Asked if the Prime Minister had spoken to any leaders overnight about the situation in Egypt, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said that there had not been any calls but we were in constant contact with our counterparts in Egypt and other countries.
Asked if the Prime Minister agreed with President Obama that transition needed to start now, the PMS said that we had called for an orderly transition to a broad-based government that produced real, visible and comprehensive change. We believed that that process should begin immediately. We looked to the Egyptian Government to set out a clear roadmap for change.
Asked if the Prime Minister had spoken to President Sarkozy who had made a statement on Egypt, the PMS said that we issued a joint statement with France and Germany at the weekend and there hadn’t been a call since. The Prime Minister would be seeing President Sarkozy this Friday at the European Council.
Asked if the Prime Minister had anything to say about news that neither the current Yemeni President nor his son would stand for election, the PMS said that he had nothing specific to say about Yemen. As a general statement of policy the UK position was that we wanted to see the development of more plural and democratic systems across that region.
Asked if the Prime Minister wanted to see a change in leadership sooner rather than later, the PMS repeated that we thought an orderly process of transition needed to begin now, which was clearly what the Egyptian people were saying. We would look to the Egyptian Government to set out a clear roadmap for change.
Asked if the Prime Minister wanted President Mubarak to step down, the PMS said that it was not for us to dictate. We were saying that the Egyptian Government needed to listen to the grievances of the Egyptian people.
Asked if the Prime Minister had an idea about the sort of system he’d like to see in place, the PMS said that we had a longstanding position on reform in Egypt, which was that there should be free and fair Presidential and Parliamentary elections; a repeal of the emergency law; proper rule of law, and wider constitutional change. That policy remained the same. The process now was something for the Egyptian Government, but we would like to see an orderly transition to a broad-based government. Any future government should support freedom and democracy and include opposition figures.
Asked if the British Ambassador had been instructed to talk to members of the opposition in Egypt, the PMS said that as you would expect our officials spoke to a range of people in Egypt.
Asked if the Prime Minister’s meeting with Ban Ki Moon today and been hastily arranged due to the situation in Egypt, the PMS said no but there would obviously be a discussion of the situation in Egypt.
Asked about the plane being chartered to Egypt and the current advice from the Foreign Office, the PMS said that there was nothing to update people on from yesterday, but that it was worth clarifying a few points: we were laying on a charter plane as a sensible contingency, and related to that was the fact that it was easier to get to the terminal where the charter plane would take off as it wasn’t the main Cairo airport terminal. In terms of cost it was important that we maintained commercial flights in and out of Egypt so we weren’t in a position where we were providing flights at no cost as it would undercut commercial airlines. The figure of £300 (for each seat on the charter plane) was not full cost recovery and we had arrangements in place so that people who could not afford to pay the money upfront were not asked to do so.
Institute for Fiscal Studies Report
Asked if the Prime Minister was concerned with the findings in the report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies on the deliverability of spending plans, the PMS said that we had always been clear that this would be a difficult process, but it was a necessary one given the scale of the deficit. We had set out plans for four years in order to give departments certainty, against which they could plan.