David Cameron – Terrorism in France and Tunisia
Before I start, let me comment briefly on the appalling events that have taken place in France and Tunisia. Our hearts all go out to the victims of these appalling terrorist acts.
Transcript of press conference with Prime Minister, David Cameron at the European Council, 26 June 2015.
Before I start, let me comment briefly on the appalling events that have taken place in France and Tunisia. Our hearts all go out to the victims of these appalling terrorist acts. I spoke to President Hollande at the European Council and offered my sympathy and our solidarity with the French people at this time. I hope to speak later with the Tunisian government and again offer our sympathies and condolences, and our solidarity in fighting this evil of terrorism.
This is a threat that faces all of us. These events have taken place today in Tunisia and in France, but they can happen anywhere. We all face this threat. There’ll be a ministerially-chaired COBR meeting, the government’s emergency committee, later on this afternoon to make sure we’re doing everything we can to cooperate and coordinate with other countries and any information that we have that we share with them in fighting this threat.
We’ve got to do all we can to help. That means cooperating on counter-terrorism, building our capacity on counter-terrorism, it means dealing with the threat at source, whether that is ISIL in Syria and Iraq or whether it is other extremist groups around the world, and we also have to deal – perhaps more important than anything, is with this poisonous radical narrative that is turning so many young minds, and we have to combat it with everything that we have. The people who do these things, they sometimes claim they do it in the name of Islam. They don’t. Islam is a religion of peace. They do it in the name of a twisted and perverted ideology that we have to confront with everything that we have, and we must stop the poisoning of these young minds in our country, in other European countries and around the world.
I had three clear objectives for this summit: to ensure that there’s a comprehensive approach to the migration crisis; to push for faster progress on the Digital Single Market, which is so important for businesses and consumers back at home; but most importantly, to get the UK renegotiation underway, and I want to say a word about each.
First on migration, the wave of migrants crossing the Mediterranean is not just a problem for countries on the shore of the Mediterranean; it is an issue that affects us all. Many of those trying to cross the Channel from Calais arrived into Europe across the Mediterranean. So we need to work together in Europe on a comprehensive plan that will tackle the root causes of this issue and stem the flow.
Now Britain has already played a leading role, we’re saving lives with HMS Bulwark and our other Border Force cutters, rescuing over 4,000 people in the Mediterranean. We’re gathering intelligence to disrupt the smuggling gangs, with 90 law enforcement officers deployed to the Hague, Sicily and across Africa. We’re using our aid budget and we’ve kept our aid promises. We’re using our aid budget to help alleviate the poverty and the conflict and the insecurity and the failure of governance in these countries that often drives these people from their homes in the first place.
Here at this summit there was a lengthy and at times quite heated debate about how countries deal with the vast number of migrants already here. Now the UK has been clear that we will not take part in any relocation scheme to move migrants who have already arrived across member states. But that is not to say we won’t play our part. We do play our part. Britain can hold its head up high in the world, not least because of the aid that we spend in African countries, not least because what we’re doing, the second largest bilateral donor in terms of helping the Syrian people at their time of need, and yes, we do take part in the programme of resettling the most vulnerable refugees, taking them out of refugee camps and elsewhere to give them the chance of a better life here in the United Kingdom, and I made an announcement about that last week in Bratislava.
But we do think these relocation schemes for migrants who’ve already arrived, we think they could prove counterproductive and we’ve been very consistent about that. Now others have decided to go ahead, but we’re under no obligation to join them, precisely because of our opt-out from the justice and home affairs matters. And that does prove, incidentally, why these opt-outs matter. It means that the UK can protect its national interest and focus its efforts where I believe they matter most, which is stopping these migrants from setting off for Europe in the first place.
What we have to do is break the business model of the smugglers, break the link between getting in a boat and getting a chance to arrive in Britain, work with the host countries from which these people have come and make sure that they can in time be returned. That is the key, I believe, rather than these relocation schemes which I think could prove counterproductive.
Now second, the Digital Single Market. This is a prime example of where we need the EU to unlock the potential that single market for the benefit of businesses and consumers across Europe. This is a market that could be worth €450 billion to our economies. Now the UK’s been driving this debate, putting forward ideas at the beginning of the year, which the European Commission have now incorporated into their proposals. Here at this summit I was determined to push for faster and more ambitious progress. We’ve agreed that we must tackle market fragmentation, invest in infrastructure, ensure that we create the right conditions for this market to boom. And if we can get a roaming agreement, that could cut the cost of mobile phone bills for people travelling abroad.
People often wonder, ‘Do you agree things at these summits that have a direct impact on people back at home?’ If we can deal with this issue of roaming, then people travelling to the Continent on business, travelling as tourists, we get serious cuts in their bills, and Britain, as ever, is leading the charge with that sort of practical change that can make a real difference. Our digital industries are already leading the charge across Europe, from Tech City in London to a world-class robotics hub in Bristol, and today’s agreement will pave the way for them to develop with even fewer barriers.
Finally, renegotiating the UK’s relationship with the European Union. The European Union needs to change. Britain’s relationship with the European Union needs to change, and I’ve got a plan to achieve that: reform, renegotiation and referendum. Now we’re already making progress on reforming the EU. We’ve cut the EU budget, we’ve cut the EU red tape, we’re getting on with completing the single market, but this is not enough. We need more substantive reform in four particular areas: sovereignty, fairness, competitiveness and immigration.
First on sovereignty, people in Britain rightly think that the EU interferes too much, that too many decisions are taken too far away from them, and that they absolutely are clear about one thing. They and I do not want to be part of an ever-closer union to be dragged into a state called Europe. That may be for others, but it will never be for Britain, and it is time to recognise that specifically.
Second on fairness, as the eurozone integrates further, and there were discussions about that with the Five Presidents’ report at this Council, we need to make sure the interests of both those inside and those outside the eurozone are fairly balanced. That in many ways is the key to what I’m trying to achieve. This organisation, the EU, has got to be flexible enough to have people and countries that are in the eurozone, to feel comfortable with their membership and countries that are not in the eurozone to feel that their membership is in their national interest too. That is the key. We need a settlement that recognises while the single currency is not for all, the single market and the European Union as a whole must work for all.
Third on immigration, we need to tackle the welfare incentives that attract so many people from across the EU to seek work in Britain. And finally, alongside all these, we need to make the EU a source of growth and jobs and innovation and success rather than stagnation. At this summit, my priority was to kick off the technical work on all of these issues and the specific reforms that we want in each area, and we’ve agreed that such a process will get underway, and we’ll return to the issue at the December European Council.
Now clearly these talks will take tenacity and patience, not all the issues will be easily solved, but I’m confident we can achieve this substantial package of reform for the benefit of Britain certainly, but I would argue for the benefit for the whole of the EU as well. Our membership of the EU will once again have a common market at its heart. We would have got off the treadmill to ever-closer union. We’d have addressed the issue of migration to Britain from the rest of the EU. We’d have protected Britain’s place in the single market for the long term. It will not be the status quo. We will have fixed problems which have so frustrated the British people. It will be a new and different membership, one that is better for Britain and better for Europe, a membership rooted in what our national interest is today, a Britain in Europe, but not run by Europe.