negotiations to leave the EU in 2019.

And of course part of my role … working with the Prime Minister and the Secretary for Exiting the EU … is to ensure that we secure an agreement deal that delivers for all parts of the UK, including Northern Ireland.

Everyone here knows that Northern Ireland has unique circumstances which need to be recognised in the final withdrawal treaty to leave the EU … and making progress on the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland is essential in moving negotiations to the next phase.

But before I talk specifically about Northern Ireland in the context of leaving the EU I thought it would be useful to give an overview of the current political, economic and security situations there.

Because as I stand before you today, nearly a quarter of a century after the terrorist ceasefires and twenty years after the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement, it’s easy to assume that everything in Northern Ireland has been solved.

And you could easily be forgiven for thinking that’s the case.

Northern Ireland today is in so many respects unrecognisable from where it was in the early 1990s.

Until the beginning of this year we had seen a decade of devolved government in Northern Ireland led by the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein … the longest such period of uninterrupted devolved government since the 1960s.

The kind of terrorism that I used to see growing up in the 1970s and 1980s is no longer a daily fact of life … along with the military presence to deal with it.

Northern Ireland today is the most popular destination outside of London for foreign direct investment into the UK. And of course relations between Northern Ireland and Ireland … and between the United Kingdom and Ireland … are at their strongest ever.

So there are so many positives to take about Northern Ireland.

The beautiful scenery and countryside.

The industrial heritage.

The exciting new opportunities.

Our thriving creative industries.

The quality of life.

The warmth and friendliness of people who live there.

And of course the example that Northern Ireland has shown the world as to how it is possible to emerge from a period of terrible suffering and conflict to a new era of peace, stability and greater prosperity.

In that context I would like to pay tribute to the European Union … including Michel Barnier … for the support you have given to Northern Ireland … backing the peace process, encouraging economic growth and providing vital funding for programmes designed to bring communities together.

The EU can be very proud of the role that it has played in Northern Ireland over decades … and both the UK and Irish Governments are very grateful for that.

But for all of this progress significant political, economic and security challenges remain … and I would like briefly to take each of these in turn.

Politically, Northern Ireland has been without a functioning devolved government since the beginning of this year. Civil servants have been able to spend money but key decisions over local services that require political input have not been taken.

Crucially, a budget for the current financial year has yet to be set.

This is putting public services under strain … and very soon both the UK Government and the Northern Ireland Civil Service assess that Northern Ireland will begin to run out of resources.

Earlier this year I had to step in and legislate to set some local taxes so that local councils could continue to carry out their functions.

We have now reached the point at which it is unlikely that an Executive could be formed in time to pass a budget for Northern Ireland by the end of this month.

In those circumstances I am left with no option but to legislate at Westminster to enable the Northern Ireland civil service to continue spending money to already agreed totals.

This would not be my budget … it would be one prepared by the Northern Ireland civil service on the basis of the previous Executive’s priorities.

Should an Executive be formed the budget could be amended or changed … and indeed if an Executive were formed with sufficient time left under expedited procedures to pass the budget bill in the Assembly … I would clearly wish to proceed instead with legislation to enable that to happen.

I’m clear … introducing and passing a budget in Westminster does not mean that we are introducing direct rule, any more than legislating for local taxes did earlier this year.

And needless to say, the UK Government will only take this step with the greatest reluctance … not because we want to but because we have to.

But it would be a dereliction of duty to see the public services on which people rely begin to disintegrate before us.

Of course I still hope we can avoid this step.

The UK Government … along with the Irish Government … is working tirelessly to bring about an agreement between the main Northern Ireland parties that would enable an Executive to be re-formed.

And we will stick at it, because . . . as President Clinton’s visit to Northern Ireland last month, nearly 20 years after his key role in the Belfast Agreement, prompted many of us to reflect . . . we have come so far.

But ultimately we have a responsibility to provide good governance in Northern Ireland … and we will not shirk our responsibilities.

The next area where we have a great deal more work to do is in strengthening the economy and building a stronger society.

Northern Ireland’s economy continues to grow.

Unemployment is still falling … while in the past twelve months employment has hit record levels. As I said earlier we continue to attract significant foreign direct investment.

And we have some world beating businesses.

But the economy is still far too dependent on government spending.

And we need to rebalance the economy in a measured and sensible way.

Levels of worklessness and welfare dependency are still far too high.

So we are looking at things like City Deals that have proven very successful in other parts of the UK.

And we remain committed to the devolution of Corporation Tax so that Northern Ireland is better able to compete for investment with its nearest neighbour, Ireland.

But for that to happen Northern Ireland needs a functioning devolved government.

Alongside strengthening the economy, we need to tackle deep seated social divisions.

In Northern Ireland today over 90 per cent of public housing is segregated along sectarian lines.

Over 90 per cent of children in Northern Ireland are educated separately.

It is regrettable that additional so-called peace walls … or interface barriers … have been erected since the signing of the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement in 1998 and still divide communities today.

Indeed some independent estimates put the cost of division in Northern Ireland at around £1.5 billion.

So bringing people together … and building a stronger, more shared society has to be an urgent priority.

Most of the responsibility for tackling this rests in the devolved sphere.

And the previous Executive had made a start … for example with programmes under its strategy called Together: Building a United Community.

For our part the UK Government has provided significant financial support … for example in helping to fund schemes to promote greater shared housing and more shared and integrated education.

But clearly much more needs to be done.

It requires significant political will and drive if we are to overcome decades … some might say centuries … of division and build a stronger more united community.

And that needs to come primarily from local politicians working together for the good of the whole community. So there’s another reason why it’s so important to have a functioning Executive back up and running.

The community divisions that still exist in Northern Ireland can, on occasion, still fuel tensions and public disorder … though on a much reduced scale than in previous years.

And they can also be exploited by paramilitary and terrorist groups that continue to exist and operate in Northern Ireland.

The threat level from dissident republican terrorists remains severe in Northern Ireland… meaning that an attack is highly likely.

Even though they are relatively small in numbers, they retain lethal capability and intent.

The fact that you don’t hear more about them is primarily down to the superb efforts of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, our security services and An Garda Siochana.

And the levels of co-operation that currently exist between the PSNI and the Garda … and between the UK and Irish Governments … must be preserved, and where possible enhanced, following Brexit.

In addition to the continuing threat from terror too many communities in Northern Ireland are held in the grip of paramilitary groups … criminals who prey on society primarily to line their own pockets.

They engage in gangsterism and carry out brutal attacks … often by appointment … on people within their own community to exert fear and control.

Following the 2015 Fresh Start Agreement the Executive … working with and supported financially by the UK Government … devised a strategy for tackling paramilitary groups with the aim of putting them out of business for good.

There was never any justification for the existence of paramilitary and terrorist groups in Northern Ireland … and there is none today.

But if the strategy for tackling paramilitary activity is going to be at its most effective … and that will only be seen through results on the ground … then it needs to be led locally.

And that’s another reason why Northern Ireland needs a properly functioning Executive.

Finally, Northern Ireland needs a fully functioning Executive to ensure that its voice is fully heard as the UK leaves the EU.

As I have said before … we joined the Common Market in 1973 as one United Kingdom and we will leave the European Union in 2019 as one United Kingdom.

And as the Prime Minister has made clear … leaving the EU will mean that we leave both the single market and the customs union.

I find it difficult to imagine how Northern Ireland could somehow remain in … while the rest of the country leaves.

But as we have made equally clear we are determined to find bespoke solutions to Northern Ireland’s unique circumstances … not least as the only part of the UK to share a land border with an EU member state.

We need to deliver an outcome that works for all parts of the United Kingdom.

We fully recognise the extent to which the Northern Ireland economy, while an integral part of the UK economy, is also fully integrated with that of Ireland particularly in areas like the agri-food sector.

We fully recognise the flow of traffic across the border on a daily basis for people going about their business be it to work, study, shop or simply visit friends and relatives.

And we fully recognise those ties of family and shared history that exist between people on the island of Ireland as well as between Ireland and Great Britain.

All of this requires creative and imaginative thinking by the UK and Irish Governments along with negotiating partners in the EU. But I believe solutions can be found … and it is in that positive sense that the UK Government has approached the current phase of negotiations and we will continue to do so.

And the Northern Ireland and Ireland position paper published by the UK Government in August set out clearly and positively where we stand.

We want to ensure that the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement is fully protected … including the constitutional principles that underpin it, the political institutions it establishes and the citizens’ rights it guarantees.

We want to preserve the Common Travel Area … and, yes, ensure that we have as frictionless and seamless a border as possible between Northern Ireland and Ireland with no physical infrastructure at the border.

We want to protect the single electricity market that operates across the island of Ireland to ensure continuity of supply for the benefit of business and domestic consumers.

At the same time we need to ensure that nothing is done that undermines the integrity of the UK single market … Northern Ireland companies sold four times as much into Great Britain than to Ireland in 2015.

And of course no border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland or anything that fractures the internal market of the United Kingdom, which benefits Northern Ireland hugely.

Of course none of this was ever going to be easy.

But I believe that with a positive attitude on all sides it is achievable.

As both the Prime Minister and the Secretary for Exiting the EU, David Davis, have set out to the House of Commons in recent days, significant progress has been made in the negotiations so far.

Within the Northern Ireland-Ireland Dialogue, we have agreed that the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement should be protected in full, including its constitutional arrangements.

We have proposed that the UK and the EU seek to agree text for the Withdrawal Agreement that recognises the ongoing status of the Common Travel Area…and have already developed joint principles with the EU on this.

We have also mapped out areas of cooperation that function on a North-South basis to ensure this continues once the UK has left the EU.

And we are determined to press on so that we can move to the next phase of negotiations as we deliver on the democratic wishes of the people of the UK as set out in the June 2016 referendum.

During this speech I have deliberately set out some of the big challenges that face us in Northern Ireland. But I want to end on a positive note.

Nearly twenty years on from the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement Northern Ireland is immeasurably in a better place.

Huge progress has been made.

What have often looked like insurmountable problems have been overcome.

We’ve seen commitment, courage and above all leadership on all sides.

And we’ve seen enormous international goodwill and support … including from the EU.

But we can’t just rest on what has been achieved.

We need to tackle today’s challenges in order to build a better tomorrow.

For our part the UK Government … along with our partners in Ireland … are determined to do just that…

As we strive to build a stronger, more prosperous Northern Ireland for everyone. And a Northern Ireland that can look to the future with confidence and optimism.

Thank you.

James Brokenshire – 2017 Speech at Top 100 Companies

Below is the text of the speech made by James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, on 14 September 2017.

Thank you David [Elliott, Ulster Business Editor], and thank you for the kind invitation to speak here today. It is a great honour to be here and to join you in celebrating the very best of NI business.

I would like to thank A&L Goodbody, Ulster Business Magazine and Lanyon Communications for hosting and organising this fine event.

Events like these are a welcome reminder of the economic progress we have seen in Northern Ireland since the Belfast Agreement nearly two decades ago.

Some often query whether, when politics comes to the fore, business takes a back seat as a result.

But the transformation of Northern Ireland in the past two decades shows why it is imperative to keep both at the heart of the work we do.

To see the change, from a place which had struggled to attract investment and jobs against a backdrop of terrorism and instability, to one of the most popular locations in the UK outside of London for foreign direct investment, shows exactly why we see a stronger economy as a key priority for Northern Ireland.

And as Mark Thompson mentioned in his remarks, 2016 was a hugely successful year for the Top 100 – with record sales and a 16% increase in profits from world-beating businesses making strides at home and globally. I can only congratulate you all for that achievement.

The fundamentals of the UK economy as a whole are strong. We have grown continuously for more than four years, reduced the deficit and delivered a record number of jobs.

We are proud of this record but not complacent. We must restore productivity growth to deliver higher wages and living standards for people across the country. That is why we are committed to investing in infrastructure, technology and skills to deliver the best possible base for strong future growth.

This strength includes continued growth in Northern Ireland, which has secured 34 new Foreign Direct Investment projects in the last year alone, creating more than 1,600 new jobs. We now have more than 800 international companies located in the region and employing in excess of 75,000 people.

And overall the picture is one of solid growth, increasing output, falling unemployment, and job creation.

Indeed we saw yesterday that unemployment is now at 5.3%, the lowest since the great crash in 2008, while more than 10,000 jobs were created over the course of the year. And the last quarter saw the sharpest rise in business activity in 2017 so far.

It is wonderful to be able to celebrate such success – to recognise the strength and resilience of the economy in Northern Ireland. But building upon that success must be the priority for the year ahead. And as we look to do so, it is important that we acknowledge the key issues that we must face.

EU Exit

The first is EU Exit.

We might be leaving the EU but we are not turning our backs on our friends and partners in Europe.

As a Government our goal is to secure a deal that works for the whole of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland, as we leave the European Union.

This was reiterated in the Government’s Position Paper on Northern Ireland and Ireland, setting out in more detail how we might achieve our objectives.

This Position Paper expanded on the Government’s proposals for a future customs relationship with Europe. We proposed two options: a highly streamlined model and a new customs partnership. In our Northern Ireland/Ireland Paper we have set out the additional facilitations that the Government see as necessary to protect the open border and ensure as frictionless a movement of goods as possible.

Specifically, the Government has proposed that small and medium sized businesses should be exempt from all customs processes entirely. This imaginative and flexible solution to the free movement of goods would see some 80% of all Northern Ireland businesses free from any interaction with customs processes.

And for those businesses not falling into that category, the Government wants highly streamlined and flexible administrative arrangements to ensure no physical checks are required on goods crossing the land border.

Our second proposal is a new customs partnership with the EU, aligning our approach to the customs border in a way that removes the need for a UK-EU customs border.

One potential approach would involve the UK mirroring the EU’s requirements for imports from the rest of the world where their final destination is the EU.

These are bold and imaginative proposals to the issue of free flow of goods across the border with Ireland. And we would encourage everyone to get behind that debate as we look to develop the next stage of detail and an implementation plan.

But of course the open border is about more than goods, it is also fundamentally about people and communities. The Government is absolutely committed to ensuring the border remains open to allow for the normal everyday interactions between people on either side.

For its part, the UK wants to continue to protect the CTA and associated reciprocal bilateral arrangements. This means protecting the ability to move freely within the UK and between the UK and Ireland with no practical change from now, recognising the special importance of this to people in their daily lives, and the underpinning it provides for the Northern Ireland political process.

We also recognise that investors, businesses and citizens in both the UK and the EU, and beyond, need to be able to plan ahead. In order to avoid any cliff-edge as we move from our current relationship to our future partnership, people and businesses would benefit from an interim period, for the implementation of the arrangements, which allowed for a smooth and orderly transition.

The Government believes it would help both sides to minimise unnecessary disruption and provide certainty for businesses and individuals if we agree this principle early in the process.

The Government is keen to explore with the EU a model for an interim period which would ensure that businesses and people in the UK and the EU only have to adjust once to a new customs relationship.

So the UK Government has been clear that we will respect and recognise the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland and its relationship with Ireland as we leave the European Union.

We must avoid a return to a hard border, and trade and everyday movements across the land border must be protected as part of the UK-EU deal.

The Government will take account of these unique circumstances and the priority attached by all parts of the community in Northern Ireland to avoid a hard border and protect cross-border trade and cooperation.

Lack of an Executive

But the most immediate challenge is the lack of an Executive, and the imperative – for growth, prosperity and for the people of Northern Ireland – to see power-sharing return.

For nine months government has effectively been in the hands of civil servants, rather than politicians who are rightly accountable to the public for the decisions they make. This has meant there has been no political direction to tackle the fundamental challenges facing Northern Ireland – including the reform and transformation of critical public services.

So our overriding priority for the UK Government in Northern Ireland remains the restoration of devolved power-sharing government in Stormont. We believe in devolution. It is right that decisions over local services – like health, education, transport and economic development – are taken by local politicians in locally accountable political institutions.

This is why I am working intensively with the Northern Ireland parties and, in accordance with the well-established three-stranded approach, the Irish Government, to secure the reestablishment of inclusive, stable, devolved government in the interests of the entire community in Northern Ireland.

I have been clear with the parties that they must come together and reach agreement in the short window of time that remains.

If this does not happen within a short number of weeks, we risk greater political decision-making from Westminster – starting with provision for a 2017-18 Budget this autumn.

This is not what anyone wants and would profoundly be a step back not a step forwards. But in the continuing absence of devolution the UK Government retains ultimate responsibility for good governance and political stability in Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom – and we will not shirk from the necessary measures to deliver that.

If things don’t change we are on a glide path to greater and greater UK government intervention.

But I believe we can change course. This can be achieved with political leadership and with support of the people of Northern Ireland – including communities and businesses.

I ask everyone here tonight to do all you can to help secure what Northern Ireland wants and needs.

There is so much at stake. Risks, yes. But also so many opportunities, because I firmly believe in the huge unlocked potential there is right across Northern Ireland.

Opportunities to leverage the UK-wide Industrial Strategy to deliver stronger growth, and capitalise on new Sector Deals to support the industries of the future – like biotech and life sciences – where the UK, and Northern Ireland in particular, has the potential to lead the world.

To take forward with this Government a comprehensive and ambitious set of City Deals for Northern Ireland to prosper, and to put innovation at the heart of Northern Ireland’s growth.

To be at the heart of a stronger, fairer and more prosperous United Kingdom, and one that is more outward looking than ever before as we make trade deals around the world – with NI business able to realise their ambitions and make their mark on the world stage.

And to make use of the considerable freedoms available, getting the devolution of corporation tax back on track to enable Northern Ireland to cut its rates to attract investment and jobs.

In all of these ways – and more – I see a bright economic future for Northern Ireland.

And that is a future that the UK Government will support – through all the ways above, as well as through the range of funding streams there will be available, whether our £4.7bn Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, our £23bn National Productivity Investment Fund, and far more besides.

And that is what a restored Executive can do for Northern Ireland. It can promote an enterprise-driven economy, somewhere where young entrepreneurs want to invest and the younger generation see opportunities to forge their careers in Northern Ireland – a place where innovation, skills, opportunity and prosperity are at the forefront of the way ahead.

With a stable, power-sharing government in place, business can rely on the backdrop of stability that removes barriers to finance, to investment, and which boosts confidence to create jobs and opportunities.

And that is exactly why it must remain our absolute priority in the critical weeks ahead.

Impact on business/private sector

All the while, I want to reassure you that the UK Government will always uphold its responsibilities to the people and businesses of Northern Ireland.

I will continue to keep communications open with businesses right across Northern Ireland. Some of you may be aware of the work of my Business Advisory Group, but more broadly too, my door will always be open to hearing more from the business community.

For no matter what, I will remain a strong advocate for Northern Ireland and NI business within the Government and beyond.

Including on the Government’s ongoing work to support Bombardier in the ongoing trade case brought by Boeing.

Let me be very clear: it is a top priority for this Government to safeguard Bombardier’s operations and its highly skilled workers in Belfast.

This is obviously a commercial matter, but Ministers across Government have engaged swiftly and extensively with Boeing, as well as the US and Canadian governments on this case.

We want to encourage Boeing to drop what we see as an unjustified case, and to get round the table and seek negotiated settlement with Bombardier. And we would encourage all those with an interest, whether of a political view or none, to join us in pushing for the same outcome.

Working to restore devolved government

So as we approach our dinner, I want to finish by being clear of what we want to see in the weeks to come in the best interests of Northern Ireland.

Over the last few weeks, the DUP and Sinn Fein have been holding meetings together and this intensive dialogue is continuing.

These discussions have been constructive and I am hopeful that further progress will be made as they continue. The issues remain relatively small in number and are clearly defined. But difference remains.

We have also been bringing together the other parties eligible to join an Executive and have had positive engagement with them in line with our commitment to an inclusive process.

But ultimately we cannot force an agreement.

That has to come from the parties themselves.

And we – all of us in this room – want to see those parties come together to…

…make the important decisions facing Northern Ireland’s public services…

…to contribute to the important discussions about how the UK will leave the European Union alongside the devolved governments in Scotland and Wales…

…and to support continued economic growth in Northern Ireland: investing in infrastructure, taking its own decisions on corporation tax, and taking other actions to support businesses large and small…

To do this it’s vital that they continue to work together to find a solution to their differences.

And it is my belief that they are committed to doing so… in the interests of everyone in Northern Ireland.

I have very much welcomed the growing voice of businesses, trade unions, the voluntary sector and others in stressing the need for the return of devolved government – as we have seen for example in the media profiles by business leaders from across different sectors this week.

And tonight, I would encourage all of you here to continue to make it clear to the political parties just how important the restoration of devolved government is for business, for ordinary people and for Northern Ireland as a whole.

We all want to see the parties come together and form an Executive. They need to hear from you just how important it is for to you to see them working together for the good of Northern Ireland.

And deliver the bright positive future for NI we know we can achieve together.

James Brokenshire – 2017 Speech to British Irish Association Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, at the British Irish Association Conference at the University of Cambridge on 8 September 2017.

It’s a great pleasure to address my second British-Irish Association Conference since being appointed Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in July last year and I’d like thank Hugo MacNeill and his team for their kind invitation.

I would also like to pay a special tribute to Francesca Kay who once again has done such a brilliant job in organising the conference and putting together the programme.

As I discovered last year, the BIA Conference really is one of the must-attend events of the year for anyone interested in the affairs of Northern Ireland and relationships between the United Kingdom and Ireland more broadly.

It really is a unique opportunity for politicians, civil servants, journalists, academics, church leaders and people from the business world to come together under the relative safeguard of the Chatham House Rule to exchange views, share ideas and to help shape the political, economic and security agendas.

And in doing that the I believe that the BIA is as relevant today as it was when you were formed in what was, in terms of loss of life, the darkest year of the troubles, 1972, when over 470 people were killed.

At that time, Northern Ireland was in the grip of terrorist campaigns that were to last for around another quarter of a century.

In that year devolved government was suspended and it was to take some 35 years for it to be re-established on anything like a sustainable basis.

As I was reminded the other day there was no irony intended that the legislation providing for the long years of Westminster control was actually called the Northern Ireland Temporary Provisions Act.

Also at that time relations between the UK and Ireland were frequently strained, beset by crises over issues like security and extradition, and often characterised by what was described as megaphone diplomacy across the Irish Sea.

We have, of course, come a tremendously long way since then.

Today, Northern Ireland is a vastly different place from when the BIA was founded.

The post Belfast Agreement generation has grown up without the daily threat of large scale terrorism and the security apparatus that was necessary to counter it.

Until the beginning of this year Northern Ireland had enjoyed ten years of power sharing, the longest period of unbroken devolved government since the 1960s.

Events that years ago would have been unthinkable now take place in Northern Ireland, including this year the final stages of the hugely successful Womens’ Rugby Union World Cup.

Relations between Northern Ireland and Ireland, and between the United Kingdom and Ireland, are at their strongest ever.

And on that note I would like to extend the warmest welcome to the Irish Foreign Minister, Simon Coveney, to Cambridge this evening and to recognise Charlie Flanagan for his outstanding contribution previously in that role. Economically, too, Northern Ireland continues to move forward with solid growth, unemployment significantly down on seven years ago and in the past year levels of employment hitting record levels.

Northern Ireland, which for years against a backdrop of terrorism and instability struggled to attract investment and jobs, is now one of the most popular locations in the UK outside of London for foreign direct investment.

We have some world-beating businesses exporting right across the globe.

And just think how much better we could do if we had an Executive in place and could devolve Corporation Tax powers to enable them to lower it to the same levels south of the border.

All of this paints a picture of a Northern Ireland that would have been unrecognisable a generation or so ago.

And I’m convinced that we have the potential to do even better.

But to achieve that we have to get right what I believe are the three great political challenges we face today.

The need to see a fully functioning, power sharing devolved government at Stormont as set out in the Belfast Agreement and its successors, our support for which remains steadfast.

The need to address legacy issues by implementing in full the proposals in the Stormont House Agreement and reforming the inquest system.

And of course the necessity of making a success of Brexit, to which the UK Government is fully committed.

It’s those these issues that I want largely to speak about this evening.

Getting Stormont back to work

First let me deal with devolution and let me be very clear.

As our manifesto set out at the General Election this year, this Government believes firmly in devolution and the associated political institutions so carefully negotiated in the Belfast Agreement.

Decisions over local services are best taken by local politicians democratically accountable to a local Assembly. And we believe in the closest co-operation between both parts of the island of Ireland and between the United Kingdom and Ireland.

These are the so-called three strands of the Belfast Agreement.

Yet after a ten year uninterrupted run of devolved government from 2007, Northern Ireland has now been without a properly functioning Executive and Assembly for the past nine months.

Throughout that period government has effectively been in the hands of civil servants rather than politicians who are rightly accountable to the public for the decisions they make.

Under the Northern Ireland Act 1998 in the absence of devolved government passing a Budget, civil servants can only spend up to 75 per cent of the previous year’s financial allocations rising to 95 per cent after three months.

I have sought to relieve immediate pressures by intervening to publish ‘indicative’ budget statements in April and July.

But this is only a short term fix.

The longer-term problem is that the fundamental challenges of reform and transformation of critical public services, such as health, education, transport and justice are not taken forward.

Civil servants cannot provide the political direction to tackle these issues.

As a result, public services such as health, education and transport are coming under increasing strain with the people of Northern Ireland suffering as a consequence.

Without devolution other aspects of the Belfast Agreement also cease to function, including North-South bodies and those covering broader relationships such as the British-Irish Council.

And of course without devolution, there is no Northern Ireland Executive to put its views directly on Brexit.

The situation simply is not sustainable and if it is not resolved within a relatively short number of weeks will require greater political decision making from Westminster.

This would have to begin with legislation to give Northern Ireland a Budget.

That is profoundly not where the UK Government, the Irish Government and I believe the Northern Ireland parties want to go.

I cannot overstate this point.

It would be a hugely retrograde step, a massive setback after so many years of progress and hope.

But in the continuing absence of devolution the UK Government retains ultimate responsibility for good governance and political stability in Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom and we will not shirk from the necessary measures to deliver that.

At the same time we will need to consider carefully a range of other issues reflecting public concern, including whether it can continue to be justified to pay Assembly members who have not met for several months now.

If things don’t change we are on a glide path to greater and greater UK government intervention.

But we can still change course.

And I have been keen to support the exchanges that have taken place in recent days and which will continue next week.

On Monday I will be holding further bilaterals with the parties.

And for the rest of the week further intensive dialogue between the DUP and Sinn Fein will continue.

You will understand that I am not in a position this evening to give a running commentary on the details of the current discussions.

But the issues remain relatively small in number and are clearly defined.

Both the Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney and I believe that a resolution is possible and that with political leadership it can be achieved.

But there is still work to do.

For our part the UK and Irish Governments can support and work with the parties towards that end, in accordance with and fully respecting the three stranded approach.

But ultimately we cannot force an agreement.

That has to come from the parties themselves.

So it’s vital that they continue to work together to find a solution to their differences.

And it is my belief that they are committed to doing so in the interests of everyone in Northern Ireland. And the time to make progress is now.

Legacy of the past

I also know that we need to make progress on addressing the legacy of Northern Ireland’s divided past.

The current mechanisms for addressing the past and helping victims and survivors simply are not working as they should.

Not least for the victims and survivors of the troubles, whose pain and suffering today is often every bit as raw as it was decades ago.

That is why, at the election, the UK Government restated its support for the full implementation legacy bodies set out in the 2014 Stormont House Agreement.

They will operate in ways that are fair, balanced, transparent and crucially proportionate and will be fully consistent with the rule of law.

We also reiterated our backing of reforms to the legacy inquest system to ensure that the UK Government complies with its international obligations.

These are clear manifesto commitments and we fully intend to deliver them.

And as the Stormont House Agreement set out we will provide up to £150 million to help fund them.

I’m fully aware that it’s a year since I told this conference that the Government said that the process would benefit from a public phase.

And I deeply regret the fact that it has yet to happen.

Over the past year we have continued detailed work with the parties and with the Irish Government.

And much genuine progress has been made.

Discussions with the parties have been constructive and changes have been made to the detailed structure of the mechanisms.

The structure has been improved as a result of these discussions.

Again, we cannot continue this process indefinitely.

We have also had extensive discussions with victims and survivors. In these meetings, we increasingly hear that victims want us to get on with it – to move debate out from behind closed doors and into a public discussion with the people who will be most affected by how we address the past.

So I intend to be in a position to bring forward a formal consultation as soon as possible.

Making a success of Brexit

The third great political challenge and a key theme of this conference is of course Brexit, and in that context UK-Irish relations.

As a Government our goal is to secure a deal that works for the whole of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland, as we leave the European Union.

But let me be clear on this point.

Just as we joined the Common Market in 1973 as one United Kingdom, we will leave the EU in 2019 as one United Kingdom.

And as the Prime Minister has made clear the United Kingdom will be leaving both the single market and the customs union, enabling us to strike new trade deals with the rest of the world.

Throughout, however, we have also been clear that we need to recognise and address the particular circumstances of both Northern Ireland and Ireland.

We might be leaving the EU but we are not turning our backs on our friends and partners in Europe and nowhere is that clearer than with our closest neighbour, Ireland.

The Article 50 letter itself sets out the absolute priority we give to preserving the unique relationship between the UK and Ireland and protecting the peace process in Northern Ireland.

This was reiterated in our manifesto at the General Election and in August, as part of a series of position papers, the Government published its paper on Northern Ireland and Ireland setting out in more detail how we might achieve our objectives.

It makes a series of concrete UK proposals for provisions that should be enshrined in the Withdrawal Agreement.

Specifically it proposes that we; affirm the ongoing support of the UK Government and Irish Government, and the European Union, for the peace process; formally recognise that the citizenship rights set out in the Belfast Agreement will continue to be upheld; agree to the continuation of PEACE funding to Northern Ireland and border counties of Ireland; agree text for the Withdrawal Agreement that recognises the ongoing status of the Common Travel Area and associated reciprocal arrangements following the UK’s exit from the EU; agree nine key principles and criteria that could be used to test future models for border arrangements, including the need to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland and any physical border infrastructure and agree a common understanding of the principles of North-South and East-West cooperation including key principles for the new energy framework in Northern Ireland and Ireland that highlight the need for the continuation of a single electricity market .

In the Government’s view the publication of this paper marks a real and positive step forward in our negotiations with the EU.

And it outlines serious proposals for tackling one of the most challenging parts of our future relationship.

So far as the negotiations themselves are concerned, the Brexit Secretary, David Davis, updated the House of Commons on Tuesday on the two rounds that took place in July and August.

He was able to report significant and concrete progress the issue of Northern Ireland and Ireland

In August, there were detailed discussions on the basis of the UK position paper.

We agreed to work up shared principles on the common travel area, which in the Government’s view is concrete and welcome progress.

In addition we agreed to carry out important further technical work on cross-border co-operation under the Belfast Agreement.

As both David Davis and Michel Barnier said at last week there has been real progress.

The UK also welcomes the publication of the EU Commission position paper yesterday.

It shows the close alignment between the UK, the Irish Government and the EU on our objectives.

In particular the clear commitment to avoiding physical infrastructure at the border is very welcome.

Of course many commentators are still focused on the detail of how we address the critical issue of avoiding a hard border for the movement of goods.

The UK and EU position papers show that there is alignment on the objectives.

The UK’s overarching approach to this challenge is clear.

We are considering first the nature of the border, its history, and the wishes of people in Northern Ireland and living in border communities.

As the Irish Government have said, technical solutions need to follow from the right political objectives.

The wrong approach is to focus first on existing customs and other regulations and then try to work out the technical solution within those extremely narrow parameters.

That would absolutely not represent the flexible and imaginative approach that the UK, Ireland and the EU all agree is required.

Of course any imaginative approach requires painstaking creative work.

And I make no apology that the initial proposals the UK has put forward are creative and go beyond existing precedents.

For example, as we set out in our paper small traders operating across the invisible border that exists now are often engaged in local trade in local markets.

So the right approach is not to work out how existing template customs rules for ‘third countries’ should apply to those traders, but to protect their trade and livelihoods on both sides of the border.

The technically easier but entirely wrong approach is to say it’s all too difficult and to get to work applying template regulations and customs laws.

Or to say that the UK should simply accept all EU customs and single market laws permanently as the solution.

Or to say that the answer to this issue is to simply create a new border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

None of those approaches would be acceptable to the UK, and none of them is the ‘flexible and imaginative’ approach that the European Council has mandated.

But with the right overall approach to this issue, and the clear commitment that we all have to work on flexible and imaginative solutions to avoid a hard border, then I believe that the technical solutions can and should be agreed in a way that can work for the UK, Ireland and the European Union as a whole.

Of course there is a long way to go and nobody pretends this was ever going to be easy but nobody should be in any doubt about the UK Government’s determination to secure a successful outcome.

Conclusion

Next year we will mark the 20th anniversary of the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement, an Agreement intended to herald a new beginning for relationships in these islands, within Northern Ireland, between Norther Ireland and Ireland and between the United Kingdom and Ireland.

And there is no doubt in my mind that as a consequence of that historic Agreement and its successor’s life for so many people has changed considerably for the better.

The Agreement is the bedrock of the political settlement in Northern Ireland and the political progress we have seen over the past twenty years, which is why it is so vital that through our collective efforts we get it back on track.

For this Government, as our manifesto stated, our commitment to the Belfast Agreement and its successors remains steadfast.

That includes the constitutional provisions they set out the full range of political institutions they establish and those matters relating to rights, culture and identity.

So, in coming days we must grasp the opportunity to make progress.

To re-establish devolved government.

To continue the positive progress which has been made over nearly two decades.

And to build a stronger and more prosperous future for everyone.

James Brokenshire – 2017 Statement on Northern Ireland

Below is the text of the speech made by James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, in the House of Commons on 3 July 2017.

With permission I would like to make a statement about the political situation in Northern Ireland.

As the House will recall following the resignation of Martin McGuinness, the then deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland in January, an election took place to the Northern Ireland Assembly on 2 March.

Despite intensive discussions in the three weeks following the election the Northern Ireland parties were unable to reach agreement on the formation of a new Executive.

In order to facilitate further discussions between the parties, Parliament passed legislation immediately prior to dissolution extending the period in which an Executive could be formed until 29 June.

Last Thursday, 29 June, I made a statement in Belfast setting out that, while differences remained between the parties, progress had been made and that it was still possible for resolution to be achieved.

I urged the parties to continue focusing their efforts on this, with the full support of the UK Government and, as appropriate, the Irish Government.

In that regard I want to recognise the contribution of the Irish Foreign Minister, Simon Coveney, and his predecessor, Charlie Flanagan.

In the past few days, since the passing of the deadline, further progress has continued to be made, including on the most challenging issues such as language, culture and identity.

Gaps remain between the parties, but these are few in number and on a defined group of issues.

The Government remains committed to working with the parties, and the Irish Government, to find a way to close these gaps quickly in order to reach an agreement which will pave the way for the restoration of devolved government.

The Prime Minister has been actively involved following on from her meetings with each of the parties … including speaking to Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill on Friday night.

I continue to believe that a deal remains achievable.

And if agreement is reached, I will bring forward legislation to enable an Executive to be formed possibly as early as this week.

But time is short.

It has been six months since a full Executive was in place to represent the people of Northern Ireland.

In that time it has been civil servants, not politicians, who have made decisions on spending.

Without political direction, it has not been possible for strategic decisions to be made about priorities in areas like education and health.

This has created pressures which need to be addressed.

And it has led to understandable concern and uncertainty among businesses and those relying on public services alike.

This hiatus cannot simply continue for much longer.

There is no doubt that the best outcome is for a new Executive to make those strategic decisions in the interests of all parts of the community in Northern Ireland.

It should be for a new Executive to make swift decisions on its Budget to make use of the considerable spending power available to it.

While engagement between the parties continues, and there is a prospect of an agreement this week, it is right that those discussions remain our focus.

At the same time we will not forget our ultimate responsibility as a Government to uphold political stability and good governance in Northern Ireland.

In April, I made a Written Ministerial Statement that sought to provide clarity for those civil servants charged with allocating cash in Northern Ireland, to assist them in the discharge of their responsibilities.

But there remains resource available, including £42m from the Spring Budget and any further budget transfers as may be agreed, which are as yet unallocated.

If we do not see resolution in the coming days, we would need to reflect carefully upon whether further clarity would be required for NI Permanent Secretaries around those resources.

In that situation, we would also need to reflect carefully on how we might allocate the funding made available to address immediate health and education pressures as set out in Monday’s statement on UK Government financial support for Northern Ireland, recognising Northern Ireland’s particular circumstances.

And, if no agreement is reached, legislation in Westminster may then be required to give authority for the expenditure of Northern Ireland departments through an Appropriations Bill.

From my conversations with the Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, we have not quite reached that critical point yet.

But that point is coming and the lack of a formal Budget is not something that can be sustained indefinitely.

Similarly, decisions on capital expenditure and infrastructure and public service reforms in key sectors such as the health service cannot be deferred for much longer.

One area on which there is much consensus, however, is on the need for greater transparency around political donations.

In line with the commitment set out in the Conservative Party’s Northern Ireland manifesto at the General Election I can confirm that I intend to bring forward legislation that will provide for the publication of all donations and loans received by Northern Ireland parties on or after 1 July 2017.

Mr Speaker,

All of this reinforces further the importance of the parties coming together and reaching an agreement.

And it sets out, too, some of the hard choices that we face if uncertainty persists.

I am also conscious that, with the deadline now passed, I am under a duty to set a date for a new election. I will continue to keep that duty under review.

But it seems unlikely that would that of itself resolve the current political impasse or the ultimate need for political decision-making, however we proceed.

As the Government for the whole United Kingdom, we will always govern in the interests of all those within the United Kingdom.

And so if resolution were to prove intractable, and an Executive could not be restored, then we would of course be ready to do what is needed to provide that political decision-making in the best interests of Northern Ireland.

But I am clear that the return of inclusive, devolved government by a power-sharing Executive is what would be best for Northern Ireland.

And that will remain our overriding focus in the crucial days ahead.

The UK Government will continue govern in the interests of everyone in Northern Ireland by providing political stability and keeping an open and sustained dialogue with the parties and with the Irish Government, in accordance with the well-established three-stranded approach.

I stand ready to do what is necessary to facilitate the quick formation of an Executive once an agreement is reached.

And I commend this statement to the House.

James Brokenshire – 2016 Speech to Washington Chamber of Commerce

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Below is the text of the speech made by James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, in Washington DC, United States of America, on 8 September 2016.

It is a great pleasure for me as the UK Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to have the opportunity to share some words with the Washington Chamber of Commerce today.

And I’m very grateful to you for agreeing to host me, and to your Senior Vice President for International Policy, John Murphy, for moderating this session.

This is my first overseas visit since being appointed Secretary of State for Northern Ireland by the new UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, in July. And I was particularly keen to come to the United States which has played such a supportive and important role in Northern Ireland over recent years.

So today, I’d like to say a few words about the current state of affairs in Northern Ireland – including why it is such a great place to do business – and about the impact of the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union.

Special Relationship

But I should like to underline at the outset the enduring strength of relations between the United Kingdom and the United States.

As President Obama said last year “The special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom is rooted in our shared values and mutual commitment to global peace, prosperity and security”.

And the reality is that no two countries on earth do more together.

Our relationship has been a bulwark of international peace and security for over seventy years. Economically, the US remains the largest single country for UK exports, while the US is the UK’s largest inward investor. And in 2015 the UK and the US were the two fastest growing economies in the G7. So be in no doubt. The alliance between the United Kingdom and the United States is one of the oldest and strongest in the world.

It’s a force for democracy, peace and security the world over. And we remain deeply committed to ensuring that it both endures and prospers.

Northern Ireland – open for business

One place where successive US administrations and key individuals have helped to move things decisively forward in recent years is in Northern Ireland. And the progress in Northern Ireland is rightly held up as an example of what can be achieved when democracy and dialogue prevail over the alternatives.

Today, Northern Ireland enjoys almost unparalleled political stability with the longest unbroken run of local, devolved government since the 1960s.

The economy continues to grow, with unemployment falling and over 55,000 more people in work since 2010. And in the last year Northern Ireland’s exports to the US have increased by a staggering 74 per cent. Relations between Northern Ireland and Ireland have never been stronger. The overall security situation is unrecognisable from the period of the troubles.

And Northern Ireland is a highly competitive place in which to invest. We have a highly educated, skilled and dedicated workforce. We have two world class universities with strong links to local business and commerce. There are great transport links into the rest of the UK, Ireland, Europe and beyond. Invest Northern Ireland is able to offer imaginative packages to potential investors.

Our operating costs are over 48 per cent lower than London and 14 per cent lower than Dublin. Northern Ireland benefits from the UK having the joint lowest rate of corporation tax in the G20 – 20 per cent today coming down to 17 per cent by 2020.

And the UK Government remains committed to handing corporation tax powers to the local administration which has set itself the goal of bringing the rate down to 12.5 per cent, the same as in the Republic of Ireland. So it’s not surprising that Belfast is one of the leading destinations for foreign direct investment into the UK outside of London.

But don’t just take my word for it. Our greatest ambassadors are the companies that have invested in Northern Ireland.

Like the Executive Vice President of Allstate who said “As a result of investing in Northern Ireland 15 years ago Allstate has saved over a billion dollars”.

Or the Executive Producer of Game of Thrones, filmed largely at the Titanic Studios in Belfast. As he put it “I can’t imagine any other city or any other area where we could have done this show. Anything we throw at Northern Ireland they deliver.”

All of this is why Northern Ireland has attracted almost 900 international investors – companies like Citi, Allen and Overy and the New York Stock – as well as a multitude of companies from the rest of the UK.

My clear message here in the United States today is that Northern Ireland is open for business.

Brexit

And it will continue to be open for business after the United Kingdom leaves the European Union. Of course I realise that decision has caused some uncertainty, so perhaps I can comment on some of the implications of the referendum in June and say some words both of reassurance and of optimism.

First, the people of the United Kingdom were given a choice in the referendum, and they voted decisively to leave the European Union.

I campaigned for remain, but I am clear that we must and will respect that democratic decision and give effect to it.

And while respecting the views of those parts of the UK that voted to remain, this was a United Kingdom vote. The UK as a whole voted to leave – and it is the whole of the UK that will leave the EU. There is no provision for some parts of the UK being within the EU while other parts are outside.

I am also confident the UK will make a success of life outside the EU. Indeed, I believe it presents us with great opportunities.We will succeed because the UK is a great global trading nation. And we’ll make a success of Brexit because the fundamentals of the UK economy are sound.

As a result of the difficult decisions we have taken since 2010 the UK’s deficit is down by nearly two thirds. As I said earlier along with the US we were the fastest growing G7 economy last year. Employment is at record levels – with an average 1,000 jobs a day created over the past six years.

We continue to attract more foreign direct investment than any other country in Europe. And, according to the World Bank, in 2015 we overtook the United States as the top country in the world for ease of doing business.

So while, yes, leaving the EU will inevitably involve some challenges and as the Prime Minister said at the weekend it will not all be plain sailing, we approach this with optimism and a positive view of what we can achieve for the UK.

Protecting Northern Ireland’s interests

For my part, as Northern Ireland Secretary I want to ensure that the unique interests of Northern Ireland are protected and advanced. This is particularly the case in relation to the land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

So let me try and offer these words of re-assurance. The UK Government emphatically does not want to see a return to the borders of the past. And I know that determination is shared by the Irish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive. The open border and the Common Travel Area have served us well for many years. So we shall be working hard together in our efforts to keep them for people and business.

Support for the Agreements

There have been some suggestions that leaving the EU risks unravelling all the progress that has been made in Northern Ireland in recent years, and that it could fatally undermine the settlement forged by the 1998 Agreement and its successors. I fundamentally reject that argument.

The UK Government remains fully committed to the Agreement and its successors. That includes the political institutions. Those elements of the Agreements that deal with people’s rights and identity. And all the constitutional guarantees – underpinned by the consent principle.

Working in close partnership with the Northern Ireland Executive, the Irish Government and our friends in the United States the UK Government will always do the right thing for Northern Ireland.

Conclusion

In conclusion Brexit will work for the United Kingdom. As a strong, outward looking country we are well placed to forge exciting new trading relationships with existing partners, like the United States, but also with emerging economies.

We are in a strong position to negotiate our own trade agreements and be a positive and powerful voice for free trade. We will forge a new relationship with the EU that works for the UK. And we’ll get out into the world and do business right across the globe.

Outside the EU the United Kingdom will prosper and have a strong and positive future – remaining always a staunch ally of the United States.

Thank you.

James Brokenshire – 2016 Speech to British Irish Association Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, at Pembroke College at Oxford University on 9 September 2016.

I am delighted to be here this evening, and to attend my first British-Irish Association Conference as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

So thank you to Hugo McNeill for your kind invitation, and to you and your team at the BIA for the important work you continue to do.

I’d also like to pay tribute to my predecessor, Theresa Villiers, who worked tirelessly over four years as Secretary State, securing both the Stormont House and Fresh Start Agreements.

Theresa left Northern Ireland in a stronger and more stable place, and we should be very grateful for the job that she did.

I welcome the presence this evening of the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny.

The UK-Irish relationship has never been stronger, and that is something we both need to use to our mutual benefit as the UK negotiates its departure from the European Union.

I feel genuinely honoured and privileged to have been asked by the Prime Minister to serve as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

In all of the previous times I’ve spent in Northern Ireland, I have always been struck by its beauty, its spirit, the warmth of its people and the sheer opportunity and potential it holds.

It is a very special part of the United Kingdom.

And it has been great to get out and about across Northern Ireland over the summer.

Stepping the stones of the Giants Causeway, crossing Lough Erne and surveying the stunning countryside of County Fermanagh, walking the historic walls of Derry / Londonderry, enjoying the experience of the Titanic Centre with family, seeing the catch off the fishing boats in Kilkeel. Appreciating just how good a sixteen year old Bushmills single malt really is.

But even more importantly talking to people. Reflecting on their worries and their anxieties. Listening to their hopes and aspirations. Hearing that sense of just how far Northern Ireland has come over recent years, but also how it needs to progress in the future. What Northern Ireland can be, what Northern Ireland will be in the years ahead.

I am in little doubt that there are few greater responsibilities in government than taking forward the efforts of so many people over recent decades to build a peaceful, stable and prosperous Northern Ireland.

But that is precisely the agenda I will to pursue wholeheartedly to the best of my abilities.

Committed to the Belfast Agreement and its successors. Working with all parts of the community to see Northern Ireland flourish.

Advancing the clear agenda of the Prime Minister to be a One Nation Government that will work for the whole of the United Kingdom, and for all of its citizens.

UK Exit from the EU

And seeing that we get the best possible deal for Northern Ireland as the UK looks to a future outside of the EU.

And I think it is right that I start with the issue of Brexit.

The people of the United Kingdom were given a choice in the referendum. And they voted decisively to leave the European Union.

I campaigned for remain, but I am clear that we must and will respect that democratic decision and give effect to it.

And while respecting the views of those parts of the UK that voted to remain, this was a United Kingdom vote.

The imperative now is to work together and ensure that we have a positive and successful vision for Northern Ireland – inside the UK, within the closest set of relationships within these islands, but outside the EU.

We have to make the most of the opportunities that our departure from the EU presents.

The UK has always been a great global trading nation and that’s what we’ll continue to be – getting out there and doing business right across the world.

That’s why I have just spent two days in Washington – with the simple message that the UK, and Northern Ireland in particular, is open for business.

And another reason we will make a success of our departure is because the fundamentals of the UK economy are sound.

We’ve reduced the deficit we inherited by nearly two-thirds.

Employment is at record levels, with an average 1,000 jobs a day created over the past six years.

We continue to attract more foreign direct investment than any other country in Europe.

And in Northern Ireland the economy continues to grow with unemployment falling and more than 55,000 people in work since 2010. So while, yes, leaving the EU will inevitably involve some challenges and as the Prime Minister said last weekend it will not all be plain sailing – we approach this with optimism and a positive view of what we can achieve for the UK.

And as we establish a UK negotiating position, the Prime Minister has made clear her desire to engage fully with the devolved administrations, including the Northern Ireland Executive.

We also want to offer reassurance and certainty across a number of key sectors.

Future of EU structural funds

And that’s why the Chancellor announced last month that all European structural and investment funding agreements in the UK signed before this year’s Autumn Statement will be fully funded, even after we have left the EU.

That includes funding agreed under the Peace Four and Interreg programmes.

In addition, we will match the current level of direct payments given to farmers until 2020 – a boost to the agriculture sector which in Northern Ireland is the backbone of the local economy.

As Secretary of State I am also fully committed to ensuring that as we establish our negotiating position the unique interests of Northern Ireland are protected and advanced.

Northern Ireland / Ireland border

This is particularly the case in relation to the border.

So let me try and offer these words of re-assurance.

The UK Government emphatically does not want to see a return to the borders of the past.

The Prime Minister emphasised that on her visit to Stormont and I want to underline that point again this evening. And I know that determination is shared by the Irish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive.

The open border and the Common Travel Area have served us well for decades. So it is a priority to keep them open for people and business.

Perceived risk to the Belfast Agreement

I also want to respond to suggestions that leaving the EU risks unravelling all the progress that has been made in Northern Ireland in recent years, and that it could fatally undermine the settlement forged by the 1998 Agreement and its successors.

I fundamentally reject that argument.

For a start I am confident that all parties in the Assembly support the current political settlement, want it to work and are fully committed to exclusively democratic and peaceful means.

For our part, the UK Government remains fully committed to the Agreement and its successors. That includes the political institutions.

The Assembly, the North-South Ministerial Council and the British-Irish Council will all continue to reflect the unique political relationships throughout these islands.

In addition those elements of the Agreements that deal with people’s rights and identity will be upheld. As will all the constitutional guarantees – underpinned by the abiding principle of consent.

And there remains continued overwhelming support for the current settlement, as the opinion poll this week has shown.

Political stability in Northern Ireland has been hard fought over many decades, and we will not do anything to undermine it. This Government remains determined to do the best for Northern Ireland and for the United Kingdom as a whole.

Stormont House and Fresh Start Agreements

And doing the best for Northern Ireland means implementing the Stormont House and Fresh Start Agreements.

This time last year at the BIA my predecessor effectively launched the second cross party talks process in twelve months.

She did so against a background of impending crisis within the devolved institutions, with a return to direct rule seemed increasingly in prospect.

In addition two murders in Belfast had again thrown the spotlight on the continuing existence of paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland.

After ten weeks of intensive talks the resulting Fresh Start Agreement set out a way forward – to secure implementation of the Stormont House Agreement and to tackle the continuing malign influence of paramilitary groups.

All of this was underpinned by an additional financial commitment by the UK Government which together with the funding in the Stormont House Agreement would give the Executive up to £2.5 billion extra spending power.

And I’m pleased to say that implementation continues to go well.

For our part at Westminster the UK Government is legislating for welfare reform in accordance with the terms set out in the Fresh Start Agreement.

We’ve introduced new measures to encourage fiscal responsibility within the Executive so that it can live within its means.

And we remain committed to the devolution of corporation tax powers in accordance with the conditions on financial stability set out in the Stormont House Agreement.

There are new obligations on Ministers and MLAs to tackle paramilitarism.

And we’ve passed the legislation to establish the new Independent Reporting Commission to promote progress towards ending paramilitary activity connected with Northern Ireland.

I look forward to signing the Treaty along with Charlie Flanagan shortly that will enable the UK and Irish Governments, along with the Executive, that will enable us to get the new Commission up and running by the end of the year.

Tackling paramilitarism

Along with the strategy being developed by the Executive following the publication of the Fresh Start Panel report I hope that the Commission can play a key role in confronting the scourge of paramilitarism.

Let’s be clear.

Those engaged in what is often described as paramilitary activity serve no political cause.

They commit crime using the cloak of paramiltarism to line their own pockets.

They use intimidation and fear to power and exert influence within their communities.

They hold communities back … deterring investment and jobs and preventing people from moving forward with their lives.

They were never justified in the past, they are not justified today and they should disband.

I recognise that this is easier said than done.

It requires a concerted effort across society.

We need to look at how we prevent young people being drawn into these groups in the first place.

We need to help communities challenge the influence and legitimacy of these groups.

We need look at how we can better support people coming forward to give evidence in paramilitary linked cases.

And we need to ensure that the criminal justice system works to prosecute more of these people and put them behind bars for longer.

So the measures in the Fresh Start Agreement are only a beginning.

And they will rightly be judged on whether they make a difference where it matters – on the ground.

But working with the Executive and the Irish Government I’m determined to make progress.

We cannot tolerate cold blooded murder in alleyways masquerading as justice.

It has to stop – and these groups must be put out of business for good.

There is no doubt that since the Fresh Start Agreement politics has been more stable than for some time – with the new Executive getting on with the job of developing its Programme for Government.

And of course politics is evolving, with the power-sharing structures at Stormont now accommodating a government and an opposition.

I welcome these developments.

In my first public statement as Secretary of State, I said that making progress on the issues of the past would be one of my key priorities.

Legacy of the past and new institutions

In recent weeks I’ve been meeting groups representing victims and survivors as well as individuals who either lost loved ones or were injured during the Troubles.

It has been a profoundly moving and affecting experience.

Hearing their powerful testimony.

Seeing the pain, raw emotion and, frankly, suffering that still persists decades on.

Recognising their desire for information, for answers and in some cases for justice to be done and to be seen to be done.

And being very conscious of their frustration that the current structures aren’t working and the failure to establish the necessary political consensus to bring about change.

They are the ones who suffered the most during the Troubles, and we have an obligation to do what we can to help them.

So I would like to say this.

I believe that the so called legacy bodies set out in the Stormont House Agreement continue to provide the most effective way to make progress on this hugely sensitive but hugely important issue.

Delivering the Stormont House Agreement, including the legacy bodies, and also reforming legacy inquests was a key Northern Ireland manifesto pledge for the Conservative Government at the last election.

It is something to which I am fully committed.

The new bodies will be under obligations to operate in ways that are fair, balanced, impartial and – crucially in my view – proportionate.

They will not provide for any amnesties or immunities from prosecution where an evidential case against individuals can be made.

The Government, the police and all the agencies will also be under obligations to provide full disclosure, without limitation or qualification, to those investigating crimes or misconduct.

The rule of law must be upheld, without fear or favour.

But in the reports that are subsequently published, I am determined to strike the right balance between the obligation to the families to provide comprehensive disclosure, and my fundamental obligation as Secretary of State to protect lives and keep people safe and secure.

Over recent months my department has been fully engaged on work necessary to establish the Historical Investigations Unit, the Independent Commission for Information Retrieval, the Implementation and Reconciliation Group and the Oral History Archive.

The work has been shaped by many meetings with political parties, academics and victims’ groups, and with the Irish Government who also have important obligations in respect of the past.

I now believe the process would benefit from a more public phase. And over the coming weeks I will reflect on what form that might take.

My purpose is to implement fully and faithfully all parts of the Stormont House Agreement, and I believe it is right there should be a public chance to comment on the detail we have developed through our many discussions.

I want the public to have their say and to build confidence in the new bodies so that they can get on with their work from the outset and make a difference for those people we have a duty to help.

I want to have these bodies up and running as quickly as possible.

But the bodies will only work if they can command support and confidence from across the community.

Conclusion

In conclusion.

Brexit, Fresh Start implementation and legacy all represent big challenges.

But working with our key partners the UK Government approaches them positively.

As we seek to build a brighter, prosperous more secure future for Northern Ireland.

And a Northern Ireland that works for everyone.

 

James Brokenshire – 2013 Speech for the Far Right Special Interest Group conference

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Below is the text of the speech made by James Brokenshire, the then Minister for Security, on 5 September 2013.

Thank you for the opportunity to address this conference.

It’s a privilege to speak to the people at the front line in reducing extremism in our communities.

Clearly we are here today to discuss our response to the threat posed by far right extremism – and I think that we have assembled in this room some of the best, most experienced people in the field.

Before I begin, I would like to echo the sentiments of the previous speakers and utterly condemn the actions of the so-called defence leagues, their off-shoots and the offensive, anti-Muslim messages they promote.

They are divisive and run contrary to the values of respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.

Those values are the essence of our democratic system, and any attack on them is an attack on the basis of our society.

The terrorist threat posed by the far right

However, as you might expect from the Security Minister, I will focus my comments today on the terrorist threat posed by the far right.

As you know, the most significant terrorist threat we face comes from Al Qa’ida, its affiliates and like-minded terrorists.

That’s the ideology most likely to inspire a terrorist attack in Britain today.

But we know from recent events that although the far-right threat may not be on the same scale as Al Qa’ida, their divisive and racist ideology can still have deadly consequences.

This summer we have been shocked and appalled by the murder of Mohammed Saleem and the attacks on Aisha Mosque in Walsall, Wolverhampton Central Mosque and Kanz Ul Iman Masjid in Tipton.

I met with Mr Saleem’s family and representatives of the mosques affected and was deeply moved by their resilience, unity and dignity in the face of terrorism.

I also met with officers from the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit and as you know, following their thorough investigation, an individual has now been charged with the attacks.

Alongside the investigation, West Midlands security advisors also visited over two hundred mosques and Islamic centres to provide reassurance and advice on how best ensure that mosques are safe places.

Building on this and existing work, they have developed national guidance on protective security measures for mosques and other places of worship.

This guidance has been sent to all forces so that the advice can be provided across the country.

Even more recently the police have been investigating a fire at a mosque in Harlow, which has now led to a man being questioned about the incident.

But, of course, this summer wasn’t the first time the far right has posed a threat in the UK – in 2010 Ian and Nicky Davison – co-founders of the Aryan Strike Force – were convicted for possessing the poison ricin and for making pipe bombs.

They claimed they had 350 members and their website had tens of thousands of postings, all of them messages of hate.

And this is not just an issue for Britain – in 2011, Anders Breivik conducted the callous murder of 77 people in Oslo and on the island of Utoya.

Most of his victims were children and teenagers.

In Breivik’s manifesto, which he published online before the attack, he identified Islam as the enemy and called for the deportation of all Muslims from Europe.

Al Qa’ida and the far right

Although the threat they pose is very different, Al Qa’ida inspired terrorism and domestic terrorism share a number of similarities.

In both cases there is no single pathway to radicalisation, but the vulnerable people that domestic extremists prey upon can share many of the same characteristics exploited by Al Qa’ida radicalisers.

They both look for the same sense of alienation; the same questions of identity; and the same feelings of anger and injustice.

And once they’ve found these psychological hooks, Al Qa’ida and domestic extremists use ideologies with similar features to justify their perverse violence.

Both groups simplistically divide the world into ‘them’ and ‘us’ – an evil group that is responsible for all of the world’s ills and a persecuted group that includes the person they are targeting for radicalisation.

They ignore complexity and nuance in favour of stereotypes and conspiracy thinking to allow individuals to blame others for their own failures and absolve themselves of responsibility.

They also operate in similar ways.

For example, both make increasing use of the internet to spread hate-filled propaganda which can have a brutalising and dehumanising effect.

We also know that domestic extremism and Al Qa’ida-inspired terrorism can have a “reciprocal radicalisation” effect.

Incidents instigated by one group can ratchet up tensions within the other, and so on back and forth.

Prevent and the Extremism Task Force

Let me be clear everyone has the right to go about their lives freely and without fear and we will not tolerate any form of terrorism and extremism.

That is why we updated our Prevent strategy in 2011 to emphasise that Prevent is about stopping people becoming or supporting all kinds of terrorism.

And that is why the Prime Minister has set up the Extremism Task Force earlier this year.

This group includes all of the cabinet members whose departments have a role to play in challenging extremism and terrorism.

The taskforce has met three times so far, and has re-examined the evidence and government policy in a number of areas.

One of the key conclusions has been that Prevent work must be led at the local level, but with strong enabling support from central government.

The central government response

At the centre we have important levers.

For example, the Home Secretary has the power to ban individuals from entering the country to stir up hatred and provoke violence.

This can be effective, such as when we prevented Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer – the co-founders of the anti-Muslim hate campaign “Stop The Islamization of America” – from speaking at an EDL rally in Woolwich in June.

This country also has one of the strongest legal frameworks in the world to protect communities from hostility, violence and bigotry.

We keep that framework under review to make sure that it remains effective in the face of new and emerging threats.

In March last year we published a cross-government action plan to tackle hate crime, bringing together the work of a wide range of departments and agencies.

The action plan will work to prevent hate crime happening in the first place; increase reporting and victims’ access to support; and improve the operational response to hate crimes.

I think it is important to underline that we need to explore every option to encourage the victims of hate crime to report these crimes to the police so that they can be investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice.

To counter the use of the internet by extremists we are funding the Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit, a specialist team in the police, who assess online content and seek to remove it when it breaches terrorism legislation and is linked to the UK.

To date over 6,500 items of terrorist material have been taken down.

The local response

But the real difference is being made by local action in local communities.

I know it is coming from the people in this room.

You know your communities.

You live and work in them, and for them, every day.

And it is clear that a huge amount of work is going on to tackle the threat from the far right.

Take Channel, for instance.

About 15% of all the referrals you have made to Channel have been due to concerns that someone may be vulnerable to radicalisation by the far right – that is hundreds of people being protected from being drawn into hate and extremism.

And concerns about the far right are becoming an ever larger part of Channel’s workload.

You are also making great progress in raising awareness of the signs of domestic extremism through the roll out of WRAP and similar products.

Through WRAP alone, you have trained over 44,000 local staff in schools, prisons, social services and the health service to recognise the signs of vulnerability and make referrals to Channel.

Of course Channel is only effective if there are supportive measures in place, and that means everything from mainstream health and social services interventions to mentoring by those specialising in challenging ideologies.

And it is having an impact.

I have also been very impressed by the breadth and variety of the domestic extremist-oriented projects that you are taking forward as part of our Local Delivery programme.

Through the local Prevent coordinators we are funding 18 projects focussed on preventing domestic extremism across England and Wales.

Together, these projects represent a substantial challenge to the extremists and whilst time prevents me from telling you about all of them, I do want to highlight a few of them that I think are doing particularly innovative work.

One project called “One Extreme to the Other” taking place in a number of areas across the country tackles the phenomenon of reciprocal radicalisation through a theatre performance in schools followed by a discussion session.

Thousands of children will have seen these performances and participated in discussions when the project is completed.

Another project seeks to “rewind” racism by deconstructing the very concept of race in schools and colleges that have experienced friction between Muslim and non-Muslim students.

The project aims to reduce extremist support, provide a more stable learning environment in schools and colleges and increase the resilience of our young people.

A third project focuses on frontline staff who have already received basic WRAP training, and provides a deeper understanding of far right extremism, its history, ideology and symbols.

Innovation like this is positive, welcome and necessary.

The Special Interest Group

Indeed, the Special Interest Group itself is an excellent innovation, enabling people to share lessons learned and to take forward joint activity.

Therefore, today is an important opportunity to take this innovation a step further and we should seize it with both hands.

We need to use all the tools available to us – from dialogue and engagement through to stronger powers such as licensing laws and even littering laws.

This might mean working with venues to share our guidance on how to avoid being used for extremist events, using local media to spread positive messages; or bringing prominent local people on board.

How we can make better use of social media and harness the power of the internet to counter those who use it to spread hate.

The key challenge for all of us is to be creative – the extremists take every opportunity to advance their agenda of hate and we need to be just as imaginative in our response.

Thank you again for giving me this opportunity to speak.