Press briefing: morning 7 September 2015
The Prime Minister's Official Spokesperson answered questions about EU renegotiation, migration and refugees and Syria.
When asked about the debate over the renegotiation of the UK’s membership of the EU, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesperson (PMOS) said the Prime Minister was focused on getting the reforms that were needed to address the concerns of the British people.
Migration and refugees
When asked about the situation in Europe relating to migrants and refugees, the PMOS said the UK and France were working closely on the situation in Calais including regular discussions between the Home Secretary and her French counterpart Bernard Cazeneuve. More broadly in terms of the refugees, the PMOS said Britain was playing its part across the board, as the largest European aid contributor to Syria; the first to send naval assistance to the Italians in the Mediterranean – including HMS Enterprise and Border Force Cutters still in the region – and with a resettlement programme for the most vulnerable Syrian refugees.
Asked whether the UK would engage with the European Commission proposals on migration, the PMOS said as and when there were any proposals published, the government would consider them. The PMOS added that it was the Prime Minister’s longstanding position that the EU needed to deliver a comprehensive approach which seeks to address the root causes of the problem, not just treat the symptoms. In answer to calls for the establishment of safe havens in Syria under the auspices of the UN, the PMOS said such a proposal had been around previously, adding that the challenge laid in how the proposal worked to ensure it truly was a safe haven for people.
Asked whether the Prime Minister would host a refugee family himself, the PMOS said the British people expected the Prime Minister to look at what the country’s overall response was to the huge numbers of people being displaced and fleeing conflict, adding that he was focused on looking at what the right response was, such that the UK can take thousands of refugees, not just about numbers in certain households.
When asked why spending on the re-settlement of refugees would come from the overseas aid budget rather than the reserve the PMOS pointed out that this would give the government flexibility to be able to respond to different situations around the world where necessary.
When asked about reports that France would prepare for air strikes in Syria, the PMOS said the Prime Minister had repeated recently that he thought there was a strong case for taking action against ISIL in Syria, as in Iraq, and that it was important that it was a coalition effort, but that any decision would need the consensus of the House of Commons. The PMOS added this was one of the biggest challenges that we faced and we should be doing all that we can to defeat ISIL.