Speech

PM statement in Madrid on aid for Syria and EU reform

David Cameron announced an additional £100 million in aid to help victims of the Syrian conflict at a press conference in Madrid.

PM and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy

Thank you Prime Minister Rajoy, thank you Mariano my friend, it’s very good to be back here in Madrid today. It is an opportunity to build on the incredibly strong relationship there is between Britain and Spain and, as 2 centre-right Prime Ministers, we want to develop that further.

It is 2 years since my last visit here. Back then, we discussed the tough decisions that we were both taking to turn our economies around. And today we are starting to see the benefits of those decisions. In the UK a job-led recovery has created more than a 1,000 jobs a day. Spain is set as you said, to grow by more than 3% this year – the fastest of any major economy in the Eurozone – and is now registering record-high job creation.

We both want to finish the job, driving economic growth that will bring financial security and peace of mind for our hard-working people. And we want to use our valuable trading relationship – now worth over £45 billion every year - to help our businesses succeed.

Now we’ve had fruitful discussions about that today and on EU reform, and on the migration crisis.

EU reform

We discussed how I want to address the concerns of the British people about the EU. I have already set out the 4 areas where we want reform: on competitiveness, sovereignty, social security and economic governance. These are reforms that I believe can benefit people across Europe and make the EU more successful. There are many areas, as you said Mariano, where we both agree.

We both want to exploit the full potential of the single market, while preserving its integrity for all 28 Member States. We both believe that further reform is needed within the eurozone, while upholding the rights of those EU Member States that are outside the euro.

We both want to complete the single market in services and energy. We agree the EU must do more to back start-ups and entrepreneurs. We want to create a genuine online single market for businesses and consumers alike.

And crucially we want the EU to conclude ambitious new trade deals with the United States, with Japan and with Mercosur – the South American trading bloc.

Of course, there are areas that will require more discussion to find the right solutions. I believe we can achieve this. I was very encouraged by what you said. The EU has proved in the past that it can be flexible enough to respond to Member States concerns. Now, it needs to do so again.

Migration

Turning to migration, this is clearly the biggest challenge facing countries across Europe today. More than 220,000 people were detected crossing the Mediterranean to Europe in the first 6 months of this year.

These people came from different countries and different circumstances. Some are economic migrants in search of a better life in Europe. Many are refugees fleeing conflict. And, as Mariano said, it is vital to distinguish between the two.

In recent weeks we have seen a vast increase in the numbers arriving across the Eastern Mediterranean from Turkey – more than 150,000 have attempted that route since January. The majority of these are Syrians. Terrorised first by Assad and now by ISIL too, more than 11 million people have been driven from their homes.

Britain has a moral responsibility to help these refugees as we have done throughout our history.

We have already provided sanctuary to more than 5,000 Syrians in Britain and earlier today in Lisbon I announced that we would expand our approach and offer resettlement for thousands more Syrian refugees currently in UN camps across the region. We will work with NGOs and partners on the detail of these schemes and we will set out further details next week.

But this can only ever be a part of the answer. As I have said throughout, and as the Prime Minister and I have discussed before, we must still pursue a comprehensive approach to these issues. That means using our aid budget to alleviate poverty and suffering in the countries where these people are coming from.

The United Kingdom is the only major country in the world that has kept its promise to the poorest to spend 0.7% of our GDP on aid.

We are already the second largest bilateral donor of aid to the Syrian conflict and today I can announce that we will provide a further £100 million, taking our total contribution to over £1 billion – that is the UK’s largest ever response to a humanitarian crisis.

No other European country has come close to this level of support.

Sixty million pounds of this additional funding will go to help Syrians still in Syria. The rest will go to neighbouring countries – to Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon where Syrian refugees now account for one quarter of the population. Britain’s aid is supporting these camps – if we were not doing that, the numbers attempting the dangerous journey to Europe would be far far higher.

It also means boosting our ongoing efforts to detect and disrupt the smuggling gangs which Mariano Rajoy was just speaking about. We are providing intelligence support to the EU operation in the Mediterranean and we are deploying officers from our National Crime Agency to Africa to identify what more we can to do to stop people being exploited by these traffickers in the first place.

And it means continuing our efforts in the Mediterranean. HMS Enterprise and our 2 border force cutters continue to patrol the area and together with HMS Bulwark, they have rescued over 6,700 people.

So, Britain will act with her head and her heart.

For those economic migrants seeking a better life, we will continue to work to break the link between getting on a boat and getting settlement in Europe, discouraging those who do not have a genuine claim from embarking on these perilous and sometimes lethal journeys.

For those genuine refugees fleeing civil war, we will act with compassion and continue to provide sanctuary.

That is what a comprehensive approach means:

  • It means stabilising countries where the migrants are coming from
  • It means seeking a solution to the crisis in Syria
  • It means pushing for the formation of a new unity government in Libya
  • It means busting the criminal gangs
  • It means saving lives using our aid budget
  • It means funding the refugee camps

And yes, it does mean offering a place of sanctuary to those who have lost hope and who are genuinely fleeing persecution – and we’ll continue to pursue all of those avenues and work with our partners in the European Union, and elsewhere, to deliver the comprehensive approach that’s necessary to bring this crisis to an end.

Thank you.

Published 4 September 2015