Tony Blair – 1985 Speech on Lifting the Burden

Below is the text of the speech made by Tony Blair, the then Labour MP for Sedgefield, in the House of Commons on 16 July 1985.

It is obviously not possible to give a detailed response at this stage, but we hope that there will be a full debate on the White Paper in due course. In general terms, we would, of course, support the abolition of unnecessary bureaucracy in the interests of small businesses, but the test that will be ​ applied to the White Paper is whether it deals with the real problems of the economy and unemployment or whether it is just another Government gimmick designed to distract attention, and in particular whether we are talking about cutting unnecessary bureaucracy or about subordinating vital protections for the consumers and employees in the interests of ideological obsession with deregulation.

Turning to the substance of the White Paper, why do the Government identify the one major problem of regulation and then proceed to deal only with the minor ones? Is it not the case that the only area of regulation mentioned by more than one in five of the Department’s own survey was value added tax? Is not that the main problem faced by small businesses? Is it not correct that the White Paper proposes no new action of any substance on that? Why, in particular, did the Government block Opposition amendments to the Finance Bill that would have eased the bad debt relief on small firms?

Secondly, will the Minister undertake that there will be no less environmental protection from the changes in planning procedure? Will he tell us why they are given such prominence when only a minute percentage of his survey said that they were a major factor?

Thirdly, any loss of standards—and I think there may be—in fire regulations or health and safety regulations would be a wholly unacceptable and wrong price to pay. How on earth can it be right for the Government to impose different rights and duties in regard to safety for the public and employees based on the size of the firm? Is the Minister saying that the risk of mishap is less with small businesses? If so, may I tell him that all the evidence indicates the contrary, and that small businesses give rise to the most safety risks?

We shall oppose vigorously the suggestions about unfair dismissal law and wages councils. What philosophy is it that says that fair play and fair rights of employment are a constraint on proper business activity?

Many of the proposals seem to have been derived not from business experience but from political doctrine. Why is it that the scrutiny which gave rise to the White Paper received views from the organisations representing employers but not from a single organisation representing employees? Why were the Institute of Directors and the Adam Smith Institute so closely involved with the proposal? Is it not the case, as the survey itself found, that

“most small businesses see problems with finance and sales as more serious than problems with compliance costs”?

The same survey said:

“The main reasons for business being good are individual effort and good demand.”

If those are the main problems, why have not the Government dealt with them? Why create an agency to cut red tape but not agencies for industrial development? Why do we end planning protections but cut back on local authority initiatives which would create more jobs? Why do we cut back on unfair dismissal but not give proper training in the face of skill shortage? Why do we worry about the cost of meeting health and safety regulations but decline to lower interest rates?

At first blush, the White Paper is a shabby and irrelevant document from a Government whose ideology is unable to solve the real problems of our economy. Will a single job be created by the scheme? If not, of what use is it?

Tony Blair – 2018 Article on Brexit

Below is the text of an article by Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister, published on 22 May 2018.

We publish today a comprehensive guide to the issues around the Customs Union or Customs Partnership as a means of unlocking the deadlock of the Brexit negotiation. It is the work of Dr. Andy Tarrant, a recognised expert on EU affairs.

It shows conclusively that:

There is no Customs Partnership which will deliver the same benefits as staying in the Customs Union, even if the EU were prepared to accept such a Partnership.

However, the Customs Union will not, on its own, deliver frictionless trade between the UK and the EU and therefore is neither good enough for British business nor a full answer to the Ireland question.

Only membership of the Single Market or signing up to EEA comes close to genuine frictionless trade.

Even that unless combined with a Customs Union would still have some friction attached.

The ‘freedom’ to pursue trade deals is unlikely to result in any substantial benefit to Britain, involves very difficult choices, and in any event if it worked, would take a decade or more before any benefit was realised.
The Government now know this. So, they’re again reverting to postponement rather than resolution of the Dilemma.

The Dilemma, as I have described previously, is whether we stay in a close economic relationship with Europe to avoid economic damage, in which case one way or another we will end up abiding by Europe’s rules; or whether we break from Europe decisively, to have ‘freedom’ from those rules, in which case the economic damage at least short and medium term will be considerable.

There is no way round this Dilemma. These are the two competing versions of Brexit. They aren’t ultimately capable of fudge. The Customs Partnership is just the latest failed attempt at fudging.

Therefore, the Government have reverted to postponing the decision by agreeing to extend the period by which we will keep to Europe’s rules after the transition should that prove necessary.

This is a very dangerous strategy. If this Dilemma is not resolved prior to March 2019, then Britain will be leaving Europe with no clear idea of what the future economic relationship entails. After March 2019, we will have no negotiating leverage. We will have left. We will be completely dependent on what we are given by the EU, with no say in Europe, no representation, no bargaining power.

The Government should be obliged to decide which version of Brexit they want for any vote in Parliament to be meaningful before March 2019.

But what is also now clear is that the leadership of both main political Parties are engaged in the same sleight of hand, namely pretending that we can have frictionless trade whilst leaving the Single Market.

As our paper shows, this is simply wrong. The Single Market is a unique trading area where not only is trade tariff free, it is free of non tariff barriers, through regulatory alignment. It therefore allows complete freedom of trade for goods and a substantial amount of free trade in services where Europe has adopted common sets of rules.

Membership of the Customs Union alone does not solve the problem of friction, because if Britain wants freedom to diverge on product regulation then there will still need to be checks. And, of course, if Britain is part of a Customs Union then it cannot make its own trade deals.

The Customs Union option in any event does not at all address the question of services, particularly financial services where we have a huge surplus with the European Union.

At some point the Dilemma must be resolved by a choice. And here is where the case for sending the issue back to the people is now overwhelming. Either option is a form of Brexit. Supporters of Brexit are to be found on both sides of the Dilemma. Brexit could mean either of these two very different outcomes. How then can it be said that the British people in June 2016 decided for one option over the other?

The only right method of resolution is to give to the people who made the original choice to leave Europe, the choice of which Brexit they prefer or whether given that choice, in the light of what we now know, they want to proceed with Brexit or stay in Europe.

Here is the challenge to both Party leaderships.

The Conservative Party believes that if they ‘deliver Brexit’ they have fulfilled their mandate and the British people will be grateful that at least Brexit is done.

This is a fundamental strategic error. The so-called ‘soft Brexit’ which will see us still tied to European rules in some form or another, will not satisfy the most ardent Leavers. They’re already shouting betrayal.

So, if the Conservative Party thinks it has solved its European problem if it goes for a mishmash of theoretical freedom from, but practical alignment with, European rules, it is profoundly mistaken. It is just another route to disillusion.

For the Labour Party the position is even more stark. As was entirely predictable and predicted, we now find ourselves in the worst of both worlds.

The Leavers think we’re not really for Leave because we want to stay in the Customs Union and as I say for many Leavers that is an unacceptable compromise.

The Labour Party position is also contradictory. If the reason for being against EFTA or the Single Market is we don’t want to be merely rule takers, then the Customs Union solution has the same objection. We will be taking the trade rules Europe negotiates. Go and talk to the Turks. They are bound by Europe’s trade agreements, and they are forced to align with a lot of European rules to minimise friction. Even so, their arrangement doesn’t work well.

The Remainers, however, have now cottoned on to the fact Labour is not really for remaining either, except in the very limited sense of the Customs Union, and so, unsurprisingly, they’re losing faith in Labour as a route to avoid Brexit.

The Labour Party will pay a heavy price for the leadership’s closet Euro-scepticism.

The tragedy is the price the country will pay for Labour’s failure to lead.

It would be a straightforward and in my view electorally winning position if the Labour Party were to say: we accepted the referendum verdict; we gave the Government the opportunity to negotiate a good deal; it is now apparent they can’t; it is equally apparent that this is not only because of division and incompetence but because there is no resolution to the Dilemma; therefore, we reject the deal but you, the British people, should have the final decision. You began Brexit, you mandated the negotiation and you should decide how it ends.

45 years of European membership with all the intricate trading arrangements born of geography, common interest and then the Single Market means that Leaving Europe is economically painful. Look at the chart in our paper of how in 50 years our export relationships have been transformed.

Labour cannot argue for a ‘jobs first’ Brexit and then oppose what is plainly the only way of protecting British jobs which is to remain part of Europe’s economic structures. It is greatly to the credit of those MPs both Labour and Conservative that they are prepared to put the country’s interests before their Party whip and support an EEA type amendment.

The reality of the choices we face is what we now know in a way we did not in June 2016. It is a choice of two futures. They contrast starkly. There is no ‘having our cake and eating it.’ We must choose as a country in the light of two years of – let’s face it – inconclusive and unsatisfactory negotiation.

We can all speculate as to which future the British people would now choose once they know the outcome of the negotiation.

But there is only one sure way to find out and that is to ask them. The Labour Party should be leading that case.

Tony Blair – 2017 Speech at EPP Meeting

Below is the text of the speech made by Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister, at an EPP Meeting in Wicklow, Ireland on 12 May 2017.

There is a consensus, fortunately, within British politics that the consequences of Brexit on the border between the Republic of Ireland and the UK and on the peace process should be minimised as far as possible.

Such a consensus will be crucial.

Brexit uniquely impacts both the Republic and Northern Ireland. There has never been a situation where the UK, including Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland, had a different status in respect of Europe. We have either both been out or both been in.

The Common Travel Area has meant ease of going back and forth across the border, vital for work and family connection has been in place for almost 100 years. And the absence of customs controls – both countries being in the Single Market and Customs Union – have meant a huge boost to UK-Irish trade.

Some disruption is inevitable and indeed is already happening. However, it is essential that we do all we possibly can to preserve arrangements which have served both countries well and which command near universal support.

A hard border between the countries would be a disaster and I am sure everyone will and must do all they can to avoid it.

In addition, the Good Friday or Belfast Agreement was formulated on the assumption that both countries were part of the EU. This was not only for economic but also for political reasons, to take account particularly of nationalist aspirations. Some of the language will therefore require amendment because of Brexit. Again, with goodwill, including from our European partners, this should be achievable with the minimum of difficulty.

If the UK and the Republic were able to agree a way forward on the border, then we would have the best chance of limiting the damage. It is in the interests of us all, including our European partners, for this to happen.”

The truth is that the sentiments and anxieties which gave rise to the Brexit vote are not and never were limited to the Britain.

I am delighted that there will be President Macron and not President Le Pen. But the doubling of the far right vote compared to over a decade ago, plus the surge of support for anti-European parties across Europe should make us all think. Back in 2005 I gave a speech to the European Parliament in which I warned specifically that Europe was moving further away from the concerns of its citizens, all the time whilst proclaiming that it was moving closer. This was in the aftermath of the referendums on the Lisbon Treaty in France and the Netherlands.

Since then, following the global financial crisis and then the Euro zone crisis, this challenge has only deepened.

The world is changing fast through technology and globalisation. This poses an economic challenge.

Large scale migration from Africa and the Middle East poses cultural challenges, particularly with the refugee crisis. People see their communities change around them with bewildering speed, they worry about their identity and they’re anxious also over security.

Now the reality is that none of these challenges are more easily dealt with by nations alone or by a Europe which is weak.

But it is the obligation of mainstream politics – centre left and centre right – to provide answers otherwise those on the far right and left will successfully ride the anger.

During the course of the Brexit negotiation Britain will be evaluating its future relationship with Europe; Europe has an opportunity to evaluate its own future.

The European Commission White paper is a necessary start.

I remain totally convinced that nations such as ours, coming together as we have done in the European Union, goes with the grain of history. As the new power brokers of the world emerge in the high population countries, particularly China and India, all those comparatively smaller in size will need to form alliances to protect not only interests but values.

But we need to show that necessary integration does not come at the expense of desired identity, that Europe can deal firmly and expeditiously with the challenges upon it, and that it is both sensitive enough to understand the concerns, cultural and economic, that our people feel so strongly, and capable enough to overcome them.

An open and honest debate about how Europe reforms can play a positive part in how Britain and Europe approach Brexit. Whatever relationship the future holds for us both – as you know I was and remain a passionate supporter of Britain staying with our European destiny – we have too many mutual interests, too much shared history, too profound a sense of common values for us to do other than strive for success for that relationship.

So let us keep lines of communication intact. Let us explore together the options as we go forward. Let us – where possible – always choose flexibility over rigidity and solutions which are about the long term flourishing of the people not the short term exploitation of the politics.

We are only at the beginning. There is a long way to go to, particularly for the negotiations.

Tony Blair – 2017 Tribute to Shimon Peres

Below is the text of the speech made by Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister, at the Shimon Peres memorial service at Mount Herzl, Jerusalem on 17 September 2017.

We miss him don’t we? I know I do. I miss the sense of anticipation before each meeting; the insights; the wit; the brilliant one liners, even the ones I heard before; the crazy genius of being able to speak English better than the English when it wasn’t even his second language; and of course most of all the wisdom, the supreme ability to take the most complex developments – economic, political, technical – and translate them into words we could understand and visions we could aspire to.

Because Shimon was such a magnetic personality it is easy to forget that his principal quality was not his way with words but with deeds. He was a man of action, whose wellspring was nonetheless a deep and coherent philosophy.

The description in his autobiography of his interaction with the French Government to secure the know-how for nuclear power, or the account of the raid on Entebbe, read like passages from a thriller. But through each line, we are aware that nothing he did was without purpose.

He was determined to defend his fragile young country against the hostility of a region all too willing to find an external enemy to divert attention from internal challenge.

But for him that was but one step towards the ultimate goal of an Israel secure and at peace with its neighbours in a region of tolerance and justice. His patriotism did not require an enemy; it did not need to conquer. It was not born of a sense of superiority but a sense of hope.

For Shimon, the State of Israel was never simply a nation, and was more than just the homeland of the Jewish people; it represented an ideal.

The country he wanted to create was to be a gift to the world. It drew upon the best of the Jewish character developed over the ages, sustained through pogroms, persecution and holocaust, often battered but never subdued. This spirit is the spirit of striving: to make oneself better, to make the world better, to increase the sum of knowledge and understanding; to examine the variegated flotsam of human existence and the contradictions of the human condition and see not a cause for despair but a path to progress.

This was what animated Shimon Peres.

He never gave up on peace with the Palestinians or on his belief that peace was best secured by an independent State of Palestine alongside a recognised State of Israel. One of our last conversations was on how to change the plight of the people of Gaza.

Despite all the frustrations of the peace process, in his last years he could see the Middle East changing and the possibility opening up in the region, with its new leadership, of a future partnership between Arab nations and Israel.

He grasped completely the extraordinary potential there would be if Israel and the region were working together not simply on security but on economic advance, technological breakthrough and cultural reconciliation.

His Annual President’s conference brought together figures from round the world to discuss not the past or the present but Tomorrow. This was a man who was born when horse drawn carriages were still in use and lived to see a driverless car.

He was fascinated by the future, loved science, delighted in innovation and was younger in mind at 90 than most people at 30.

I once tried to define Shimon in three words. I chose Compassionate, Courageous, and Creative. But I spent a long while asking which virtue came first.

I settled on his compassion.

I know he took difficult decisions as all in positions of leadership do. Some of them had painful consequences.

But in the final analysis, Shimon Peres wanted to do good, strived to do it and by and large did it, motivated by a profound compassion for humanity.

At the core of that compassion, was a belief in the equality of all human beings across the frontiers of race, nation, colour or creed. He would defend Israel to his dying breath. But he was a citizen of the world also and proud to be one.

For him, every new possibility technology or science gave us was not to be harnessed for the profit of a few but for the welfare of the many.

For him the world growing smaller was not a harbinger of fear but an achievement.

For him if Israel did well, it was a chance for the world to do better.

The memories of great people who help shape history, like Shimon, do not fade but clarify over time. We see what they stood for when they were alive and what they mean for us who live on today.

In his best moments, Shimon embodied the success and hope of a nation and in doing so, touched and educated the wider world.

So yes I miss him. And I thank him and his wonderful family – Tsvia, Yoni and Chemi – and his fabulous colleagues Yona, Nadav, Efrat and Ayelet and all the team – for the magnificent support they gave him.

But I won’t forget him. For me and for so many others here and round the world, he is and always will be a thought in our minds and an inspiration in our hearts.

Tony Blair – 2018 Speech to the European Policy Centre

Below is the text of the speech made by Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister, to the European Policy Centre on 1 March 2018.

Brexit is momentous and life-changing for Britain. The British people should be given a final say on whatever deal is negotiated. If they are allowed that say, then Brexit can be averted.

I and many others will work passionately for that outcome.

But today I want to say here in Brussels why Brexit is also bad for Europe, and why European leaders share the responsibility to lead us out of the Brexit cul-de-sac and find a path to preserve European unity intact.

For the first time since its inception, a nation, and a major one at that, will have disrupted the onward march of European cohesion, left the European Union and will have done so apparently for reasons of principle at odds with the whole rationale for the Union’s existence.

Britain without Europe will lose weight and influence. But Europe without Britain will be smaller and diminished. And both of us will be less than we are and much less than we could be together.

In politics, there is a kind of fatalism which can often overwhelm what is right by making the right course seem hopeless or even delusional.

So it is with Brexit. In the UK, we are told ‘the people have spoken’ and to interrogate the question further is treachery. The ‘will of the people’ is deemed clear and indisputable, though what that ‘will’ means in practice given the complexity of Brexit, the multiple interpretations of it, and the differing consequences of each version, is – with every day which passes – not clear at all.

But nonetheless we are told we must just do it.

And in Europe there is often a sorrowful shaking of heads and a shrugging of the shoulders, when what we need is strong engaged leadership to avoid a rupture which will do lasting damage to us both.

I understand European reticence. Until Europe sees real signs that there could be a change of mind in Britain, why should it contemplate the possibility of change in Europe?

However, the argument in Britain is far from over. It is in flux. See the speech of Jeremy Corbyn this week.

What I call the ‘Dilemma’ of the negotiation – close to Europe to avoid economic damage but therefore accepting its rules or free from Europe’s rules but therefore accepting economic damage – is finally prising open the discourse.

It is a binary choice. The cake will either be had or be eaten but it will not be both.

The Dilemma divides the Brexit vote. Many of those who voted Brexit want a clean break from Europe even if there is economic difficulty as a result and even if it soured the politics of Ireland. But many others would not want it if there were an economic cost; and would certainly believe that peace in Ireland should be protected.

Outside commentary under-estimates the fact that at some point this year the Government have got to put a vote to Parliament and win it. They will of course try to fudge, but as we are seeing this cake is quite resistant to fudge. After last June’s General Election, winning this vote will be much tougher than is commonly understood. For once, Parliament in this equation can be more decisive than either Government or Opposition.

There are three legs to the stool upon which could sit a reconsideration of Brexit. The first is to show the British people that what they were told in June 2016 has turned out much more complex and costly than they thought. This leg is looking increasingly robust as time goes on.

The second is to show that there are different and better ways of responding to the genuine underlying grievances beneath the Brexit vote, especially around immigration. This leg is easy to construct but needs willing workers.

The third is a openness on the part of Europe to respond to Brexit by treating it as a ‘wake-up’ call to change in Europe and not just an expression of British recalcitrance. This is the leg to focus on today.

The stool needs all three legs.

For Europe, the damage of Brexit is obvious and not so obvious.

In obvious terms, though the economic pain for Britain, especially of a clean break Brexit, is large, the cost to Europe is also significant and painful.

One in seven German cars is sold in Britain and goods exports in total are worth 3.5% of its GDP; the figure for Ireland is 14% of GDP and for Belgium over 7%; Britain is a huge market for French produce of many kinds; and a top three export partner for 10 EU members including Italy and Spain.

Around 200,000 Dutch jobs are involved in trade with the UK. There are around 60 direct flights between London and Amsterdam every day. According to the Dutch Government agency CPB a hard Brexit could make every Dutch person around 1000 euros poorer.

A Europe in which Britain finds it harder to be a financial centre for European business will be deeply damaging for Britain but it will also impede the economy of Europe.

Estimates of the long term effect on European growth vary depending on the version of Brexit chosen, but they vary from bad to very bad.

In short, no one I have spoken to in the investment community from the USA to China thinks this is a good idea for Britain or for Europe.

Because of these effects, some in Britain believe that therefore Europe will bend in its negotiating stance and allow Britain largely unfettered access to Europe’s Single Market without the necessity of abiding by Europe’s rules.

This won’t happen because quite simply it can’t. To do so, would risk unravelling the Single Market and a return to precisely the system that was in place before Europe wisely and in the interests of its economy and with of course the full urging of successive British Governments decided to create the Single Market.

But the damage to Europe of a political nature is to my mind more deleterious.

For Schuman and other founding fathers, the project of European unity was a project of peace, cooperation in Europe being the alternative to the wars which had ravaged Europe and the world in the first half of the 20th century.

They looked back at the long history of European nations and saw centuries of conflict punctuated by all too brief epochs of relative harmony. From the time of Charlemagne, Europe had come together periodically, but mainly through religion, force or transitory necessity.

There had been an uneasy balance of power arrangement towards the end of the 19th C but then the rivalries of the great European nations pitched them into a war no one ever thought would prove as devastating as it did. The attempt out of it to produce a new political settlement fell victim to the competing totalitarian ideologies of communism and fascism and the descent into the darkness of World War Two.

Then, standing on the rubble of destruction, they decided to approach European unity with renewed vigour and vowed to give it institutional and practical meaning.

Thus, began what has now become the European Union.

The rationale for Europe today is not peace but power.

For almost 300 years, the world has been dominated by the West. At the beginning of that time the great powers were European, with colonies and Empires. Japan and China were of course major nations, but they were not shaping the world.

By the end of WW1, the United States had emerged as the most powerful nation, steadily eclipsing the United Kingdom and stayed that way through the 20th century.

But today, the world is changing again. China is today the second largest economy, the biggest global trader and as holder of huge amounts of American debt intimately important to global prosperity.

If we look back at the top economies in the year 2000, Europe dominates the top ten. Germany’s was 4x the size of India’s and larger than China’s. Mexico, Brazil and Indonesia were distant specks on the horizon far behind.

By 2016, the situation changes dramatically. India is now almost as large as the UK and France.

By 2030, India’s economy will be larger than those of Germany or Japan. Brazil, Indonesia and Mexico are narrowing the gap. China becomes the largest global economy and 7 or 8 times the size of the UK.

Look ahead to 2050 and India is several times the size of the German economy and no European economy is in the top 6.

With this economic change, will come political change.

The West will no longer dominate. And Europe, to retain the ability to protect its interests and values, will need to form a strong bloc with the power collectively to do what no European nation alone will be able to do individually.

Regard the regions of the world today. Everywhere, in reaction to this fundamental shift in geo-politics, countries are banding together: from South East Asia to the continent of Africa.

Nations are in a desperate scramble to find their place in a world in which no one wants to be forced to choose between the big powers or unable to withstand their demands.

For Europe much more is at stake than trade or commerce.

Take defence. Yes, NATO remains the cornerstone of Western security policy. But in an era in which the United States (and not only under this Administration) is signalling the limits of its appetite for military commitment, and where current events in Turkey show the fragility of some of the assumptions of alliance within NATO, it is foolish, indeed dangerous, for Europe not to have the independent capacity to protect its interests.

If the SAHEL erupts who will bear the brunt of the eruption? Europe. But who will we be obliged to call upon? The USA.

Of course, Britain can maintain a close relationship on defence even outside the EU. It still represents 25% of European defence spending. I welcome the British PM’s speech to the Munich conference and the excellent paper recently from the German Council on Foreign Relations.

But how much more effective would such cooperation be if we were still part of Europe’s decision-making structure? Instead we are in the surreal position of proclaiming our desire for tighter European cooperation in defence just as we withdraw from Europe’s political framework for doing so.

How can we police our borders except through common strategy; or fight terrorism but through enhanced integration of intelligence and surveillance; or protect our privacy from either foreign Governments or corporate behemoths other than by the strength which comes from size?

Do we seriously believe that if we had approached negotiation on climate change as individual countries, rather than as Europe, we would have driven the agenda in the way we did?

Our values are also in play.

Brexit is happening at a pivotal point in Western politics. Parts of our politics are today: fragmented, polarised, occasionally paralysed, with visceral cultural as well as economic rifts; with politicians who strive for answers swept aside by those riding the anger; a sterile policy agenda focusing on who to stigmatise, and barely touching the real forces of change which are technological; and conventional media locked in an ugly embrace with social media to create a toxic, scandal driven, rancorous environment for debate which risks destruction of democracy’s soul.

Meanwhile there are new powers emerging who look sceptically at Western democracy today and think there may be a different, less democratic model to follow.

For the first time, not just our power but our value system is going to be contested.

We need at this moment for Europe to regain its confidence, take courage and set a course for the future which re-kindles the spirit of optimism.

I believe firmly in the trans-Atlantic alliance. Despite what it may sometimes seem, so do most Americans.

In the new geo-politics, we need each other for reasons just as compelling as those which thrust us together in the early 20th century.

Especially at a time when America appears pre-occupied with its own political upheaval and is hard to read and easy to parody, Europe should be far-sighted enough to keep the alliance strong, to be determined in defending our values from those who would de-stabilise us, and to send a message to the rest of the world that Europe will grow in power in the 21st century precisely because of those values.

None of this can in any way be advanced by Britain’s departure from Europe.

It rips out of Europe one of the alliance’s most sustained advocates.

It weakens Europe’s standing and power the world over.

It reduces the effectiveness of the Single Market by removing from it Europe’s second largest economy.

And Britain out of Europe will ultimately be a focal point of disunity, when the requirement for unity is so manifest. No matter how we try, it will create a competitive pole to that of Europe, economically and politically to the detriment of both of us.

More contentiously, I believe it risks an imbalance in the delicate compromise that is the European polity.

Britain supports the nation-state as the point of originating legitimacy for European integration. Others are more comfortable with the notion of ever closer Union leading over time to a more federal structure.

The truth is that the anxieties which led to the Brexit vote are felt all over Europe. They’re not specific to the British. Read the latest Eurobarometer of public opinion. In many countries, similar referendums might have had similar results.

I know from experience that Britain is often the argumentative partner who speaks up, but there is frequently a large group of others sheltering behind us, glad there is a voice in the room articulating what others think but are shy of saying.

Even the famed Franco-German motor can need British spare parts and lubricants even if they come with the odd bit of grit; and from time to time, British mechanics can work with others to create a back-up engine.

President Macron has sensibly proposed a series of Europe wide debates on Europe’s future in recognition of the strains in Europe’s politics.

These will not work, however, if they become merely a way of explaining to Europe’s citizens why their worries are misplaced.

It should be a real dialogue.

The populism convulsing Europe must be understood before it can be defeated.

Immigration is a genuine fear with causes which cannot be dismissed.

Many feel the European project is too much directed to the enlargement of European institutions rather than to projects which deliver change in people’s daily lives.

There is much good work done by this and the previous Commission to reduce regulation and bureaucracy, unfortunately usually ignored or over-shadowed. But we should recognise this is still an issue for people all over Europe.

The things Europe is doing to build its capability to make the lives of Europeans better – in energy, digitalisation, infrastructure, education, defence and security need to be driven forward with much greater intensity.

And the difference between those in the Euro zone and those outside it will require different governance arrangements.

Europe knows it needs reform. Reform in Europe is key to getting Britain to change its mind.

There should surely be a way of alignment.

A comprehensive plan on immigration control, which preserves Europe’s values but is consistent with the concerns of its people and includes sensitivity to the challenges of the freedom of movement principle, together with a roadmap for future European reform which recognises the issues underpinning the turmoil in traditional European politics and is in line with what many European leaders are already advocating, would be right for Europe and timely for the evolving British debate on Brexit.

If at the point Britain is seized of a real choice, not about whether we like Europe or not – the question of June 2016 – but whether on mature reflection the final deal the British Government offers is better than what we have, if, at this moment, Europe was to offer a parallel path to Brexit of Britain staying in a reforming Europe, that would throw open the debate to transformation.

People will say it can’t happen.

To which I say in these times in politics anything can happen.

In any event, it depends on what magnitude of decision you think this is.

There are errors in politics of passing significance.

And there are mistakes of destiny.

If we believe and I do, that this is of the latter kind, we cannot afford passive acquiescence.

Those whose vision gave rise to the dream of a Europe unified in peace after centuries of war and whose determination translated that dream into practical endeavour, their ghosts should be our inspiration.

They would not have yielded to fatalism and neither should we.

We have months, perhaps weeks to think, plan and act.

Let’s be clear. Even if Brexit is Britain’s future, and yours is a European Union without Britain, we can’t alter our geography, history or manifold ties of culture and nature.

This is a divorce that can never mean a physical separation.

We are consigned to co-habiting the same space, trying to get along but resenting our differences and re-living what broke us apart, awkward silences at the breakfast table, arguing over the rules with no escape from each other.

But – and here is the supreme irony – with so much in common and still liking each other.

Better to make our future work together.

If we don’t, a future generation will; but their verdict on ours will be harsh for time wasted and opportunity spurned.

It doesn’t take a miracle. It takes leadership. And now is when we need it.

Tony Blair – 2018 Speech on Brexit

Below is the text of the speech made by Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister, as part of the Speaker’s Lecture series on 26 March 2018.

On one thing everyone is agreed: Brexit is the most important decision this country has taken since the end of World War Two and the commencement of modern British history.

It was taken by referendum, on one day in June 2016, with a simple majority of those voting and by a margin of 52–48.

At that point, self-evidently, there was no knowledge of what the alternative to life outside the EU would look like. But the country voted to leave, and the Government was mandated to negotiate the terms both of exit and the new relationship.

Since 23rd June 2016 as the negotiation has proceeded, so has our appreciation of what Brexit entails. The negotiation is complex. The future relationship around trade is technically fraught. There are many different versions of what Brexit will mean in practice, ranging from staying in the Single Market and Customs Union to going out without an agreement and trading on WTO terms.

One other thing has emerged: there are different views about what is an acceptable Brexit outcome in Parliament, in the Opposition Party and not only in the governing Party but in Government itself and even the Cabinet.

So, in a rational world, this would result in an active and thorough debate about the mandate the June 2016 vote bestowed. Was it a mandate to leave on whatever terms in whatever circumstances? Or can we read into the mandate some qualification relating to the effect of different Brexit outcomes?

If it is the first, then there can be no revisiting of the decision irrespective of what it means for the national interest or the economy.

If it is the second, then plainly it is logical, once we know the terms of the negotiation, that the people have a right to judge whether they want to proceed with that negotiated version of Brexit.

It is a matter which reflects in the most profound way on the state of our politics, that it is that official position of both main parties in Britain that the first is the correct interpretation of the referendum decision. i.e. the British people voted to leave on any terms or indeed on no terms such was the vehemence of their dislike of the European Union.

In other words, this decision on that day by that majority in that way has had the consequence of bringing into being a mandate which is comprehensive, all-encompassing, and eliminates further discussion of the wisdom of the decision.

Just roll that round your mind for a moment. In no other dimension of life let alone politics, in no personal decision that any of us take in the myriad of different situations which require decision in our lives, would we take such an all defining direction to a new future in this manner. We wouldn’t move jobs on that basis, move home, marry or divorce with such a ‘whatever the terms’ abandon as we apparently have chosen to do in this case of the most momentous decision for the direction of our country in modern times.

And what is more, in circumstances where the decision was only a small margin to the side of 50/50.

How on earth have we come to such an extraordinary and definitive reading of the mind of the British people? That not merely do we insist that they have insisted that we leave whatever the facts we now discover or the terms our Government can negotiate, but that – even more extraordinary – the same British people would resent deeply being given an opportunity to pass judgement on these terms once they know them?

By a combination of a pitiful lack of leadership and the bludgeoning of that part of the media dedicated to Brexit at any cost, we have taken the British people to the point where we consider it a betrayal to allow them to re-visit the most important political decision of their lifetime once they are in possession of the full facts which will determine the nation’s destiny for generations to come.

If we proceed with Brexit future historians will naturally focus on the impact of the Brexit decision; but I predict that one major part of their inquisition will be how we as a country were persuaded that we should take such a decision so irrevocably in such a fashion.

The case that I and others make is not that we ignore the referendum and reverse Brexit by a simple act of Government or Parliament.

It is rather that we honour the Brexit result but say that the process of decision-making by the people should not cease to exist after 23rd June 2016, but should continue up to and until a final judgement on membership of the EU when set against the new relationship our Government has negotiated once we know it.

If the people are to be trusted with the decision to leave before we know the terms of exit, why, once we have that knowledge, are they now disqualified and seemingly incapable of making the decision on whether the terms of exit meet their approval?

Yet this is where we are.

It is for this reason that Parliament today assumes such a special significance. We cannot rely on the Government. It has been plain for a long time that their primary interest, given the divisions, is to keep the façade of unity.

Unfortunately, we cannot rely on the Opposition because its leadership believes – whether for reasons of opportunism or covert opposition to the EU – that they must commit to doing Brexit but pretend that they would secure a better Brexit deal.

The truth is that the case for letting the people make the final decision is common sense if it is considered rationally and free of pressure.

Think of all the things we know since 23rd June 2016. Think of how much greater is our understanding of the various options, the intricacies of our trading relationships, the impact on each sector of business and industry. Add up all the aspects of the negotiation – from EURATOM to fishing rights to security cooperation – and think how much more we know about corners of national policy which seem settled in bureaucratic obscurity but now require analysis, investigation and painstaking accord.

Take Northern Ireland. I recall the visit I made with John Major during the referendum. Let’s say we didn’t exactly set the campaign on fire. The warning we gave was dismissed with ease by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, almost with contempt. Today, Northern Ireland is the issue which stands between the Government and a successful conclusion to the withdrawal agreement and no one is dismissing it now.

Everyone says they want a frictionless border between North and South. In the past this was easy. For 100 years since partition, there was an agreement for the free movement of people and commerce across the border. The Republic of Ireland and the UK were always in the same relationship to Europe as each other. They joined the EU on the same day in 1973.

Now the border will become the border between the UK and the EU.

It is, frankly, obvious that the border can only remain frictionless if the North stays in the same relationship to Europe for trade and free movement of people as the South. This means not just a Customs Union but a Single Market arrangement.

We can solve part of the puzzle by turning a blind eye to free movement of people, though of course it makes a nonsense of ‘taking back control’ of our borders for immigration purposes.

But for trade, Europe will insist that if we are out of the Single Market, then there will have to be some form of checks. We can argue about how many and at what cost, but the border cannot be frictionless. Yet that is what we were promised.

Northern Ireland is a metaphor for the entire negotiation.

In all areas – from pharma to cars to financial services, what I call ‘the Dilemma’ will become manifest. Either we keep to Europe’s rules – however we call it, equivalence or alignment – in which case we have not fulfilled the central Brexit promise of absolute control over our laws; or alternatively we are free to diverge from those laws in which case the disruption to trade and consequent economic damage will be large.

At some point the Dilemma will have to be confronted and overcome. The question is when.

Here is where Parliament is vital.

The resolution of the Dilemma can only be made by a choice. At this point we will know what Brexit really does mean, which of the very different versions of Brexit the Government has negotiated and whether the one negotiated satisfies the wishes of the people.

The Government’s whole approach up to now has rested on the hope that the Dilemma can be avoided, that Europe will agree that Britain can stay roughly in line with Europe but nonetheless have the freedom to set our own rules and that, on this basis, we will have largely frictionless trade; not absolutely as we have now but near it.

This is what is now known as ‘cakeism’.

Here is the thing. Having our cake and eating it, is not negotiable. Europe is not going to agree this. They might – and I stress might – agree to cherry-picking i.e. in some areas we align and keep Single Market rules and in others not; but they are never going to agree to ‘cakeism’.

The Government half recognise this. This was the meaning behind the Prime Minister’s recent speech which did try to differentiate between different sectors. But the most she felt able to offer in the areas where we want to stay close to Europe was something short of alignment; and the result was an immediate rebuff from the European side.

It is a measure of the frailty of the public discourse around Brexit that the ‘deal’ the Government struck last week on transitional arrangements, was accepted as some sort of victory. The reality is that Britain conceded that, during the transition, we will remain bound fully by European rules, though we will have lost our say over them. It was not a compromise but a capitulation. Meanwhile the resolution of the Dilemma, including on Northern Ireland, was postponed.

As time goes on, the Government will recognise fully that if they put a proposition to Parliament which clearly resolves the Dilemma, and before March 2019, the risk is it will not pass. Either it will mean divergence from Europe in which case, the business community will protest the damage and MPs will take notice of that. Or it will mean alignment with Europe in which case the diehard Brexiteers will cry foul and the British people will wonder why we are leaving.

So, the Government will turn to fudge.

They will understand – and the Brexiteers will assist them – that they have somehow to get past March 2019 without a defeat and they can only do that if the terms of the new relationship are sufficiently vague to let the fiction of ‘cakeism’ continue.

Then once past March 2019 and when we are irreversibly out of Europe, they can negotiate safe in the knowledge that then the issue will be whatever deal they do versus no deal.

Before we leave we have at least some limited negotiating leverage. Not much. We constantly forget that, even though Brexit dominates our news cycles, it is largely absent from those of the rest of Europe, except Ireland.
But once we have left and are in the ‘transitional’ period, there is nothing. We can say that Europe will suffer if there is no deal or their companies are excluded from our markets, but the reality is that the pain we would suffer from being shut out of theirs is so disproportionately greater, this is a bluff that will never work.

Basically, we will have to take what we are given. By the end of 2020, the transition will end. The cliff edge will beckon. We can navigate a harder or easier descent; but retreat will be impossible.

It is this strategy that Parliament has a duty to foil. It has demanded a ‘meaningful vote’. The vote is only meaningful if it is on a proposition which allows us to know with precision what our future path looks like before we take it.

Exposing the strategy of fudge and preventing it, should be the overriding aim of the Labour Party in Parliament. I understand, though don’t agree, with its decision to go along with Brexit. But it is the duty of Opposition MPs to thwart a strategy designed to place the country in a position where it puts beyond reach of reconsideration a decision of this fundamental importance whose full consequences we do not know.

Failure to stand against the fudge would be unforgivable.

As for the Conservative Party, I understand why they feel they must deliver Brexit as ‘the will of the people’. I understand also why they believe that delivering it is the best inoculation against a Corbyn Government.

But in politics the difference between tactics and strategy is everything. Tactics are about the politics of the moment. Strategy leaps over the moment and tries to imagine the long term.

Think ahead. Before the end of 2020 we will know the real deal. I suspect we will have a Canada type deal with not much plus. And if we don’t, we will have a deal which will leave a big number of Brexiteers feeling hoodwinked.

There is then another 18 months to an election. Think June 2022. Will the economy be stronger? Will the Brexit news be better? Will people be feeling that Brexit has really delivered all that ‘control’ we say we don’t have now? Will the NHS be on the mend? Will the Free Trade Agreements be stacking up?

Brexit happening in this sequence will be a Tory Brexit, fully owned, exclusively and completely by the Conservative Party.

The 17m who voted ‘Leave’ may be short on gratitude. The 16m who voted ‘Remain’ will be unlikely to forget. Remember that 13m wins an election.

Brexit is not the route to escaping a Corbyn Government; it is the gateway to having one.

The sensible strategic course for the Tories is to share the responsibility. Resolve the Dilemma before March 2019.

Put the proposition to Parliament. Even better let the MPs have a free vote.

Then let the people make the final judgement on whether the British people prefer the terms for leaving Europe to what we have now inside Europe.

If Brexit passes in these circumstances then that is the end of the matter. We leave. If it doesn’t then the people have decided. The Government has done its best.

In 2022, the Conservative Party can fight an election not on responsibility for Brexit but on the normal domestic issues of the day.

When I was growing up in politics the Tories were always the pragmatic folk. They eschewed ideology. They were business minded and prided themselves on common sense. They stood out against being railroaded by shouty activists.

These are the qualities which have deserted them in pursuit of Brexit. At every stage decisions have been made driven by short term politics driven by loud-mouthed rhetoric. We triggered Article 50 before the French and German elections before we had any clear idea of our negotiating position thus pushing ourselves up against a very tough timetable for such a complicated negotiation.

We put down red lines around the Single Market and Customs Union with little thought as to how that would be compatible with the interests of business and thus shut down our negotiating room for manoeuvre.

We made a series of demands about money, transition and the rights of EU citizens all of which we were obliged to surrender.

The Europeans, having at first thought that there was some truly cunning plan from the best brains of the British system now frankly think it is the product of the brain of Baldrick.

Only by dint of the barrage of pro Brexit propaganda from the usual quarters are we spared a proper sense of indignity from the way we have conducted this negotiation.

It is not too late for our politicians to grip our nation’s destiny and approach this issue differently.

I return to the magnitude of the decision.

Much has focused on the economics of Brexit. It is often said that the predictions of economic calamity turned out to be false.

We can argue about the degree and the timescale.

But there is no serious disagreement among serious people about the economic consequence of Brexit. Growth estimates for the next 5 years are the worst in over half a century. Quite apart from everything else, this will mean billions less in revenue to spend on public services. Every economic forecast says the same including that of the Government.

Speak to those familiar with the international investment community and the sentiment on Britain has turned severely negative. Investment in the motor industry alone is down 40%.

We are utterly and wrongly complacent about the damage to financial services if we lose access to Europe’s Single Market. Short term, the losses will be limited because of course it is hard for Europe to re-adjust from London as a financial centre for European finance. Short term.

Long term, the City should be under no illusion: European regulators and even more so, European politicians, will not find it acceptable to have the centre for European finance outside the purview of European regulation.

Frankfurt, Paris, Dublin are setting out their stall. Over time, we are going to haemorrhage jobs and business.

But the political damage, the damage to Britain’s geo-political standing is the missing dimension to the Brexit debate.

The most alarming characteristic of the Brexiteers is their confusion of delusion and patriotism. To recognise Britain’s position in the global hierarchy of nations and how it is changed over the past 70 years is not to be unpatriotic.

The world of geo-politics is undergoing a revolution.

China will become, if not the dominant power, a power to rival America.

By 2030 India’s economy will be bigger than Germany’s; by 2050 several times the size.

Population and GDP, through the mobility of capital and technology, are becoming re-aligned.

Britain will be medium sized in a land where there are some very tall people and three giants.

Like France or Germany, we will be obliged to advance our interests through alliance. On our own, we are weaker when dealing with trade, China, Russia, or even Facebook and the other global corporate behemoths.

In alliance, we gain strength.

That is the modern case for the European Union.

To say this is not to diminish British pride in what we have achieved or confidence in what we can achieve. It is just to say that reality, not fantasy, is a better guide to statecraft. It is not to dishonour our past, it is simply to understand that the future will be different.

The qualities which lighten our path have not changed. But we should recognise what they are. They include stoic resistance to bullying; standing firm and being prepared to stand alone where right to do so.

But they also include creativity, innovation, openness and engagement with the world.

The more intellectual proponents of Brexit can pretend that these latter qualities drove the case for Brexit. But, come on. The pretence is ludicrous. Sure, there are those who believe Brexit will herald a new ‘Global’ Britain. But the coalition which delivered the Brexit vote had, as its base, sentiment that was anti-globalisation, isolationist and particularly anti-immigration. And this sentiment was ruthlessly exploited by the Leave campaign. I am not complaining. That’s politics. But don’t tell me that the Brexit mandate derived from a desire to intensify globalisation.

And this of course is the terrible long-term risk of Brexit. People say that there will be disillusion if Brexit doesn’t happen. Personally, I doubt this if it is the result of a fresh ‘say’ on the final deal.

But even if true, the bigger disillusion will be when those who voted for Brexit because they feared the future shaped by free market globalisation, realise they are now conscripts in an adventure to embrace it more fully.

This is the awesome responsibility which now rests with Parliament.

This is a moment when every MP is a Leader. This is a decision like no other. It requires each Member to sit the test of leadership. Passing doesn’t mean voting this way or that. It means voting according to conviction and not according to the whip.

Only Parliament can change the direction of this process. Only Parliament can ensure a meaningful vote on the terms of the new relationship with Europe before we leave by demanding that those terms are written with clarity and not with fudge. Only Parliament can give back to the people the final ‘say’ on the terms the Government negotiate. Members of Parliament: each, and every, one of you holds in your hands the responsibility to insist that these decisions of such importance to our country are taken before March 2019, before we cross over irrevocably to life outside Europe, before it’s too late.

To each MP the question: do you really believe Brexit is the answer to the challenges facing Britain? Do you believe Britain will be stronger or weaker outside of Europe? If you left everything aside other than your own conviction, would you continue or find a way out? And if it is the referendum alone which persuades you to follow, is not worth examining the arguments which permit you to lead, to say to the people in the light of what we know we should have the right to think again?

Last week, we had a small but perfectly formed example of how we have fallen as a nation into the vice of a false patriotism. Our passports.

We want to change them from magenta to blue and it appears that it is a Franco-Dutch company which has won the contract for the new passports. Outrage. A ‘national humiliation’ one Brexiteer called it.

The national humiliation is not that we have chosen a foreign company over a British one.

The national humiliation is we think the colour of our passports defines our sense of nationhood.

There is time, but not much time, to restore a proper patriotism, one which concentrates on building the nation’s strength to handle the challenge of a changing world, not taking refuge in the vain hope of escaping it.

Here in this Palace of Westminster, in the birthplace of democracy, in the forum where so many decisions have been taken which have shaped not only Britain but the world, our fate will be decided by Members of Parliament.

I say to them: think of our history. Think of our future. Think of the true meaning of both. And make that decision according to conscience and belief.

Tony Blair – 2016 Statement on Chilcot Inquiry


Below is the text of the statement made by Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister, on 6 July 2016.

The report should lay to rest allegations of bad faith, lies or deceit. Whether people agree or disagree with my decision to take military action against Saddam Hussein; I took it in good faith and in what I believed to be the best interests of the country.

I note that the report finds clearly:

– That there was no falsification or improper use of Intelligence (para 876 vol 4)

– No deception of Cabinet (para 953 vol 5)

– No secret commitment to war whether at Crawford Texas in April 2002 or elsewhere (para 572 onwards vol 1)

The inquiry does not make a finding on the legal basis for military action but finds that the Attorney General had concluded there was such a lawful basis by 13th March 2003 (para 933 vol 5)

However the report does make real and material criticisms of preparation, planning, process and of the relationship with the United States.

These are serious criticisms and they require serious answers.

I will respond in detail to them later this afternoon.

I will take full responsibility for any mistakes without exception or excuse.

I will at the same time say why, nonetheless, I believe that it was better to remove Saddam Hussein and why I do not believe this is the cause of the terrorism we see today whether in the Middle East or elsewhere in the world.

Above all I will pay tribute to our Armed Forces. I will express my profound regret at the loss of life and the grief it has caused the families, and I will set out the lessons I believe future leaders can learn from my experience.

Tony Blair – 2003 Statement on Iraq


Below is the text of the statement made by Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister, in the House of Commons on 18 March 2003.

I beg to move,

That this House notes its decisions of 25th November 2002 and 26th February 2003 to endorse UN Security Council Resolution 1441; recognises that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and long range missiles, and its continuing non-compliance with Security Council Resolutions, pose a threat to international peace and security; notes that in the 130 days since Resolution 1441 was adopted Iraq has not co-operated actively, unconditionally and immediately with the weapons inspectors, and has rejected the final opportunity to comply and is in further material breach of its obligations under successive mandatory UN Security Council Resolutions; regrets that despite sustained diplomatic effort by Her Majesty’s Government it has not proved possible to secure a second Resolution in the UN because one Permanent Member of the Security Council made plain in public its intention to use its veto whatever the circumstances; notes the opinion of the Attorney General that, Iraq having failed to comply and Iraq being at the time of Resolution 1441 and continuing to be in material breach, the authority to use force under Resolution 678 has revived and so continues today; believes that the United Kingdom must uphold the authority of the United Nations as set out in Resolution 1441 and many Resolutions preceding it, and therefore supports the decision of Her Majesty’s Government that the United Kingdom should use all means necessary to ensure the disarmament of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction; offers wholehearted support to the men and women of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces now on duty in the Middle East; in the event of military operations requires that, on an urgent basis, the United Kingdom should seek a new Security Council Resolution that would affirm Iraq’s territorial integrity, ensure rapid delivery of humanitarian relief, allow for the earliest possible lifting of UN sanctions, an international reconstruction programme, and the use of all oil revenues for the benefit of the Iraqi people and endorse an appropriate post-conflict administration for Iraq, leading to a representative government which upholds human rights and the rule of law for all Iraqis; and also welcomes the imminent publication of the Quartet’s roadmap as a significant step to bringing a just and lasting peace settlement between Israelis and Palestinians and for the wider Middle East region, and endorses the role of Her Majesty’s Government in actively working for peace between Israel and Palestine.

At the outset, I say that it is right that the House debate this issue and pass judgment. That is the democracy that is our right, but that others struggle for in vain. Again, I say that I do not disrespect the views in opposition to mine. This is a tough choice indeed, but it is also a stark one: to stand British troops down now and turn back, or to hold firm to the course that we have set. I believe passionately that we must hold firm to that course. The question most often posed is not “Why does it matter?” but “Why does it matter so much?” Here we are, the Government, with their most serious test, their majority at risk, the first Cabinet resignation over an issue of policy, the main parties internally divided, people who agree on everything else—[Hon. Members: “The main parties?”] Ah, yes, of course. The Liberal Democrats—unified, as ever, in opportunism and error. [Interruption.]

The country and the Parliament reflect each other. This is a debate that, as time has gone on, has become less bitter but no less grave. So why does it matter so much? Because the outcome of this issue will now determine more than the fate of the Iraqi regime and more than the future of the Iraqi people who have been brutalised by Saddam for so long, important though those issues are. It will determine the way in which Britain and the world confront the central security threat of the 21st century, the development of the United Nations, the relationship between Europe and the United States, the relations within the European Union and the way in which the United States engages with the rest of the world. So it could hardly be more important. It will determine the pattern of international politics for the next generation.

First, let us recap the history of Iraq and weapons of mass destruction. In April 1991, after the Gulf war, Iraq was given 15 days to provide a full and final declaration of all its weapons of mass destruction. Saddam had used the weapons against Iran and against his own people, causing thousands of deaths. He had had plans to use them against allied forces. It became clear, after the Gulf war, that Iraq’s WMD ambitions were far more extensive than had hitherto been thought. So the issue was identified by the United Nations at that time as one for urgent remedy. UNSCOM, the weapons inspection team, was set up. It was expected to complete its task, following the declaration, at the end of April 1991. The declaration, when it came, was false: a blanket denial of the programme, other than in a very tentative form. And so the 12-year game began.

The inspectors probed. Finally, in March 1992, Iraq admitted that it had previously undeclared weapons of mass destruction, but it said that it had destroyed them. It gave another full and final declaration. Again the inspectors probed. In October 1994, Iraq stopped co-operating with the weapons inspectors altogether. Military action was threatened. Inspections resumed. In March 1996, in an effort to rid Iraq of the inspectors, a further full and final declaration of WMD was made. By July 1996, however, Iraq was forced to admit that declaration, too, was false.

In August, it provided yet another full and final declaration. Then, a week later, Saddam’s son-in-law, Hussein Kamal, defected to Jordan. He disclosed a far more extensive biological weapons programme and, for the first time, said that Iraq had weaponised the programme—something that Saddam had always strenuously denied. All this had been happening while the inspectors were in Iraq.

Kamal also revealed Iraq’s crash programme to produce a nuclear weapon in the 1990s. Iraq was then forced to release documents that showed just how extensive those programmes were. In November 1996, Jordan intercepted prohibited components for missiles that could be used for weapons of mass destruction. Then a further “full and final declaration” was made. That, too, turned out to be false.

In June 1997, inspectors were barred from specific sites. In September 1997, lo and behold, yet another “full and final declaration” was made—also false. Meanwhile, the inspectors discovered VX nerve agent production equipment, the existence of which had always been denied by the Iraqis.

In October 1997, the United States and the United Kingdom threatened military action if Iraq refused to comply with the inspectors. Finally, under threat of action in February 1998, Kofi Annan went to Baghdad and negotiated a memorandum with Saddam to allow inspections to continue. They did continue, for a few months. In August, co-operation was suspended.

In December, the inspectors left. Their final report is a withering indictment of Saddam’s lies, deception and obstruction, with large quantities of weapons of mass destruction unaccounted for. Then, in December 1998, the US and the UK undertook Desert Fox, a targeted bombing campaign to degrade as much of the Iraqi WMD facility as we could.

In 1999, a new inspection team, UNMOVIC, was set up. Saddam refused to allow those inspectors even to enter Iraq. So there they stayed, in limbo, until, after resolution 1441 last November, they were allowed to return.

That is the history—and what is the claim of Saddam today? Why, exactly the same as before: that he has no weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, we are asked to believe that after seven years of obstruction and non-compliance, finally resulting in the inspectors’ leaving in 1998—seven years in which he hid his programme and built it up, even when the inspectors were there in Iraq—when they had left, he voluntarily decided to do what he had consistently refused to do under coercion.

When the inspectors left in 1998, they left unaccounted for 10,000 litres of anthrax; a far-reaching VX nerve agent programme; up to 6,500 chemical munitions; at least 80 tonnes of mustard gas, and possibly more than 10 times that amount; unquantifiable amounts of sarin, botulinum toxin and a host of other biological poisons; and an entire Scud missile programme. We are asked now seriously to accept that in the last few years—contrary to all history, contrary to all intelligence—Saddam decided unilaterally to destroy those weapons. I say that such a claim is palpably absurd.

Resolution 1441 is very clear. It lays down a final opportunity for Saddam to disarm. It rehearses the fact that he has for years been in material breach of 17 UN resolutions. It says that this time compliance must be full, unconditional and immediate, the first step being a full and final declaration of all weapons of mass destruction to be given on 8 December last year.

I will not go through all the events since then, as the House is familiar with them, but this much is accepted by all members of the UN Security Council: the 8 December declaration is false. That in itself, incidentally, is a material breach. Iraq has taken some steps in co-operation, but no one disputes that it is not fully co-operating. Iraq continues to deny that it has any weapons of mass destruction, although no serious intelligence service anywhere in the world believes it.

On 7 March, the inspectors published a remarkable document. It is 173 pages long, and details all the unanswered questions about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. It lists 29 different areas in which the inspectors have been unable to obtain information. On VX, for example, it says:

“Documentation available to UNMOVIC suggests that Iraq at least had had far reaching plans to weaponise VX”.

On mustard gas, it says:

“Mustard constituted an important part . . . of Iraq’s CW arsenal . . . 550 mustard filled shells and up to 450 mustard filled aerial bombs unaccounted for . . . additional uncertainty”

with respect to over 6,500 aerial bombs,

“corresponding to approximately 1,000 tonnes of agent, predominantly mustard.”

On biological weapons, the inspectors’ report states:

“Based on unaccounted for growth media, Iraq’s potential production of anthrax could have been in the range of about 15,000 to 25,000 litres . . . Based on all the available evidence, the strong presumption is that about 10,000 litres of anthrax was not destroyed and may still exist.”

On that basis, I simply say to the House that, had we meant what we said in resolution 1441, the Security Council should have convened and condemned Iraq as in material breach. What is perfectly clear is that Saddam is playing the same old games in the same old way. Yes, there are minor concessions, but there has been no fundamental change of heart or mind.

However, after 7 March, the inspectors said that there was at least some co-operation, and the world rightly hesitated over war. Let me now describe to the House what then took place.

We therefore approached a second resolution in this way. As I said, we could have asked for the second resolution then and there, because it was justified. Instead, we laid down an ultimatum calling upon Saddam to come into line with resolution 1441, or be in material breach. That is not an unreasonable proposition, given the history, but still countries hesitated. They asked, “How do we judge what is full co-operation?”

So we then worked on a further compromise. We consulted the inspectors and drew up five tests, based on the document that they published on 7 March. Those tests included allowing interviews with 30 scientists to be held outside Iraq, and releasing details of the production of the anthrax, or at least of the documentation showing what had happened to it. The inspectors added another test: that Saddam should publicly call on Iraqis to co-operate with them.

So we constructed this framework: that Saddam should be given a specified time to fulfil all six tests to show full co-operation; and that, if he did so, the inspectors could then set out a forward work programme that would extend over a period of time to make sure that disarmament happened. However, if Saddam failed to meet those tests to judge compliance, action would follow.

So there were clear benchmarks, plus a clear ultimatum. Again, I defy anyone to describe that as an unreasonable proposition.

Last Monday, we were getting very close with it. We very nearly had the majority agreement. If I might, I should particularly like to thank the President of Chile for the constructive way in which he approached this issue.

Yes, there were debates about the length of the ultimatum, but the basic construct was gathering support. Then, on Monday night, France said that it would veto a second resolution, whatever the circumstances. Then France denounced the six tests. Later that day, Iraq rejected them. Still, we continued to negotiate, even at that point.

Last Friday, France said that it could not accept any resolution with an ultimatum in it. On Monday, we made final efforts to secure agreement. However, the fact is that France remains utterly opposed to anything that lays down an ultimatum authorising action in the event of non-compliance by Saddam.

Hugh Bayley (City of York): Will my right hon. Friend give way?

The Prime Minister: Very well.

Hugh Bayley: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. I took the view that Britain should not engage in military action without a second resolution, but the decision of some members of the Security Council to back away from the commitment that they gave in November to enforce resolution 1441 has made me change my mind. Does my right hon. Friend agree that France’s decision to use the veto against any further Security Council resolution has, in effect, disarmed the UN instead of disarming Iraq?

The Prime Minister: Of course I agree with my hon. Friend. The House should just consider the position that we were asked to adopt. Those on the Security Council opposed to us say that they want Saddam to disarm, but they will not countenance any new resolution that authorises force in the event of non-compliance. That is their position—no to any ultimatum and no to any resolution that stipulates that failure to comply will lead to military action. So we must demand that Saddam disarms, but relinquish any concept of a threat if he does not.

From December 1998 to December 2002, no UN inspector was allowed to inspect anything in Iraq. For four years, no inspection took place. What changed Saddam’s mind was the threat of force. From December to January, and then from January through to February, some concessions were made. What changed his mind? It was the threat of force. What makes him now issue invitations to the inspectors, discover documents that he said he never had, produce evidence of weapons supposed to be non-existent, and destroy missiles he said he would keep? It is the imminence of force. The only persuasive power to which he responds is 250,000 allied troops on his doorstep. However, when that fact is so obvious, we are told that any resolution that authorises force in the event of non-compliance will be vetoed—not just opposed, but vetoed and blocked.

Mr. Jon Owen Jones (Cardiff, Central): If it is the case, as the Government continually say, that the French position was so uniquely influential, why did not the Government and the United States pursue the second resolution, which—if the Government have given us a true reflection of the Security Council’s position—would show that the French were isolated?

The Prime Minister: For the very reason that I have just given. If a member of the permanent five indicates to members of the Security Council who are not permanent members that whatever the circumstances it will veto, that is the way to block any progress on the Security Council. [Interruption.] With the greatest respect to whoever shouted out that the presence of the troops is working, I agree, but it is British and American troops who are there, not French troops.

The tragedy is that had such a resolution ensued and had the UN come together and united—and if other troops had gone there, not just British and American troops—Saddam Hussein might have complied. But the moment we proposed the benchmarks and canvassed support for an ultimatum, there was an immediate recourse to the language of the veto. The choice was not action now or postponement of action; the choice was action or no action at all.

Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent): What does the Prime Minister mean by an “unreasonable veto”? Were the 30 occasions on which the UK has used the veto and the 75 occasions on which the US has used the veto reasonable or unreasonable?

The Prime Minister: We can argue about each one of those vetoes in the past and whether they were reasonable, but I define an unreasonable veto as follows. In resolution 1441, we said that it was Saddam’s final opportunity and that he had to comply. That was agreed by all members of the Security Council. What is surely unreasonable is for a country to come forward now, at the very point when we might reach agreement and when we are—not unreasonably—saying that he must comply with the UN, after all these months without full compliance, on the basis of the six tests or action will follow. For that country to say that it will veto such a resolution in all circumstances is what I would call unreasonable.

The tragedy is that the world has to learn the lesson all over again that weakness in the face of a threat from a tyrant is the surest way not to peace, but—unfortunately—to conflict. Looking back over those 12 years, the truth is that we have been victims of our own desire to placate the implacable, to persuade towards reason the utterly unreasonable, and to hope that there was some genuine intent to do good in a regime whose mind is in fact evil.

Now the very length of time counts against us. People say, “You’ve waited 12 years, so why not wait a little longer?” Of course we have done so, because resolution 1441 gave a final opportunity. As I have just pointed out, the first test was on 8 December. But still we waited. We waited for the inspectors’ reports. We waited as each concession was tossed to us to whet our appetite for hope and further waiting. But still no one, not even today at the Security Council, says that Saddam is co-operating fully, unconditionally or immediately.

Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey): The Prime Minister will carry the House with him in describing the evil of Saddam Hussein and the effectiveness of the threat of force. Can he therefore explain why the diplomacy that has not so far succeeded—not through lack of his effort—should not be continued for a little longer, so that agreement could be reached between all permanent members of the Security Council? Then if force had to be used, it could be backed with the authority of the UN, instead of undermining the UN.

The Prime Minister: We could have had more time if the compromise proposal that we put forward had been accepted. I take it from what the hon. Gentleman has just said that he would accept that the compromise proposal we put forward was indeed reasonable. We set out the tests. If Saddam meets those tests, we extend the work programme of the inspectors. If he does not meet those tests, we take action. I think that the hon. Gentleman would also agree that unless the threat of action was made, it was unlikely that Saddam would meet the tests.

Simon Hughes indicated assent.

The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman nods his head, but the problem with the diplomacy was that it came to an end after the position of France was made public—and repeated in a private conversation—and it said that it would block, by veto, any resolution that contained an ultimatum. We could carry on discussing it for a long time, but the French were not prepared to change their position. I am not prepared to carry on waiting and delaying, with our troops in place in difficult circumstances, when that country has made it clear that it has a fixed position and will not change. I would have hoped that, rather than condemn us for not waiting even longer, the hon. Gentleman would condemn those who laid down the veto.

David Winnick (Walsall, North): Does my right hon. Friend agree that a criticism can be made of all the countries that make up the Security Council because it has taken 12 years to reach this point? Why was action not taken earlier? The delay and frustration has only encouraged the Iraqi dictator to act as he has, and there is no justification for further delay.

The Prime Minister: I truly believe that our fault has not been impatience. The truth is that our patience should have been exhausted weeks and months and even years ago.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan): The Prime Minister says that the French have changed position, but surely the French, Russians and Chinese always made it clear that they would oppose a second resolution that led automatically to war. [Interruption.] Well they publicised that view at the time of resolution 1441. Is it not the Prime Minister who has changed his position? A month ago, he said that the only circumstances in which he would go to war without a second resolution was if the inspectors concluded that there had been no more progress, which they have not; if there were a majority on the Security Council, which there is not; and if there were an unreasonable veto from one country, but there are three permanent members opposed to the Prime Minister’s policy. When did he change his position, and why?

The Prime Minister: First, the hon. Gentleman is absolutely wrong about the position on resolution 1441. It is correct that resolution 1441 did not say that there would be another resolution authorising the use of force, but the implication of resolution 1441—it was stated in terms—was that if Iraq continued in material breach, defined as not co-operating fully, immediately and unconditionally, serious consequences should follow. All we are asking for in the second resolution is the clear ultimatum that if Saddam continues to fail to co-operate, force should be used. The French position is that France will vote no, whatever the circumstances. Those are not my words, but those of the French President. I find it sad that at this point in time he cannot support us in the position we have set out, which is the only sure way to disarm Saddam. And what, indeed, would any tyrannical regime possessing weapons of mass destruction think when viewing the history of the world’s diplomatic dance with Saddam over these 12 years? That our capacity to pass firm resolutions has only been matched by our feebleness in implementing them. That is why this indulgence has to stop—because it is dangerous: dangerous if such regimes disbelieve us; dangerous if they think they can use our weakness, our hesitation, and even the natural urges of our democracy towards peace against us; and dangerous because one day they will mistake our innate revulsion against war for permanent incapacity, when, in fact, if pushed to the limit, we will act. But when we act, after years of pretence, the action will have to be harder, bigger, more total in its impact. It is true that Iraq is not the only country with weapons of mass destruction, but I say this to the House: back away from this confrontation now, and future conflicts will be infinitely worse and more devastating in their effects.

Of course, in a sense, any fair observer does not really dispute that Iraq is in breach of resolution 1441 or that it implies action in such circumstances. The real problem is that, underneath, people dispute that Iraq is a threat, dispute the link between terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, and dispute, in other words, the whole basis of our assertion that the two together constitute a fundamental assault on our way of life.

There are glib and sometimes foolish comparisons with the 1930s. I am not suggesting for a moment that anyone here is an appeaser or does not share our revulsion at the regime of Saddam. However, there is one relevant point of analogy. It is that, with history, we know what happened. We can look back and say, “There’s the time; that was the moment; that’s when we should have acted.” However, the point is that it was not clear at the time—not at that moment. In fact, at that time, many people thought such a fear fanciful or, worse, that it was put forward in bad faith by warmongers. Let me read one thing from an editorial from a paper that I am pleased to say takes a different position today. It was written in late 1938 after Munich. One would have thought from the history books that people thought the world was tumultuous in its desire to act. This is what the editorial said:

“Be glad in your hearts. Give thanks to your God. People of Britain, your children are safe. Your husbands and your sons will not march to war. Peace is a victory for all mankind . . . And now let us go back to our own affairs. We have had enough of those menaces, conjured up . . . to confuse us.”

Now, of course, should Hitler again appear in the same form, we would know what to do. But the point is that history does not declare the future to us plainly. Each time is different and the present must be judged without the benefit of hindsight. So let me explain to the House why I believe that the threat that we face today is so serious and why we must tackle it. The threat today is not that of the 1930s. It is not big powers going to war with each other. The ravages that fundamentalist ideology inflicted on the 20th century are memories. The cold war is over. Europe is at peace, if not always diplomatically. But the world is ever more interdependent. Stock markets and economies rise and fall together, confidence is the key to prosperity, and insecurity spreads like contagion. The key today is stability and order. The threat is chaos and disorder—and there are two begetters of chaos: tyrannical regimes with weapons of mass destruction and extreme terrorist groups who profess a perverted and false view of Islam.

Let me tell the House what I know. I know that there are some countries, or groups within countries, that are proliferating and trading in weapons of mass destruction—especially nuclear weapons technology. I know that there are companies, individuals, and some former scientists on nuclear weapons programmes, who are selling their equipment or expertise. I know that there are several countries—mostly dictatorships with highly repressive regimes—that are desperately trying to acquire chemical weapons, biological weapons or, in particular, nuclear weapons capability. Some of those countries are now a short time away from having a serviceable nuclear weapon. This activity is not diminishing. It is increasing.

We all know that there are terrorist groups now operating in most major countries. Just in the past two years, around 20 different nations have suffered serious terrorist outrages. Thousands of people—quite apart from 11 September—have died in them. The purpose of that terrorism is not just in the violent act; it is in producing terror. It sets out to inflame, to divide, and to produce consequences of a calamitous nature. Round the world, it now poisons the chances of political progress—in the middle east, in Kashmir, in Chechnya and in Africa. The removal of the Taliban—yes—dealt it a blow. But it has not gone away.

Those two threats have, of course, different motives and different origins, but they share one basic common view: they detest the freedom, democracy and tolerance that are the hallmarks of our way of life. At the moment, I accept fully that the association between the two is loose—but it is hardening. The possibility of the two coming together—of terrorist groups in possession of weapons of mass destruction or even of a so-called dirty radiological bomb—is now, in my judgment, a real and present danger to Britain and its national security.

Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury): Does the Prime Minister acknowledge that thousands of scientists and civil servants in this country—hundreds of them my constituents at Porton Down—have been warning of those threats for some years and are hugely relieved that he and his Government are taking this seriously? They will support him, as will I.

The Prime Minister: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): What could be more calculated to act as a recruiting sergeant for a young generation throughout the Islamic and Arab world than putting 600 cruise missiles—or whatever it is—on to Baghdad and Iraq?

The Prime Minister: Let me come to that very point.

Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East): Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister: Let me deal with this point first. Let us recall: what was shocking about 11 September was not just the slaughter of innocent people but the knowledge that, had the terrorists been able, there would have been not 3,000 innocent dead, but 30,000 or 300,000—and the more the suffering, the greater their rejoicing. I say to my hon. Friend that America did not attack the al-Qaeda terrorist group; the al-Qaeda terrorist group attacked America. They did not need to be recruited; they were there already. Unless we take action against them, they will grow. That is why we should act.

Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak): Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister: In a moment.

Sir Teddy Taylor: Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister: Just give me a moment and then I will give way.

Let me explain the dangers. Three kilograms of VX from a rocket launcher would contaminate 0.25 sq km of a city. Millions of lethal doses are contained in one litre of anthrax, and 10,000 litres are unaccounted for. What happened on 11 September has changed the psychology of America—that is clear—but it should have changed the psychology of the world.

Of course, Iraq is not the only part of this threat. I have never said that it was. But it is the test of whether we treat the threat seriously. Faced with it, the world should unite. The UN should be the focus both of diplomacy and of action. That is what 1441 said. That was the deal. And I simply say to the House that to break it now, and to will the ends but not the means, would do more damage in the long term to the UN than any other single course that we could pursue. To fall back into the lassitude of the past 12 years; to talk, to discuss, to debate but never to act; to declare our will but not to enforce it; and to continue with strong language but with weak intentions—that is the worst course imaginable. If we pursue that course, when the threat returns, from Iraq or elsewhere, who will then believe us? What price our credibility with the next tyrant? It was interesting today that some of the strongest statements of support for allied forces came from near to North Korea—from Japan and South Korea.

Sir Teddy Taylor: The Prime Minister is making a powerful and compelling speech. Will he tell the House whether there has been any identification of the countries that have supplied these terrible biological materials—such as anthrax and toxins—to Iraq? Should those countries not be identified—named by the Prime Minister and condemned?

The Prime Minister: Much of the production is in Iraq itself.

Lynne Jones: A moment ago my right hon. Friend said that the association between Iraq and terrorists is loose, yet last night President Bush told the American people that Iraq has aided, trained and harboured terrorists, including operatives of al-Qaeda. Was President Bush accurate in what he told the American people?

The Prime Minister: First, let me apologise to the hon. Member for Rochford and Southend, East (Sir Teddy Taylor). He was making a point in my favour and I failed to spot it.

Secondly, to my hon. Friend, yes, I do support what the President said. Do not be in any doubt at all—Iraq has been supporting terrorist groups. For example, Iraq is offering money to the families of suicide bombers whose purpose is to wreck any chance of progress in the middle east. Although I said that the associations were loose, they are hardening. I do believe that, and I believe that the two threats coming together are the dangers that we face in our world.

I also say this: there will be in any event no sound future for the United Nations—no guarantee against the repetition of these events—unless we recognise the urgent need for a political agenda that we can unite upon. What we have witnessed is indeed the consequence of Europe and the United States dividing from each other. Not all of Europe—Spain, Italy, Holland, Denmark and Portugal have strongly supported us—and not a majority of Europe if we include, as we should, Europe’s new members who will accede next year, all 10 of whom have been in strong support of the position of this Government. But the paralysis of the UN has been born out of the division that there is.

I want to deal with that in this way. At the heart of that division is the concept of a world in which there are rival poles of power, with the US and its allies in one corner and France, Germany, Russia and their allies in the other. I do not believe that all those nations intend such an outcome, but that is what now faces us. I believe such a vision to be misguided and profoundly dangerous for our world. I know why it arises. There is resentment of US predominance. There is fear of US unilateralism. People ask, “Do the US listen to us and our preoccupations?” And there is perhaps a lack of full understanding of US preoccupations after 11 September. I know all this. But the way to deal with it is not rivalry, but partnership. Partners are not servants, but neither are they rivals. What Europe should have said last September to the United States is this: with one voice it should have said, “We understand your strategic anxiety over terrorism and weapons of mass destruction and we will help you meet it. We will mean what we say in any UN resolution we pass and will back it with action if Saddam fails to disarm voluntarily. However, in return”—Europe should have said—”we ask two things of you: that the US should indeed choose the UN path and you should recognise the fundamental overriding importance of restarting the middle east peace process, which we will hold you to.”
That would have been the right and responsible way for Europe and America to treat each other as partners, and it is a tragedy that it has not happened. I do not believe that there is any other issue with the same power to reunite the world community than progress on the issues of Israel and Palestine. Of course, there is cynicism about recent announcements, but the United States is now committed—and, I believe genuinely—to the road map for peace designed in consultation with the UN. It will now be presented to the parties as Abu Mazen is confirmed in office, hopefully today, as Palestinian Prime Minister. All of us are now signed up to this vision: a state of Israel, recognised and accepted by all the world, and a viable Palestinian state. That is what this country should strive for, and we will.

And that should be part of a larger global agenda: on poverty and sustainable development; on democracy and human rights; and on the good governance of nations.

Mike Gapes (Ilford, South): Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister: In a moment.

That is why what happens after any conflict in Iraq is of such critical significance. Here again there is a chance to unify around the United Nations. There should be a new United Nations resolution following any conflict providing not only for humanitarian help, but for the administration and governance of Iraq. That must be done under proper UN authorisation.

Mike Gapes: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way, and I endorse very strongly what he said about the need for the road map of progress in the middle east. However, the problem is that there is a perception that we are engaged in a bilateral action with just the United States. Could he respond to my constituents and others who believe that, and point out how strong is the support for action at this moment to rid the Iraqi people of the oppressive Saddam regime?

The Prime Minister: I shall certainly do so. The UN resolution that should provide for the proper governance of Iraq should also protect totally the territorial integrity of Iraq. And this point is also important: that the oil revenues, which people falsely claim that we want to seize, should be put in a trust fund for the Iraqi people administered through the UN.

Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion): Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister: In a moment. Let the future Government of Iraq be given the chance to begin the process of uniting the nation’s disparate groups, on a democratic basis—

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North): Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister: If my hon. Friend will allow me to continue for a moment, I shall come back to him.

The process must begin on a democratic basis, respecting human rights, as, indeed, the fledgling democracy in northern Iraq—protected from Saddam for 12 years by British and American pilots in the no-fly zone—has done remarkably. The moment that a new Government are in place, committed to disarming Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, is the point in time when sanctions should be lifted, and can be lifted, in their entirety for the people of Iraq.

Jeremy Corbyn: I thank the Prime Minister for giving way. Can he tell the House what guarantees he has had from the Turkish Government and the Turkish military that they will not use the opportunity of a war in the south to invade the northern part of Iraq and destroy the Kurdish autonomous region and the demands of Kurdish people for their own self-determination? There is a very serious fear that the Turkish army has always wanted to destroy any vestige of Kurdish autonomy.

The Prime Minister: Turkey has given that commitment. I have spoken to the Turkish Government, as have the President of the United States and many others. I have to say to my hon. Friend that it is clear from the conversations that I have had with people in that Kurdish autonomous zone that what they really fear above all else is the prospect of Saddam remaining in power, emboldened because we have failed to remove him.

I have never put the justification for action as regime change. We have to act within the terms set out in resolution 1441—that is our legal base. But it is the reason why I say frankly that if we do act, we should do so with a clear conscience and a strong heart. I accept fully that those who are opposed to this course of action share my detestation of Saddam. Who could not? Iraq is a potentially wealthy country which in 1979, the year before Saddam came to power, was richer than Portugal or Malaysia. Today it is impoverished, with 60 per cent. of its population dependent on food aid. Thousands of children die needlessly every year from lack of food and medicine. Four million people out of a population of just over 20 million are living in exile.

The brutality of the repression—the death and torture camps, the barbaric prisons for political opponents, the routine beatings for anyone or their families suspected of disloyalty—is well documented. Just last week, someone slandering Saddam was tied to a lamp post in a street in Baghdad, their tongue was cut out, and they were mutilated and left to bleed to death as a warning to others. I recall a few weeks ago talking to an Iraqi exile and saying to her that I understood how grim it must be under the lash of Saddam. “But you don’t”, she replied. “You cannot. You do not know what it is like to live in perpetual fear.” And she is right. We take our freedom for granted. But imagine what it must be like not to be able to speak or discuss or debate or even question the society you live in. To see friends and family taken away and never daring to complain. To suffer the humility of failing courage in face of pitiless terror. That is how the Iraqi people live. Leave Saddam in place, and the blunt truth is that that is how they will continue to be forced to live.

We must face the consequences of the actions that we advocate. For those of us who support the course that I am advocating, that means all the dangers of war. But for others who are opposed to this course, it means—let us be clear—that for the Iraqi people, whose only true hope lies in the removal of Saddam, the darkness will simply close back over. They will be left under his rule, without any possibility of liberation—not from us, not from anyone.

Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate): Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister: In a moment. This is the choice before us. If this House now demands that at this moment, faced with this threat from this regime, British troops are pulled back, that we turn away at the point of reckoning—this is what it means—what then? What will Saddam feel? He will feel strengthened beyond measure. What will the other states that tyrannise their people, the terrorists who threaten our existence, take from that? They will take it that the will confronting them is decaying and feeble. Who will celebrate and who will weep if we take our troops back from the Gulf now?

Glenda Jackson: Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister: I am sorry. If our plea is for America to work with others, to be good as well as powerful allies, will our retreat make it multilateralist, or will it not rather be the biggest impulse to unilateralism that we could possibly imagine? What then of the United Nations, and of the future of Iraq and the middle east peace process, devoid of our influence and stripped of our insistence?

The House wanted this discussion before conflict. That was a legitimate demand. It has it, and these are the choices. In this dilemma, no choice is perfect, no choice is ideal, but on this decision hangs the fate of many things: of whether we summon the strength to recognise the global challenge of the 21st century, and meet it; of the Iraqi people, groaning under years of dictatorship; of our armed forces, brave men and women of whom we can feel proud, and whose morale is high and whose purpose is clear; of the institutions and alliances that will shape our world for years to come. To retreat now, I believe, would put at hazard all that we hold dearest. To turn the United Nations back into a talking shop; to stifle the first steps of progress in the middle east; to leave the Iraqi people to the mercy of events over which we would have relinquished all power to influence for the better; to tell our allies that at the very moment of action, at the very moment when they need our determination, Britain faltered: I will not be party to such a course.

This is not the time to falter. This is the time not just for this Government—or, indeed, for this Prime Minister—but for this House to give a lead: to show that we will stand up for what we know to be right; to show that we will confront the tyrannies and dictatorships and terrorists who put our way of life at risk; to show, at the moment of decision, that we have the courage to do the right thing.

Tony Blair – 1999 Speech at NSPCC Full Stop Campaign Launch


Below is the text of the speech made by Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister, made at the NSPCC Full Stop Campaign Launch on 23 March 1999.

NB – the original numbers have been lost from the transcript.

Your Royal Highness, Ladies and Gentlemen. I am delighted and honoured to be here this morning to launch a campaign that I believe will be something very special. Something that is going to make a difference.

Something that Jim Harding has just said sticks in my mind. Cruelty to children is not inevitable. It can be prevented. We can act effectively to tackle it. There is hope. We cannot and will not be deflected from ending it.

Child poverty is one issue. I have no doubt the circumstances in which a child is brought up, play a huge part in their development. It is the reason for the focus of policy on social exclusion. Kids brought up in a culture of family instability, drugs, crime, poor housing and education, long-term unemployment. All these problems need to be confronted head-on. In other words, we must have both hope and ambition.

By the end of this Parliament, we aim to lift 700,000 children out of poverty.

All this will help. But it needs more. This campaign has one Big Idea. It is a long-term idea. It is that children are everybody’s responsibility.

It is about personal, professional and public responsibility for children. That is, our responsibility. Everyone’s responsibility.

Because ending cruelty is not just in the interests of children themselves.

It is in everyone’s interest.

The Full Stop Campaign’s goal is to end child cruelty. But it is much more than that. It is about ending cruelty and replacing it – where it exists – with positive support for parents. I therefore wholehearted endorse a strategy based on:

– better access to help and advice for everyone – children and parents alike

– through schools, helplines, the internet and local community organisations and networks

– and through particular initiatives like making parks and open spaces safer for children

– and providing a birthpack which gives guidance to new parents, for every baby born in the new millennium.

The Government is complementing what you are doing now. We have already put in place tough legislation on sex offenders. We will support the Private Member’s Bill sponsored by Deborah Shipley, which will for the first time put the Department of Health’s Consultancy Index on a statutory footing and help to unsuitable prevent adults from working with children.

A �0 million programme Sure Start will be available to local partnerships to deliver support services, including family support, childcare, primary healthcare, early learning and play. Some of these services may be provided in the home. The Sure Start programme will help children be ready to thrive when they reach school. Each programme will service the local community within ‘pram pushing’ distance.

We are also undertaking a far reaching programme to improve the quality of services for vulnerable children at risk or in care. The ‘Quality Protects’ Programme to transform the quality of children’s care will be backed by a special grant of �5million.

Through this, we will take steps to strengthen the regulatory system to ensure that all children’s homes and fostering agencies are subject to welfare inspections. We will establish a new Regional Commission for Care Standards to make sure that children’s services are properly licensed and inspected.

We are doing this because children are central to our overall agenda for social policy. We need to break the cycle of disadvantage so that children born into poverty, or let down by the education system, or abused, are not condemned to social exclusion and deprivation in adulthood. So throughout their childhood, children must get a better deal.

As Prince Andrew said, as a father he supports this campaign. It is as a father I support this campaign. The government supports this campaign.

The private passion we feel for our children should become the public passion we feel for our children.

I believe ending cruelty to children is the right idea at the right time. It is the best way to invest in the future. We all have a part to play. Let it be our ambition for Britain for the new Millennium.

Tony Blair – 1999 Speech at Maths 2000 Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister, at the Maths 2000 Conference held on 16 March 1999.

This conference is to announce that next year will be Maths Year 2000 – following this year’s National Year of Reading.

But let me start with the bigger picture.

Education is this government’s top priority. That is why we are investing an extra £19 billion in education over the next three years, an unprecedented commitment to our children’s future.

It is investment for modernisation and higher standards at every level. Because without change, we will never achieve our goals.

Our programme of modernisation extends right across the education system:

  • A huge expansion of nursery and under-fives provision, to give our children the best possible start in life.
  • A transformation in the teaching of the basics in primary schools, so that all 11-year-olds are up to standard in literacy and numeracy.
  • A modernisation of the comprehensive system – including a significant increase in the number of specialist and beacon schools – so that secondary schools develop the skills of young people of all abilities.
  • A reform of the teaching profession, to reward performance properly and to improve the status, training and reputation of a profession which has been undervalued for too long.
  • A reform of further and higher education, raising standards, extending opportunities, and modernising the system of student finance to make it sustainable for the next generation.

This is the big picture – a government committed to the serious investment and reform needed to create a world-class education system for this country. At every level it requires step-change – step-change in aspirations, step-change in attainment, and step-change in confidence that we can meet our goals if we resolve to do so.

Maths Year 2000 is part of that big picture, and a key part. As a country, we have devalued mathematics for too long.

It is frankly scandalous that four in ten of our eleven-year-olds are not up to the basic numeracy standard expected of their age. And we need to do far more to ensure that adults who lack basic numeracy skills have the opportunity to acquire them.
This means destroying the myth that’s it’s clever to be hopeless at maths.

The urgent priority is to improve the teaching of maths in our schools, particularly primary schools, which lay the foundations for success or failure. The national numeracy strategy, to be launched this September, is designed to achieve this.

But we must also forge a new status for maths within society as a whole – to make numeracy more accessible, even fun. That’s what Maths Year 2000 is all about.

We want to see projects to popularise maths in every community nationwide – involving schools, colleges, businesses, shops, the media, and voluntary organisations.

One of the successes of the Year of Reading has been Mersey TV’s Brookside adult literacy initiative – “Brookie Basics”. I look forward to something similar for numeracy – if not on Brookside, then perhaps a venue equally popular.

I am therefore delighted that Carol Vorderman spoke to you earlier. I’m told that her theme was ‘Why is maths so scary?’ – We need to eliminate the fear and replace it with confidence in dealing with numbers in every age group nationwide.

It is especially important that we instil that confidence in children during their first years at school.

A child who cannot read cannot learn. And a child who lacks confidence in arithmetic and basic maths is equally disadvantaged in modern life.

Yet we inherited a situation where a third of our eleven-year-olds were not up to standard in English, with an even higher proportion not up to standard in maths.

There is no more important task for us all – government, teachers, parents, business and the wider community – than putting this right.

That’s why we launched the national literacy strategy last September, with the literacy hour and high quality training and support. This has been widely welcomed by teachers, and is already making an impact.

Now we are doing the same with numeracy. Many primary schools already have a daily maths lesson, with structured learning programmes to support it. We are taking a big step forward, and this week will be sending comprehensive training and support materials to all schools for the new national numeracy strategy, which will lead to the numeracy hour in primary schools from this September.

The numeracy strategy has been extensively piloted already, and has received an extremely positive response.

Far from being regarded as an imposition, it is seen for what it is – first class support for teachers in planning and delivering maths classes, on a daily basis, to meet the expectations of parents that all children should be up to standard by the time they leave primary school.

The training materials are only the first step. With the extra investment for education more than 300 numeracy consultants have been appointed to train and support teachers. Primary head teachers and other teachers will receive training in the next school term, and there will be additional training for schools that need it.

We are also continuing to expand our numeracy summer school programme, which has been highly successful in raising standards. There will be more than 300 numeracy summer schools during this year’s summer holidays.

This is an important day for head teachers, teachers, and all those involved in maths education. Maths Year 2000, and the national numeracy strategy, give us the chance to make a step-change in maths competence across society, starting in our schools.

Our numeracy target is for 75% of all 11-year-olds to be up to standard by 2002. We are now at 59%.

We need to commit ourselves – together – to doing everything necessary to meet the 75% target. I am convinced we can do it. The numeracy strategy is in place. We have allocated the necessary resources to back it up. The will is there. Now we need to deliver.

There is no more important challenge facing us as a country. I wish you well in everything you are doing to make a success of Maths Year 2000 and our numeracy strategy.