G7 2015: PM press conference
David Cameron gave a press conference at the G7 in Bavaria, Germany.
Good afternoon. I made clear during the election that a Conservative government would stand up for Britain’s place in the world. This is driven by a determination to protect the security of our country, and to help our people get on in life. Security and prosperity are issues that matter to people back at home, and both are two sides of the same coin: you cannot have economic security without national security, and vice versa. And here at this summit, we’ve made some progress on both.
Let me start with economic growth. We can boost growth by fighting corruption, building trade deals, and encouraging green growth. Let me say a word about each. We know that cutting corruption by just 10% could benefit the global economy by $380 billion every year. Corruption doesn’t just threaten our prosperity, it undermines our security too. But all too often when we come to these summits and talk about what more we can do to boost growth and support developing countries, we ignore the problem of corruption. At this summit I was determined to change that, and to encourage all of us to confront this issue and to do more to eradicate this poison. Britain is leading the way: at home we’ve passed the Bribery Act – we’ve established a 40‑strong team of criminal investigators to enforce this – and ensured that all our 28 country aid programmes include anti‑corruption measures. But this is not an issue we can solve alone; it will take the determination and co‑operation of our international partners too. It will be a long battle, but I believe the progress on tax and transparency – issues that I put on the agenda at the G8 in Lough Erne, and key actually to fighting corruption – shows that we can get things done when we act in this way.
On trade, this is a crucial year for the EU’s most important trade deals, particularly those with G7 partners, together worth around £20 billion to the UK economy every year. We’ve agreed to step up our efforts to reach agreement on the EU–Japan deal, and to accelerate our work on the EU–US trade deal. It is over 700 days since we launched negotiations on this Transatlantic Trade Partnership at the G8 in Lough Erne, and every day we don’t do a deal is costing the global economy £630 million. So we must redouble our efforts and reach a political agreement on an ambitious deal within the next six months.
We want all countries to share in global growth; of course for their own sake, but also to ensure that we can benefit as a global player from the boost to global growth, so we should never forget what’s been called the ‘bottom billion’. And at the UN in September, we must agree to set a set of goals that deliver on our promise to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030.
Emerging new sectors in green growth represent huge potential for the global economy, so in Paris in December we must also secure an ambitious global climate deal. We need an outcome that keeps our goal of limiting global warming to two degrees within reach, and that does so as cost‑effectively as possible.
Tackling Islamist extremism
Turning to the steps we’ve taken to better protect our people from the threats we face, I believe the biggest challenge is that of Islamist extremism and violence. Here at this summit, we’ve discussed our joint efforts to defeat Islamist extremism and the terrorists that threaten communities across the G7, and across the world.
In Iraq we have a 3-pronged strategy to deal with this threat. First, help to train Iraqi security forces so they can defeat ISIL on the ground. We’ve already been training Kurdish forces and we will deploy an additional 125 military personnel to expand this training across Iraq. Second, clear political support for Prime Minister Abadi, with whom I met this afternoon, and his efforts to lead an inclusive government that brings the country together against the common enemy that is ISIL. Finally we discussed what more we can do to stop the spread of this poisonous ideology by tackling its root causes at home and abroad.
Next Libya: this is not just about the plight of some faraway people. This is about the threat posed to Britain from growing instability there. There’s the risk of ISIL terrorists exploiting ungoverned space to establish a new base from which to plot attacks against Europe, and there’s the open corridor that criminal gangs are currently exploiting to make Libya the new gateway to Europe for people smuggling. At this summit, we’ve agreed to give our full backing to the UN-led effort to put in place a national unity government in Libya, and we continue to push for the comprehensive approach that I’ve spoken about.
Finally, Russia: the G7 is united on what needs to happen next to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine. Existing sanctions must remain in place until Minsk agreements are fully implemented. This will require action from both Ukraine and Russia. That’s why it’s vital we ensure President Poroshenko’s government has the support needed to deliver the necessary political and economic reforms. The UK is already providing support through our good governance fund and will continue to look at what more we can do. But we must not forget that the Ukrainians are the victims and not the aggressors.
So this has been a summit of our key allies and partners: like-minded countries coming together, to discuss openly, the challenges we face and to agree to act together to deal with them. Fresh from the election, I was able to show that Britain is back – our economy growing; our deficit halved; unemployment falling; and with our efforts, working for trade deals; saving lives in the Mediterranean; fighting ISIL over the skies of Iraq; fighting Ebola in West Africa; and combatting climate change and poverty. We are playing a leading role in delivering the security and the prosperity that our people deserve.
We’ve got some time for questions, so if you put up your hand, I’ll try and take as many as I can.
Prime Minister, could you clarify for us exactly when you can tell us if collective responsibility will apply to the EU referendum?
Well, it is clear to me that what I said yesterday was misinterpreted. I was clearly referring to the process of renegotiation and I am happy to repeat exactly what I said yesterday. But the point is this, I have always said what I want is an outcome for Britain that keeps us in a reformed EU. But I have also said we don’t know the outcome of these negotiations, which is why I have always said I rule nothing out. Therefore it would be wrong to answer hypothetical questions. I know that can be frustrating. I know that you want to jump to the end of the process and have all the questions answered now about the end of that process. That is not going to be possible so we are going to have to take this stage by stage, step by step, and you will get the answers.
Thank you Prime Minister. Maybe it was the case that those in this room misheard you yesterday; maybe your MPs misunderstood also what you meant. Whatever else, it does tell us how fractious your party is and will be on the issue of Europe. Despite the warm words after the election, this is the 1990s all over again, isn’t it?
I don’t think that is the case at all. I think the Conservative Party is delighted that we got a renegotiation, reform and referendum agenda. There’s complete unity about that, how the manifesto has set that out. As for what I said yesterday, I mean, what I said is that if you want to be part of the government, you have to take the view that we are engaged in an exercise of renegotiation to have a referendum that will lead to a successful outcome. That is what I said. I feel that there was a misinterpretation, which is why I woke up and read the newspapers and thought, well, I will repeat what I said and make that very clear.
But as for your question about the Conservative Party, no, I think there is real unity behind a renegotiate and referendum strategy, which is right for the country. And in the end, that is what this is about, is what is in Britain’s national interest? I believe it is in our national interest to try to make chances in the European Union and changes to our membership and then giving the final decision to the British people. And it will be for them to decide, not one group of politicians or another group of politicians – it will be for the British public to decide.
Prime Minister, very briefly on the 2% defence spending as a proportion of GDP. You have come under further pressure from the Americans to commit to it. Some of them are talking openly now about shrinking Britain and they seem to regard the 2% as a necessary admission price to remain first friend of the United States.
Secondly – and this is a question about the referendum campaign, not about the renegotiation process – you were very explicit to Andrew Marr on the Marr programme back in January. There was no question in the referendum campaign of a free vote for ministers; ministers would have to back the government position. Can you just restate for that, for us today? It is not a hypothetical question. Or else surely you accept that if you fail to restate that position, as you stated it in January, some ordinary people will interpret that as a sign of weakness from a Prime Minister held prisoner by a divided party.
Okay, let us deal with 2% first. Look, we’ve achieved 2% every year since I’ve been Prime Minister and before that. You know, the idea that Britain is shrinking its role in the world when our flagship is saving lives in the Mediterranean; when we are training the Iraqi army; training Afghan officers; our jets are flying Baltic air patrolling missions over the Baltic and our submarines are silently patrolling the seas, giving us a nuclear deterrent 365 days of the year. We are ordering 2 of the largest aircraft carriers the Royal Navy has ever had. We have the A400Ms, we have the joint fight strikers on their way. The idea that this £160 billion equipment budget that we protected by inflation represents strategic shrinkage is nonsense. We are not shrinking, as that list of things that I gave you we are doing demonstrates Britain is a serious global player in the world with the budget to back it up. We have to make our decisions about spending in a spending round. That’s how things are done properly. And when we have done that, we will make an announcement in the proper way, in the proper time.
As for what I said on Andrew Marr, it is quite difficult actually because Andrew Marr interrupted me so many times, I find it difficult to work out exactly what I did say but I have got it here. I said this, “If you are part of the government, then clearly you are part of the team that is aiming for the renegotiation”, which is almost exactly what I said yesterday. And when I said it on Marr, there wasn’t the same reaction as there was yesterday, which is why I thought it was important to repeat again today, to put it beyond doubt, that I’m talking about the process of renegotiation.
But I know the frustration. We are going to have to take these things step by step. I said I think in Riga that there was going to be a lot of noise on this issue, there are going to be ups and downs. And that is clearly the case because I know everyone wants the answer about the last step now, but I’m afraid you can’t have that. It’s a hypothetical question. What we need to do now is get on with the renegotiation, get the best deal for Britain, and then I’ll keep you updated as the stages develop.
So, would it be fair to say you haven’t actually yet made up your mind on whether you’re going to allow free votes on any referendum or free-vote campaign in any referendum?
Well, the point is, I don’t know the outcome of the negotiations. I hope, and I believe the outcome will be, Britain with a better place in the European Union, satisfying our problems, dealing with our problems, and therefore I’ll be able to recommend that Britain stays in a reformed European Union. That’s the aim, that’s the goal, that’s what I want to achieve. I’m confident of achieving it, but I have said many times that I don’t know the outcome of the negotiations and that if I don’t achieve what I want, I rule nothing out. Now given I’ve said that, given I rule nothing out if I don’t achieve what I want, then clearly I can’t answer the question about what would happen during a campaign now.
So, it’s not a different look – again, I know what you want. You want to jump to the end – it’s a bit like the election, right? You were always asking me: “Will you do a deal with UKIP? What are the negotiating terms with the Scottish National Party?” Or what have you. You can’t answer those questions. You have to take these things in stages. I’ve been very clear. The whole of the Conservative party, the whole of the team is committed to this process of renegotiation and referendum and I’ve been very clear about what that involves if you’re a member of the government. We have to take this in stages, and you have to be a little patient.
I think that Andrew Marr went on to ask directly about a free vote and you said, “I’ve been clear that won’t happen.” So you read us a partial quote on that.
And secondly, yesterday you said that the government could not be neutral if you concluded that the negotiation should be successful and should be in. Is it your position that you could be a government position staying in, but you suspend collective responsibility?
Well look, this is a big question for Britain, and we want to get the answer right. And what I was saying yesterday was that I don’t believe the government will be a bystander in this, the government will have a clear view. Now, the view I want us to get to is a successful renegotiation, reform of the European Union, and being able to recommend that Britain should stay in the European Union. And of course in that case the government’s not going to be a bystander; the government will have a very clear view.
But look, all I’d say about Andrew Marr is you can go over it and over it, but the only completed sentence I was able to complete in an otherwise rather fractured interview – and actually it’s not even a completed sentence, is this: “If you’re part of the government, then clearly you’re part of the team that’s aiming for the renegotiation.” Very much what I said yesterday. And if a scribe such as yourself thought I said something different on Marr, why didn’t you say so at the time? That’s a good question.
The reaction to Andrew Marr was very different to the reaction to yesterday, and that’s why I thought it was very important to repeat what I’ve said again so everyone can see, you know, what the position is.
Sorry for misinterpreting you again perhaps, Prime Minister, but you’ve just said, “I don’t believe this government will be a bystander in this; it will have a clear view”. Very simple question: if you are a minister and do not share that government’s clear view, can you remain a minister?
We’re going to have to take this in stages, right? You’re asking me a hypothetical question. Today is very clear: we have a government that is engaged is a renegotiation, engaged in reform, in order to hold that referendum, and the whole government is signed up to that process. That is what I have said repeatedly, and that is the case, and I think the process is going well. Now, we’re going to have to take this in stages, because there will come a time when we get on the next stage, and that question you asked will deserve and merit an answer. And at that stage, it will get an answer.
You said your answer yesterday was talking about the negotiation process. You were actually asked a question about the referendum process. Did you mishear the question?
And in the meantime your minister James Wharton was asked whether ministers would have to resign in a referendum, and he said that is fundamentally what that means. Has he jumped the gun as well?
What I said yesterday – and I’m very happy to repeat it again – is if you want to be part of the government, you have to take the view that we are engaged in an exercise of renegotiation to have a referendum that will lead to a successful outcome. That’s what I said. That’s what I said on Marr. That is the case. I know you’re anxious to sort of jump to the end of it and have an answer to exactly what happens in a campaign, when the negotiation’s finished, we’ll get to that; we’re going to have to take it in stages. And I think that is very clear from what I said yesterday.
The only thing I’d add is if you’re not certain about something I said yesterday, ask, and we’ll happily make it clear.
Anyway, I’ve repeated it again. Thank you for coming to Bavaria. I hope you’ve enjoyed the mountain air and the G7, and I will see you back in London. Thank you.