One week before the G8 Summit, the PM set out action that the government is taking to ensure Britain succeeds in a rapidly changing world.
Thank you very much. Your Excellency, thank you for that warm welcome and thank you for this huge investment that you are making in our country.
And it is a pleasure to be here today and to see the sheer scale of DP World’s investment. This is a site larger than the Olympic Park, cranes taller than the London Eye, a port that will handle three and a half million containers a year. This whole development is an emblem of ambition and it’s ambition that is the theme of my speech today.
A week out from the G8, when the world looks to the United Kingdom, I want to talk about our ambitions for the UK in this rapidly changing world. In Indonesia, the cars on the road have quadrupled in a decade. In China, the Shanghai skyline, with its towering office blocks, was built in just two decades. A few years back they built a 15-storey hotel there in just six days. On the seventh day, I rather hope they rested but, frankly, I doubt it.
And at the same time we’re seeing an era-shifting change in technology. As one writer puts it, ‘Ten years ago Facebook didn’t exist. Twitter was a sound. The cloud was in the sky. 4G was a parking space. And Skype for most people was a typo.’ It is a world that would be barely recognisable to previous generations. We see competition that is more intense than ever before, involving more countries than ever before, who are more ambitious and determined than ever before. That is why I call it a global race.
Of course the world has always been competitive but the pace of the race has quickened, and more have joined. Now there will be those who succeed and those who fall behind. And let me state from the outset, I know how anxious people are. They wonder what all this means for us as a country. How will Britain compete? How will we cope? How will our children cope? When they grow up, will they be able to find good opportunities, decent jobs? Will this be a country where, if they work hard, they can build a good life for themselves?
I don’t serve the British people as Prime Minister by sugar-coating the challenges we face. My job is to be upfront about them, to set out what needs to be done, above all what action we need to take for Britain to succeed. And my driving purpose, and the entire mission of this government, can be simply stated: it is to turn our country around and give all our people the best chance of success. Everything we are doing has one aim: to ensure that we build a Britain that is stronger, more prosperous, and more full of opportunity for our children. And I have confidence we can achieve that aim but only if we take the right decisions right now.
Globalisation has changed much but it can’t alter this central fact: it is still nations, their leaders and their people, which forge their own destiny in this world. History is not written for us, it is written by us in the action we take today and in the national resolve we show. So today I want to set out the action that we’re taking so that Britain succeeds.
Let me tell you how we won’t succeed - because there are some quite seductive arguments doing the rounds. The first is what I call the ‘stop the world, I want to get off’ approach to success. People don’t say this in so many words, but when you delve into their policies it is what they seem to be saying.
So those, for instance, who defend the case for an ever-bigger state and ever-bigger spending, or those who say we don’t need to radically reform welfare or education: they’re fundamentally saying we can ignore these leaner, fitter countries who are breathing down our neck. They’re wrong. And then there are those who say we should turn our backs on the world and on our wider obligations, that we should cut ourselves off from influential organisations in the belief that we can somehow go it alone.
I know how appealing some of these arguments are but they amount to the same thing: denial. Denial of a world where our young people are competing for jobs with graduates from California to Tokyo, where a revolution thousands of miles away can affect the guy filling up his van at the service station here in the UK. Denial that we are a premier trading nation whose prosperity depends on the maintenance of global peace and security, in which we ourselves play such an important role.
The second wrong-headed approach is in many ways the complete opposite of that. Instead of saying, ‘Stop the world, I want to get off,’ it is people embracing globalisation so enthusiastically that they actually lose sight of the national interest. Now we’re familiar with some of the arguments that they make. ‘Open all your borders.’ ‘National sovereignty is obsolete.’ ‘Multilateral relations are the only ones that matter; bilateral relations are so 20th century.’ And we’re familiar too with their frankly rather patronising approach to those who may disagree. ‘You’re a Little Englander,’ they say. ‘You don’t get the modern world’.
Well this approach – largely pursued under the last government – it didn’t feel too good for ordinary people and, frankly, it didn’t do too much for our competitiveness either. We saw mass, uncontrolled immigration changing communities in a way people didn’t feel comfortable with, putting huge pressure on public services. We saw large bureaucracies like the EU having a huge impact on our way of life in a way that no one voted for, while at the same time burdening our businesses with red tape and regulation. We saw, fundamentally, a political class too easily seduced by the rewards of globalisation, and not alert enough to the risks.
Both these wrong-headed approaches – the rejection of the modern world and the unquestioning embrace of globalisation – they amount in my view to different kinds of the same thing: a sort of national timidity, either too wary to engage the world or too afraid to stand up for our national interests.
My argument, and the argument of this government, is that, to succeed, it’s no use hiding away from the world. We’ve got to roll up our sleeves up and compete in it. And it’s no use giving in to the world. We’ve got to be unashamedly bold and hard-headed about pursuing our national interests.
The challenge before us is clear. We are in a battle for Britain’s future. And it is a battle we’ve got to fight on two fronts: at home, really ambitious about competing; and abroad, ambitious about pursuing our national interests and standing up for our values. Now that’s the approach this government is pursuing. That’s what brings together our foreign and our domestic agendas into a complete plan for national renewal. And that’s what will lead to success in the modern world.
While the two are intricately linked, let me take each in turn. The first step to success that I have charged every government department to focus on, is making sure Britain is fit and ready to compete in this world. We’ve identified, very clearly, our key areas of potential national weakness compared to the rest of the world: number one, our debt-fuelled, unbalanced economy; two, our bloated welfare system; three, our underperforming education system. Now fixing these things are the three key domestic priorities of this government and, although it’s taking time, we are making progress at getting our country into shape.
With our economy, we came to office just in time. We inherited a deficit standing at more than 11% of our GDP; industries and manufacturing withering; good businesses being suffocated by too much tax and regulation. It was a 20th century economy wheezing and limping into the 21st century.
So we acted immediately, rebalancing our economy away from a chronic over-reliance on debt and consumption, and over-leveraged financial services towards innovation, enterprise, dynamic people having ideas and making them a reality. And this is absolutely critical in winning our battle for Britain’s future.
We will never succeed with our natural assets alone. We won’t be the ones who turn out low-cost goods in huge factories. We will succeed by being the ideas people, the exports people, and we’ve mounted a huge campaign to get behind those people and to transform the climate for enterprise in our economy.
That campaign, it cuts across tax, planning, regulation, investment, infrastructure and, yes, cutting our deficit so that there are conditions there for businesses to grow. Now we’re cutting corporation tax to the lowest rate in the G20. The planning system is undergoing fundamental reform. Big capital projects like high-speed rail are getting underway. The top rate of tax has been cut because, in an age when finance is mobile, we cannot afford to slam the door on wealth creation.
These have been difficult decisions. There’s been debate and, yes, resistance. But after three years of patient, painstaking work to turn our economy around, we are seeing progress. The deficit has been cut by a third. Interest rates are down at record levels. More than one million and a quarter jobs have been created in our private sector. Last year we became a net exporter of cars for the first time since 1976. These are positive signs.
But let me be clear. There is not one ounce of complacency in this government. We are recovering from the deepest debt-fuelled recession in living memory, and to climb out of that and to equip our economy for the modern world, there is much more to do. We want to go further.
The UK is already in the top ten countries in the world in which to do business. In the next three years, we want to see Britain rank up there in the top five places in the world to do business, and as the number one country in Europe to do business. This is about sending the message out loud and clear to international investors, to entrepreneurs at home: Britain is not just getting back in the black; we are getting back in business.
In welfare, the inheritance we had was dire. We had a welfare system that effectively paid people not to work. As Chancellor Merkel has observed in Germany, most of Europe has welfare systems that are entirely out of step with the modern world. Europe today accounts for just over 7% of the world’s population, produces around 25% of global GDP, but it has to finance 50% of global welfare spending. So Britain is not alone.
But of course our competitors are not just on the continent, they are all over the world. And to the vast majority of emerging economies, the idea of a welfare system that incentivised people not to take a job, well that would just be regarded as national stupidity.
That is why Iain Duncan Smith has been undertaking the most far-reaching reforms of the welfare system since it began: we’re capping benefits; encouraging people off incapacity benefit and back into work; completely rewriting the benefits system so that work actually pays. Since we came to office, the overall number of people claiming the main out-of-work benefits has actually fallen by over 290,000. Almost half a million people previously on old incapacity benefits are now taking steps towards getting employment.
And to get people back to work, we’ve also introduced a much tougher approach to immigration. Those who are starry-eyed about the benefits of globalisation refuse to see the link between uncontrolled immigration and mass welfare dependency. But when you had a welfare system that effectively allowed large numbers of British people to choose not to work, and an immigration system that encouraged people from across the world to come here to work, the results were predictable.
A large proportion of jobs went to foreign-born workers so to get people back to work we needed to get a grip. We have capped non-EU economic migration. We’ve shut down the bogus colleges that were a front for illegal immigration. And today, net immigration is down by more than a third. The number of immigrants coming to the UK is lower than it has been for over a decade.
In education, the third of those three priorities, the competition could not be more intense. In Finland, for instance, teachers are overwhelmingly drawn just from the top 10% of graduates. In Singapore and Hong Kong, children start doing fractions and algebra long before our own children do. Meanwhile, here in the UK, we’ve had an education system that was increasingly comfortable with failure, while grade inflation robbed our qualifications of rigour and respect.
Turning people out of school with no decent qualifications: that never made really any sense at all. But now, when the premium on skills is higher than ever, when more employers can recruit from across the planet, then leaving young people unequipped for this world is betraying them, and it would condemn our economy to decline. I can’t stress enough how vital this is. National renewal depends on us getting education right, in our time, without delay.
That is why, despite fierce opposition, we are pushing change through, injecting desperately-needed rigour into the system, into what children learn and how they’re tested. And we are introducing a new national curriculum. We spent two years analysing what they teach in the world’s best school systems, from Hong Kong and Singapore, to Massachusetts in the US, so we can import the best of their curricula into our own.
We’re proposing more arithmetic and algebra in maths, more detail in science, more clarity on punctuation and spelling in English, more emphasis on modern methods of computing like coding. And in how we test, we’re setting expectations much, much higher, restoring the rigour that qualifications earn respect.
Tomorrow Michael Gove will announce proposals for new GCSE content which is more challenging, which actually gives our young people the knowledge and the discipline they need in this world. And when young people leave school, their expectations should remain high; I want it to be the new norm that they either go to university, or they start an apprenticeship. This already happens in Germany – which has one of the lowest rates of youth unemployment anywhere in Europe – and I’m determined to see that happen right here, too.
To get there, we’re investing in proper higher-level apprenticeships that are every bit the equal of a degree, getting businesses like Rolls Royce and PricewaterhouseCoopers actually involved in designing them.
So these are the priorities that define and drive our domestic agenda: a stronger economy; welfare that works; a world-class education system. And we’re pursuing them with ruthless ambition for everyone in this country.
Now, this ambition at home is just the first front in this battle for Britain’s future. It must be matched, effort for effort, by our ambition abroad. Over the last three years, we’ve been steadily transforming the entire outward‑facing effort of the United Kingdom into a coherent plan to make sure Britain succeeds in a more competitive world.
A big part of that plan is connecting up with the fastest growing parts of our planet, re-forging friendships where they were forgotten – quite simply, getting out there and trading. Where once our diplomatic network was shrinking, we are now on the march; in a couple of years, we’ll have opened 20 new diplomatic posts around the world, from Liberia to Laos.
We’re the only nation in Europe to be expanding our diplomacy in this way; indeed, we’re now only one of three European countries represented in every single country in ASEAN, and we have the largest diplomatic network in India of any nation on the planet. Everyone who represents Her Majesty’s Government – every ambassador, every official – now has an explicit economic role: they are there to help seal the deal for Britain, to help sell Britain abroad.
And, frankly, one of these salespeople is me. I have visited or led trade missions to every G20 country bar one –I haven’t made it to Argentina yet, I’m putting that on the to-do list. I have revived our friendships in the Commonwealth and reinvigorated relations with our old partners in the Gulf, where we’re active commercially, diplomatically, and with renewed military co‑operation to the east of Suez.
This policy of engagement, of connecting with the fastest-growing parts of the world, it is starting to pay off. Over the past three years, our exported goods to Brazil have gone up by half; to India by more than half; to China, almost doubled; to Russia, up by 133%. I have seen this happening myself; I was there in China when Diageo signed a huge deal; now they are the biggest premium drinks company in the world, and today Scotch whisky sales across the world earn £135 every second for our balance of payments. This is how British foreign policy is making the world work for us.
Some would say, ‘Well, that’s great – but we should stop there.’ Some would say our presence in the world should be purely trade-focused; that we should lose all the old commitments, the obligations to help with global problems like poverty, conflict or climate change. That we should cut back aid and scale back our defence commitments. That we should turn our backs on the big multilateral organisations, and just be nimble operators, doing our own thing.
Now, this might sound appealing. But it is short-term; it is narrow. It is a flat calculation of our national interest in terms of pounds and pence. It fails to take account of our influence, and – above all – I believe it falls apart under closer scrutiny. The national interest is not some standard template that can be applied to any country; it’s about the interests of your particular nation and how you best serve them.
And the particular nature of Britain – our economic interests, our cultural ties, our history, our businesses, our location, our very instincts – they combine to make a country that’s not just on the map, but truly in the world. Millions of our citizens live abroad. We’re an open, trading nation – indeed, we’re still the world’s sixth largest trading nation. This country depends for its living on international ties and global trade.
They in turn depend on global stability and security, and on there being global rules to abide by. When a country like Somalia fractures and breaks, that affects us not just in the region, not just in the terrorism threatened on our streets or the flows of mass immigration, but in the piracy off the Horn of Africa that affects British trade. When there is instability in the Gulf that affects us too, because 100,000 British citizens live there.
On the other hand, as nations develop and as their middle class grows, that presents a huge opportunity for an exporter like Britain. Just take the growth in Africa – some of the fastest growing countries in the world are in that continent, and when it comes to who they want to work with, will Britain’s reputation as a friend and as a partner matter? I believe of course it will.
So, this is the key point: when your prosperity is won in far-flung places, when your fortunes are disproportionately affected by what happens beyond your borders, then your national interest is not just about standing up for yourself, but standing up for what’s right, and standing for something more.
Fortune favours Britain when we’re ambitious, when we count, when we play our part in the world. And we have been playing our part. We made the decision to protect the aid budget because I believe this commitment is in Britain’s long-term interests.
Last week I led an international effort to tackle hunger and under‑nutrition – and yes, of course this is a moral issue, but it is an economic one too. Under-nutrition cuts Africa’s GDP by about 11%. Filling that gap, delivering on that goal – of course that is good for Africans, of course that is good for Africa, but it’s good for us, too.
We made that decision to take a stand on the conflict in Libya – to prevent a massacre in Benghazi and to help rid that country of a brutal dictator – though some said it was not our business to do so. We’re working hard to bring about a political transition to end the brutal conflict in Syria, because we know that the alternative – more death, more terrorism, more regional conflict – that is a direct danger to this country and to the world.
So, whether it is in Afghanistan, where our armed forces are fighting terrorism and training Afghan forces to take on those tasks themselves, or whether it’s sealing the world’s first Arms Trade Treaty, a signal achievement; or in driving efforts to eradicate rape as a weapon of war, which the Foreign Secretary has personally pioneered with such determination and skill: we are playing our part to build a world that is more stable and more ordered, because it’s right in itself, but it’s also right in our own enlightened self-interest.
To ensure that we can keep on playing that part, yes, we made some important decisions on defence. Now, some have suggested that these decisions show Britain in retreat. I think quite the opposite. Even at a time of extremely tight finances, we are maintaining the fourth largest defence budget anywhere in the world.
And, most importantly, we’re using that money not to equip our armed forces for the conflicts of the past – with battle tanks sort of ranged across mainland Europe – but for the challenges of today, with state-of-the-art destroyers and aircraft carriers, fighter jets and transport aircraft, new unmanned drones, special forces and, of course, cyber capability, too. And all the while, we are maintaining our nuclear deterrent, which patrols these islands silent and inviolable, our country’s ultimate insurance policy.
Now, the common thread running through all of these things is ambition, a desire to shape the world because we know the world shapes us. Now, another key part of that effort is our place in international organisations – at the United Nations, the Commonwealth, NATO, the WTO, the G8, the G20 and yes, of course, the European Union.
Membership of these organisations is not some national vanity; it is in our national interest. The fact is that it is international institutions, and in them, that many of the rules of the game are set: on trade, on tax, on regulation. And when a country like ours is affected profoundly by those rules, I want us to have a say on them.
That doesn’t mean supinely going with the flow of multilateral opinion – the lowest common denominator approach to democracy, as we’ve sometimes seen in the past – far from it. At the European Union, we are prepared to stand up for Britain’s interest with resolve and tenacity – and in Europe, actions speak louder than words.
And look at some of the actions we’ve taken. We’ve cut the seven year EU budget, when everyone said it was impossible. We’ve got Britain out of the bailout mechanism, and I’ve vetoed an EU treaty, which no British Prime Minister has done before me. And our policy on the EU is clear: in the modern world, you’ve got to work every advantage you’ve got. A single market of 500 million people on our doorstep that worked properly, that was competitive, that was unbureaucratic, that was dynamic – that would be a huge advantage in this world.
The EU is way off that goal yet, but I say let’s try and realise that vision for all our sakes. That is why we’re seeking to shape a new settlement in Europe, to get a better deal for Britain in it, and to equip Europe as a whole to compete in the world; and when we’ve negotiated that new settlement, as I said in my Bloomberg speech, we will give the British people a referendum with a very simple in or out choice: to stay in the EU on these new terms, or to come out altogether. It will be an in/out referendum.
This is about boldly pursuing our interests – not by withdrawing from the world, but engaging with it, and that is the same attitude that we’re bringing to this G8 presidency this year. We’ve seized this chance, not for us some turgid communiqués with little purpose.
We’ve written some truly practical concerns into the heart of the G8 agenda: the free trade agreement between the US and EU, which could add as much as £10 billion to the UK economy; getting behind African efforts to tear down the bureaucracy and red tape that prevents people from trading freely with one another; an international agreement on tax evasion, because we can’t just clamp down on this in the UK – the cash would simply move elsewhere.
We’re driving for more transparency in mining, oil and gas, so that people in developing countries can see how their mineral wealth is being used and so that all companies, wherever they’re from – Europe, America, Asia – are competing on a level playing field.
This is how our country thrives: when we lead, when we strive to be more than the sum of our parts, the small island with the big footprint in the world. And that is the way it must stay.
Now, three years into government, and we’ve shaped a coherent and urgent response to the modern world we live in: ambitious at home, ambitious abroad. I don’t claim that we’ve done all that we need to, or that we’re on the home straight – far from it. These are still difficult times; we’re adjusting as a country, going through a necessary time of change.
And while times are hard, there will be those who offer easier answers – but I tell you, there are none. Those who offer the comfort blanket of British destiny, as though we can just muddle through, the truth is that today, for our country, there is no such thing as destiny, only our determination to succeed. But together, we are showing that determination.
We’re taking the right decisions, in this generation, for our country to succeed. This is the generation that hasn’t passed the buck; when there’s been a fork in the road between doing what is easy and doing what is right, we have chosen what is right. We’ve just started changing our country just in time, equipping Britain to succeed in the modern world, and our drive is for Britain to succeed. It’s not just a case, when we do this, of who’s up or down in some global game; it’s about the British people and their lives.
When I talk about exports, it’s not about the trade surplus I’m thinking about; it’s people like the ones I met in a bicycle parts manufacturer up in Lancashire. They’ve got a map of the world up on their office wall, and they can proudly point to all the 40 countries they’re exporting to. They started that company less than 25 years ago and now they employ about 95 people, and it only came about through hard work. It’s a company called Hope Technology, and they give me hope because these are the British people: resilient, enterprising, creative, hard-working.
This is a special country, a different country. We’ve shown it through our history, and I believe we’ll show it again. And what will the end result be? Well, I have a very clear vision of the country that we’re building. It is one in which there’s a sense of opportunity that was lacking for too long, where children in all our schools – in the roughest areas, the places that were once written off – are encouraged to dream, inspired to learn and feel good about where they’re going; where those who want to work hard can get a good job, with prospects and a decent wage each month, enough for a home to raise their family, enough to feel that things are getting better.
It’s one where, as a parent, you want more than anything is to be able to look at your children and know that they will grow up and be able to fulfil what they were born to be. We tell them – we always tell them this – if you try, you can make something of your lives. That is what we teach them, and we need to build that country for them to do so – where everyone who works hard can get on, where effort is rewarded, where we pull together to make life better.
That is why we are fighting a battle for Britain’s future. And that is why we are determined to win. Thank you very much for coming and listening today.
We’ve got some time for questions or points from the audience or from the press so please fire away.
Prime Minister, you talk about the dangers of national timidity. Would you accept that one example of that might be colluding with a foreign power to snoop on our own citizens? So why are we doing it?
Well, first of all, I think it is worth remembering why we have intelligence services and what they do for us. We do live in a dangerous world. We live in a world of terror and terrorism. We saw that on the streets of Woolwich only too recently. And I think it is right that we have well-funded, well organised intelligence services to help keep us safe.
But let me be absolutely clear. They are intelligence services which operate within the law, within a law that we have laid down and they are also subject to proper scrutiny by the Intelligence and Security committee in the House of Commons, and that scrutiny is going to be very important and I’ll always make sure that it takes place.
But how long have we been cooperating with Prism? How long has GCHQ been cooperating?
Well, the Foreign Secretary will be making a statement in the House of Commons today. He will answer all these questions. But let us be clear: we can’t give a running commentary on intelligence issues. There will be things that he will be able to explain, questions he will be able to answer.
I’m satisfied, as I’ve said. We have intelligence agencies that do a fantastically important job for this country to keep us safe, and they operate within the law. They operate within a legal framework and they also operate within a framework of being open to proper scrutiny by the Intelligence and Security Committee.
That is what the Foreign Secretary will discuss today in the House of Commons and he and I have discussed this matter and will continue to discuss this matter, always to make sure that we are satisfied that they operate properly in our interests and within the law.
Prime Minister, just following on from that question. How concerned should people be for their privacy when they next switch on their computer? And just dealing also with your speech here, you spoke a lot about challenges and ambition. Is the worst now over, do you believe, for the British manufacturing industry?
Well, taking your second point first. I think what’s happening in Britain is the economy is healing. It takes time to rebalance an economy that got so badly out of balance. Our government had got too big; our private sector had got too small. We were over-reliant on financial services. So it’s been very important to see a growth of manufacturing, technology, aerospace, to make sure that we’re exporting more, selling more, and also to encourage investment into the UK such as this extraordinary scene behind me.
This is the sort of scene you’re used to seeing in developing countries. Enormous new port facilities that will make Britain competitive, that will make our products competitive, that will make sure we are a winner in the global race. This is absolutely the investment that we need more of in our country, and it is a remarkable investment.
On the issue of intelligence and security, look, I’ve said what I want to say. We have an Intelligence and Security Committee. The Foreign Secretary will make a statement in the House of Commons this afternoon, and will answer questions. But I want to reassure people as Prime Minister, as the Minister for the Intelligence Services, that I see every day the vital work they do to keep us safe. But it is vital work that is done, you know, under a legal framework, within the law and subject to proper scrutiny by an Intelligence and Security committee.
If you go back, you know, 20/30 years, there was none of that scrutiny, none of that reassurance that I can give you today. But the work they do is vitally important and we have to always make sure that the legal framework they operate under is properly updated. But I’m satisfied from the questions I ask, and always will continue to ask, that they operate in a way that is proper and that is fitting.
Any questions from the audience, now we’ve dealt with the press?
Prime Minister, what is the government doing to redevelop some of the ageing infrastructure to encourage the trade within Britain?
Well, I think infrastructure is one of the keys, as I said in my speech, in terms of all the things business want from us. They want a simpler planning system, they want lower taxes, they want deregulation but, yes, they also want a better infrastructure. So what we’ve done is prioritised infrastructure in our public spending.
So while we’ve had to make difficult spending on current expenditure, like welfare, we’ve actually added money back into infrastructure spending, which is why we’re able to go ahead with so many rail projects, particularly in the north of England; why we’re able to go ahead with HS2; and why we also see now a very aggressive and packed Roads Programme, including – and I know you’ll be pleased to hear this with this enormous project behind me underway – making sure that the junctions of the M25 can cope with the traffic that projects like this may produce. So, we do have a programme.
I think the next step is to encourage more private finance into that infrastructure. And we’re looking at all the ways in which that is possible, for instance, through our energy bill legislation that’s going through Parliament this year; that will provide one of the most long-term, clearest frameworks for investors who want to come in and invest in either nuclear power or gas generation or, of course, some of the offshore wind projects, including the London Array that will be behind me and to the right a bit coming soon. A longer-term framework with greater certainty for investors than I think you’re able to get anywhere else in Europe.
Last couple of questions.
Regarding the Syrian conflict, the Syrian opposition the last few weeks has lost many territories and the Syrian pro-Assad is getting momentum and now they are retaking Haluba in a few days. And there is an accusation for this – for the government here in Britain and for France: they’re doing nothing to help the Syrian oppositions. What do you say about this?
Well, first of all, I think we all want the same outcome, which is an international peace conference and a process that leads to a tradition – transitional government in Syria that everyone can get behind, and clearly that can’t involve President Assad, who has so much blood on his hands.
Britain, along with France and with the UAE and other countries, has helped the Syrian opposition and will continue to help the Syrian opposition. We’ve helped them in the formation and to make sure that they speak for all parts of Syria. We’ve helped them in terms of technical advice, assistance and training. And, of course, in the European Union, Britain and France have worked together to lift the arms embargo off the Syrian national opposition, because we think that is an important step and an important message to send that President Assad cannot win this conflict by military means.
There has to be negotiation. There has to be a transitional government. That is the only way to get peace, stability for Syria and greater security for the region. So, we will continue with those policies, and continue working very closely with countries like the UAE, who share our analysis of just how damaging and dangerous the current situation in Syria is.
Can I thank you all once again for coming. Can I thank Dubai Ports World again for being such magnificent hosts, and for this extraordinary investment you’re making in our country. Can I thank Marks & Spencer’s, as well, for the investment that they are making here, and for all they do in our country, not least the help they give – which Marc Bolland and I were discussing this morning – to help people who are disabled, who have other impairments, to find work.
I know today there’s also a debate going on about disability, and it is worth – when companies like Marks & Spencer’s actually go out of their way to take on people with disabilities, to give them a job, to give them a chance just as every now and again a company might get a hard time from a politician – when one does a really good thing as Marks & Spencer’s do in this area, and I know that from my own constituency, I think it is right to put on record the good work that they do. We hope you’re one of the first investors into the enormous logistics park that will be here at the London Gateway, and we look forward to welcoming many such businesses too.
Thank you very much indeed.