PM press conference with President of France Emmanuel Macron: 13 June 2017
Theresa May held a press conference with President of France Emmanuel Macron following talks on cyber and national security.
Prime Minister Theresa May
Thank you, Emmanuel.
As you have said the UK and France work side by side together in so many different areas, from our bilateral trading relationship worth £69 billion, to our tourist industries, where British and French people are intrinsically linked, forming the single largest groups of visitors to each other’s countries.
But nowhere is our cooperation closer than in the area of defence and security, with British and French fighter pilots flying alongside one another and in each other’s planes over Syria and Iraq to strike Daesh at its heart, or our troops deployed together in Estonia to provide reassurance to our eastern allies in the face of Russian aggression.
Just this month, cooperation between our two countries has led to the seizure of £65 million worth of drugs in the Indian Ocean, with UK and French naval officers working together on HMS Monmouth to intercept an illegal haul.
This is our close and deep relationship in action.
As you have said our discussions today have focused on the greatest security challenge our two countries face – tackling terrorism and rooting out the extremism that fuels it.
Both our countries have sadly experienced the horrors of terrorism all too recently.
I offer our heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the three innocent French victims killed in the terrible attack in London last week.
It shows so painfully how these attacks are not attacks on one place but on us all. A British man, Nick Alexander, of course also tragically died in the Bataclan attack in Paris in November 2015.
I know you stand with us against this evil.
And tonight, President Macron and I will join the England and French football teams and the fans at the Stade de France to honour the victims of the London Bridge attack.
In the wake of the November 2015 Paris attacks, the England and French teams paid tribute at Wembley Stadium to all those who lost their lives. Our visit to the Stade de France tonight will be a similar show of solidarity against terrorism and extremism.
The counter-terrorism cooperation between our intelligence agencies is already strong, but President Macron and I agree that more should be done to tackle the terrorist threat online.
As I have said before, in the UK we are already working with social media companies to halt the spread of extremist material and poisonous propaganda that is warping young minds. But we know they need to do more.
And today we can announce that the UK and France will work together to encourage corporations to do more and abide by their social responsibility to step up their efforts to remove harmful content from their networks.
We are launching a joint UK-French campaign to ensure that the internet cannot be used as a safe space for terrorists and criminals, and that it cannot be used to host the radicalising material that leads to so much harm.
We will lead joint work with the tech companies on this vital agenda, including working with them to develop tools to identify and remove harmful material automatically. We will press them to urgently establish the industry-led forum we agreed at the G7 summit last month, to develop shared technical and policy solutions to tackle terrorist content on the internet.
Crucially, our campaign will also include exploring creating a legal liability for tech companies if they fail to take the necessary action to remove unacceptable content.
The Home Secretary and the French Interior Minister will meet in the coming days to drive forward this important work.
We are united in our total condemnation of terrorism and our commitment to stamp out this evil.
Finally on Brexit we have been very clear that we want to maintain a close relationship and a close partnership with the EU and individual member states into the future, including the areas we discussed this evening.
And I confirmed to President Macron that the timetable remains on course and will begin next week.
So, thank you, Emmanuel, for our very constructive discussions this evening.
President Emmanuel Macron
Good evening ladies and gentleman.
I’m very happy to welcome Mrs May tonight for a working dinner which we’ve just finished with our teams and our interior ministers just a few days after the British elections. I’m very grateful to Mrs May to have responded so quickly to my invitation for this dinner on the one hand and the football match between our two teams in a few minutes on the other. Your visit perfectly captures the link which unites our two countries, our solidarity and effectiveness, our friendship and the shared cooperation, remembrance of the past and a view to the future.
I say this just a few days after the attacks which successively hit Manchester and London. We talked in the hours following the attacks and although I had the opportunity to make statements then, I want to reiterate here today how much we were affected and hurt; on both occasions the attacks targeted young people and free democracies. We lost several lives and saw several victims who are the living proof of the very strong link which unites us via the hundreds of thousands of British living in France and French living in the UK.
So tonight it is our shared future and our common challenges that we discussed and first and foremost our counterterrorism cooperation. The cooperation between us is exemplary in terms of intelligence exchange and cooperation between our services. Moreover, our work in the aftermath of the attack perfectly demonstrated this. I want to pay a huge tribute to our security and intelligence services who work together everyday to protect us - we owe them a great deal.
But we decided to go further tonight having worked together for several days on a very concrete action plan which our teams have prepared and which this evening is made public.
This concrete action plan will be undertaken by our services and aims firstly to strengthen the commitments and obligations of internet companies to remove content which promotes hatred and terrorism across all types of media.
Today there are commitments which have been made but they are not enough.
And as Theresa May reminded us very pertinently a few weeks ago in Taormina, it is in the first two hours that almost fifty percent of potential terrorists or individuals who can be manipulated are affected by this propaganda but under current commitments, action to remove content is only required within 48 hours.
Next, we want to improve access to encrypted content under conditions which preserve the confidentiality of the correspondence so that these message applications cannot be used as tools for terrorists or criminals.
And finally, we want to step up the international cooperation, notably with the United States, to improve access to digital evidence in the investigations led by our police and judicial services regardless of where the data is stored. These extremely concrete elements are essential to anticipate as best as possible certain terrorist acts and terrorist propaganda and to pursue those involved in actual or attempted attacks.
Beyond our common commitment, we want to get all G7 members to participate in this initiative; our interior ministers will hold meetings in the coming weeks for this purpose. We want to go even further with the United States in particular following President Trump’s firm declarations on the matter in Taormina and to be able to act together.
Finally, this initiative is evidently open to all our EU partners. I’m thinking particularly of Germany which has constantly demonstrated its desire to work extremely closely with us on these issues. And it is in this context that this action plan is being pursued but right now it must engender very concrete actions and very firm commitments on the swift actions to come.
The challenge of fighting terrorism is a major one but it must not obscure our other challenges.
We also discussed our cooperation in the areas of the economy, migration and defence, a field where we continue to work together actively with a new defence summit scheduled before the end of the year in the UK.
Finally negotiations on Brexit continue - and I will let Theresa May elaborate. But from my side, there is a clear method. I want the negotiations on leaving the EU and on the future relations with the UK to start as early as possible and I want them to be undertaken in a coordinated manner by the European Commission.
That’s what I can tell you. Above and beyond these issues, we evidently reiterated our desire to meet future challenges together: the digital revolution; the defence of our values, in particular with regard to freedom in the world; and the fight against climate change where our two countries have always stood side by side.
Once again, I thank Theresa May for being here so swiftly after the elections in her country. I’m also delighted to discuss these different issues where we have much to do together.
In a few moments our teams will play against one another in a sport where unfortunately there must be a winner so perhaps at that moment we will have a few small disagreements but we won’t let them show because they are minor issues.
On the occasion of your visit to Downing Street in February you said ‘exit is exit’. Do you believe this exit will now be softer? Do the results of the election mean a soft Brexit rather than a hard Brexit?
Prime Minister May is in a better situation to answer this question but my position is firstly that negotiations should start as quickly as possible. Secondly, the negotiations will be led by the EU in a coordinated manner rather than country by country in order to protect the interests of the EU in the short, medium and long term. Lastly, my wish is not to spend all our energy on discussing the technicalities of Brexit but that at the EU and in the eurozone we continue to discuss the future programmes we need whilst continuing to work on the bilateral agenda with the UK where we have so many challenges, as today’s discussions have shown.
Thank you very much. I think there is a unity of purpose among people in the UK. It’s a unity of purpose having voted to leave the EU that their government gets on with that and makes a success of it. We are committed to developing a deep and special partnership with the EU. We want the EU to continue to remain strong. We want to continue to cooperate. We want to develop that deep and special partnership on matters related to trade but as we heard, the issues we discussed tonight on security are also issues where it is important for us to cooperate in the future. I believe that with the good process that has been set out by the EU for those negotiations which start as I said next week and with the willingness and intent on both sides to build that future partnership, then we will see an arrangement for Brexit that will be in the interests not just of UK but also of the remaining 27 members states of the EU.
Prime Minister, you talk about a unity of purpose but the former Prime Minister—your former party leader John Major—has effectively accused you of today of endangering peace in Northern Ireland by clinging to power with the coalition deal with the DUP. What is your response to that? And if I may, Mr. President you said, you said an exit is an exit but the German foreign minister Wolfgang Schäuble said today that if the UK changed its mind the door would be open to remain in EU. Do you agree?
Prime Minister May
Should I take the first? On the first point that you raised, Matt, we as a government remain absolutely steadfast in our commitment to the Belfast Agreement and the subsequent agreements and we continue to work with all the parties in Northern Ireland and with the government of the Republic of Ireland in ensuring that we can continue to put in place those measures necessary to fulfil those agreements. As you’ll be aware, there are discussions now continuing to take place on the formation the Northern Ireland executive and our intent on enabling the parties to work together to ensure we can see that executive being reformed and a devolved administration continuing in Northern Ireland is absolute.
What we’re doing in relation to the talks that we’re holding—the productive talks that we’re holding—with the Democratic Unionist Party is ensuring that it is possible to, with their support, give the stability to the UK government that I think is necessary at this time. We stand at a critical time with those Brexit negotiations starting only next week. I think that stability is important. We have worked as a party with the DUP before and those are productive talks. The intent is to ensure that we have the stability of government in the national interest.
As to your question sir, yes I can speak English. I did so at press conferences. But I think I should continue to speak French otherwise there will be some controversy and of course I defend—I also defend—support the French language. So in French, evidently the door remains open until negotiations come to an end. That said, a sovereign decision has been taken to leave by the British people and I respect the sovereignty of all people, be it the French or the British when they make a decision for themselves. It is not for me to say whether or not this decision should be called into question. But from the perspective of EU member states, as long as the decision on the organisation of the exit is not finalised, there is always the possibility of reopening the door. But we must be clear and organized and, once underway, we need to all be aware that it is difficult to reverse.