Minister for Europe’s comments to media at the EU Foreign Affairs Council

The Minister for Europe, David Lidington, spoke to media outside the EU Foreign Affairs Council

There are 3 really important issues on today’s agenda.

First of all Daesh and combating the threat that it poses to the security of European citizens from every one of the member states, and we can take some comfort from the fact they have been pushed back, they have lost about 40% of their territory in Iraq and a considerable amount of territory in Syria. And the lesson of that is that we have to pursue the strategy to defeat Daesh with unity, with perseverance, and with determination and that will include ensuring that Russia sticks to what it has agreed to do under the aegis of the International Syria Support Group.

Secondly we will be talking about the issue of migration. It is of critical importance that the European Union’s deal with Turkey works and is implemented effectively and comprehensively. We are already seeing early signs that it is having benefits, that the numbers crossing the Aegean, that the number of people putting themselves in the hands of people smugglers and in great peril has diminished. But we cannot be complacent. There is more work to be done but I am looking forward to the discussion with the UN High Commission[er] on Refugees, to see what concerns, if any, they have and how they can be addressed. But the way I am coming to this discussion is recognising that Turkey is already generously providing a home for about three million refugees. And certainly in the view of the United Kingdom, Turkey is a safe country.

Third, later on today we will be moving on to talk about Libya together with Defence Minister colleagues. The formation of the GNA (Government of National Accord) in Libya is an important step forward and I think Ministers will want to take stock of what we could be doing to strengthen the GNA, to enable it to restore governance to Libyan territory. I think that will include some consideration of whether there should be a civilian CSDP mission. And we will also want to focus upon Operation Sophia and look for ways that can be made even more effective than it has been today.

I want to add a few words about what has been happening in London this morning. Today the Treasury has published a comprehensive and detailed analysis of the impact upon living standards in the United Kingdom of a withdrawal from the European Union. What that detailed, meticulous analysis confirms is that the verdict that has been reached independently by private sector organisations, by the Bank of England, by the International Monetary Fund and others. Which is, that for the UK to leave the EU, would mean a massive financial and economic risk for ordinary families in every part of the United Kingdom. Today’s publication confirms the Government’s view that the people of the United Kingdom will be safer, will be stronger, will be better off economically by continuing to remain full members of the European Union and that is why the government is campaigning strongly for a vote to remain in the EU at the forthcoming referendum. Thank you very much.