Here in the shadow of this great aircraft which in many ways sums up Anglo-French cooperation. An A330: the body made in Toulouse, the wings made in Wales, the landing gear made in Bristol, and the Rolls-Royce engines made in Derby. And so a very warm welcome, Francois, to RAF Brize Norton this morning.
This air base is a great example of the close relationship between our 2 countries. 70 years ago, numbers 296 and 297 squadrons flew paratroopers from here to the River Orne and Caen, and the Caen Canal where they captured bridges ahead of the Normandy landings. Today, our C17s fly off from here to provide logistical support to the French mission in the Central African Republic. And as we commemorate the 70th anniversary of those D-Day landings, and the 100th anniversary of the start of World War 1, our partnership is as close and important as ever. We are 2 leaders determined to keep our citizens safe, and to secure a better future for them all. And that has been the focus of our discussions today.
First, on defence and security cooperation; we’re both similar sized countries, with similar sized armed forces, and similar ambitions. We both see the link between our domestic prosperity and being active players on the global stage. And we recognise that if we – if Britain and France do more together, our defence budgets will go further, our armed forces will benefit from better equipment, and our defence industries will remain world leaders and we will be able to have a greater global impact. So today we’ve agreed important progress on the landmark Lancaster House treaty.
We will stay at the forefront of defence technology by investing £120 million together in the feasibility phase of an unmanned combat air vehicle. And we’ll work together to design a new unmanned maritime vehicle, to counter seabed mines. We will strengthen the ability of our armed forces to work together overseas by sharing experience on unmanned surveillance aircraft, and by holding a land exercise for our joint expeditionary force later this year. The president has also agreed that we can test their latest armed vehicle, the VBCI that we saw this morning, which if we choose to purchase would also increase the ability of our forces to fight alongside one another.
As permanent members of the UN Security Council, we share a number of foreign policy priorities. We discussed the vital support that the French are providing to African Union countries, in Mali, and the Central African Republic. I’d like to pay tribute to Francois’ determined and courageous leadership on these issues. I fully support these efforts. We were one of the first countries to offer assistance, and today I have offered further logistical flights and air to air refuelling support, to support those vital French missions. We both believe that the international community should do more to support African countries to prevent and manage conflict. We are already working together in the region to train local military and police.
On Syria we remain committed to finding a political solution to end the conflict. We are both deeply concerned by the extreme suffering of the Syrian people, and the humanitarian crisis in the region. The international community must do more to increase the humanitarian response, and to improve access so aid reaches those who need it most, particularly those innocent civilians in besieged areas. We are also concerned about the threat of terrorism posed to our own countries by this continuing conflict, and we’ve agreed to work together to tackle the security risk posed by UK and French nationals who travel to Syria for Jihadist fighting and then seek to return here.
We’re also both concerned about violence in Ukraine. The repeal of restrictions on fundamental freedoms was a step in the right direction, and we urge President Yanukovych to respect his people’s wishes and put his country back on the path to a more stable and secure European future.
We’ve discussed our shared interest in making Europe more competitive, and driving economic growth. This is the number 1 priority for both of us, and we’re both taking difficult decisions to secure recovery for all. I’ve set out the 5 points of our long term economic plan to build a stronger, more competitive economy, and I believe the plans which the president recently announced to cut taxes on business, reduce employment costs, and remove unnecessary regulation are the right way to boost investment and create jobs. As trading partners and with hundreds of British businesses invested in France, these reforms will be good for Britain too.
We also discussed how we can work together to ensure that business and consumers can benefit from safe, secure and sustainable energy. We want to develop a first class nuclear industry, by creating the right investment environment for new nuclear power stations, following EDF’s plan to build the first new nuclear power station in a generation at Hinkley Point in Somerset.
Today we’ve agreed to take our cooperation to the next level, with a new partnership to increase commercial opportunities for small and medium size businesses involved in the nuclear supply chain. And this increase collaboration will also see collaboration between our universities, our research institutes and our businesses, to make sure we have the skilled workforce for the future that we need.
Finally, we’ve agreed an exciting new collaboration on space that will create new economic opportunities for both our industries, with a £15 million investment paving the way for joint work on earth observation, telecommunications, and space research.
It has been a very productive morning, and I look forward to continuing our discussions over lunch, when we’ll have the opportunity to discuss how we can reform the European Union to make it more competitive and better address the needs of our peoples. Once again, a very warm welcome, Francois; thank you for coming today, we look forward to continue to working with you. Thank you.
Ladies and gentlemen I would like to thank David for this exceptional welcome that he has given us, in a place which is also exceptional. Because it is on an airbase that we’re meeting, and that’s a symbol; a symbol of the solidarity between the United Kingdom and France. Because it is from this base that the aircraft left to fuel ours during our operations in Mali, and again from this base is a certain number of aircraft set out to enable to provide the logistics in the Central African Republic.
We have a very long-established firm bond between our 2 countries in terms of defence. This certainly exists between the UK and France. And stage by stage, we’ve built up real defence cooperation and that today is taking on a new shape, because after the Lancaster House treaty, we now have a very concrete translation of that. And today we have signed an agreement which is not just a statement of intent but in order to embark upon studies on the future unmanned combat vehicles. For those who don’t know what that is, it’s a drone, a combat drone.
This will take over from the aircraft which are now being manufactured in our respective countries. It’s a very important agreement, because it’s a prefiguration of what a defence Europe could be, provided that the industry chooses this. And this unmanned vehicle will be one of the most modern and will be used way out of Europe in the future.
We also confirmed another agreement, on the so-called anti-ship missiles, and this was an agreement of which I said that when France gives its word, it keeps to it. Now the [inaudible] concerned have also been discussing other equipment which we might buy or make available if they meet our needs. Watchkeeper, which is another form of drone which is of interest to France, and the armoured vehicle, the VBCI, which is of interest to the United Kingdom.
You see that our relationship in matters of defence is very strong. Now why do we have this cooperation? I think David has reminded us that we are 2 great countries, and we have worldwide responsibilities. The United Kingdom and France are permanent members of the Security Council, and our defence efforts, in spite of all our budgetary difficulties, has been maintained, and our vocation is to take decisions which concern peace and security throughout the world. We’re in the same alliance; we are also independent and it’s important that 2 major European nations could come together in choices concerning defence.
And I would like to say a word about what we’re doing in regard to military nuclear matters. Since I’m talking about turn – nuclear energy, I would like to confirm an industrial agreement which is of major importance and which is going to enable EDF, together with its British partners, to build 2 or perhaps even more nuclear reactors in the future – but at least 2 – and this is £16 billion worth – I’m talking of pounds here; not, for the time being, of Euros. I don’t want to embarrass David.
So, this sum is going to involve thousands of jobs, both in the UK and in France, and it shows again that we have mutual trust because we are dealing with technology which involves security. This agreement will be followed by others because the subcontractors – both of French and British – are going to get together in order to build a nuclear supply chain in the United Kingdom and in association with France.
Now there’s a third, very important agreement which was signed this morning and that concerns the space industry, the satellites and in - and these concern us all in regard to forecasting – space forecasting – so we could have a 5 day forecast instead of 3 and there were no – have no excuses for not giving the right forecast and then also measuring surface water on the earth and this in order to protect the environment. It’s decisive.
As I’m talking about the environment, David and I, together with the ministers responsible, are also talking about the preparation of the Climate Conference, which is going to be taking place and is going to be prepared at the European Council in March so that we have the same objectives, although we also have to have a certain flexibility in how to reach those targets. And so, these agreements on energy means that we can have our own strategy about – the aim will be to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.
I also want to mention what we’ll be doing together on a number of areas, regions, militarily or diplomatically. In military terms, I’d like to remind the support which United Kingdom gave us when we intervened in Mali and the – what the United Kingdom is doing now in order to train a number of African armies in Mali. And you know that I convened a summit in Paris with the heads of state from Africa. There will be a major meeting between these same heads of African states and Europe, and I’m sure that the United Kingdom, together with France, will report that they have been training and supervising African military so that they can build up a rapid intervention force which is indispensable in Africa in the future.
We also talked about Central African Republic and I’d like to thank David for having made it easy to adopt the European operation and the United Kingdom will play its part because we now have humanitarian aid and logistic aid to organise in addition to the safety which we have to provide in the peacekeeping operations which are underway at present.
Now, I would like to mention 2 subjects on which we completely agree and for long time past and that is in regards to Syria. David and I, for the last year, have been alerting the international community at every possible opportunity to say that what is happening in Syria is an escalation, once again, which could jeopardize the safety of the entire region and even outside the region and also provide a number of the difficulties in Europe that we’re experiencing today.
We are making certain that the Geneva conference can at least give rise to a result which will be a resumption of dialogue and as long as this is necessary, we’ll continue our pressures so that all those who can act – I’m thinking of Iran – can arrive at a solution for Syria. Everybody is interested in this. Everybody is concerned and I would even say, particularly, our Russian friends. Everybody has an interest in this because the extremist movements, the fundamentalists, are playing with the regime or vice versa.
And in addition to this – and David has already mentioned it – we have young people who live in our respective countries and who are going off – they are being manipulated – and they’re going off into the compact areas. Today we were exchanging figures. I’m not going to tell you any secret but it’s roughly the same level, hundreds of young people are involved in each of our countries. So we are going to set up cooperation in order to avoid these young people being affected by this propaganda and also be able to monitor their comings and goings and to try and prevent this. Here again it’s a sign of the confidence we have in each other, because we have the same interest and the same values.
In regard to the Ukraine, we are calling for an immediate resumption of dialogue without violence and we have been alerting the President Yanukovych that after the gestures which he has agreed to give them, he should pass on to action in order to have some solution. Catherine Ashton is in the Ukraine at present and the – and Europe will be dealing with and the next 2 days. And Europe is still prepared to hold up the possibility of an association agreement for Ukraine.
I’d like to say a few words about the economy. We are carrying – we are pursuing policies which are not exactly the same but with the same objective: growth and employment. If you look at the situation – the economic situation in our countries today, we are hardly attaining the level of activity which was there before the crisis. We cannot be satisfied with this so we have to act nationally, and on a European level, in order to bring about more competitiveness and more growth. That is in our interest because we need a greater external demand in Europe.
And now, David also mentioned at the 70th anniversary of D-Day. I would like to remind you that I’ve asked the Queen to come over on the very date of the landing and we’re going to have a major international event which will mark the memory of that decisive and painful moment. A lot of people were – lot of victims were involved – and this gives meaning to what we’re doing to on an international level today.
So, it is a very important rendezvous. I’m not going to talk about the rugby matches which we have ahead in the near or far future but you know that as regards cycling, the Tour de France will start off in Leeds. So, just to remind you that we are present in the United Kingdom.
Thank you very much, Francois. We’ve got some questions.
Thank you, Prime Minister. First of all, Monsieur le Président, how realistic is it for the Prime Minister here to change or renegotiate the terms of Europe’s founding treaty before 2017?
For the Prime Minister, how can you reform Europe and Britain’s role within it if you don’t have the French on your side?
And finally, 1 question from my colleagues here [Political content removed].
Thank you. I think, Francois, the first question was for you and then I’ll answer the second question.
The question is for both of us. I won’t say whether it’s realistic or not but I’ll say what the position is in France. France would like the United Kingdom to remain within the European Union. France would like to have a more efficient Europe which can attain the objectives which we consider to be essential: growth, employment, energy and of course the capacity to bring in techniques for tomorrow and to protect our population. France would like the Eurozone to be better coordinated; better integrated. And if there are going to amendments to the text, we don’t feel that for the time being they are urgent. We feel that revising the treaty is not a priority for the time being.
Thank you. Let me take your second point first. Yesterday’s events in the House of Commons – what happened yesterday is the immigration bill that people predicted would run into extraordinary trouble in the Commons, passed the Commons in the state that I wanted it to. And it’s a very important bill because what this immigration bill does is make sure that if people are here illegally then they don’t get automatic access to a free health service; they don’t get access to bank accounts or driving licenses or council houses and the like. And it’s absolutely right, if people don’t have a right to be in our country, then they shouldn’t be here. That’s what the immigration bill is all about.
In terms of the amendment yesterday that was put forward, that amendment had some faults in it, but what lay behind the amendment – the idea that we should be much tougher in deporting foreign criminals – is absolutely right. We should deport foreign criminals, people who don’t have a right to be here, who commit a crime should be deported and I’m not satisfied that at the moment we have the right arrangement in place.
So our bill puts those arrangements in place. The amendment that was put forward had some extra suggestions, some good, some not so workable.
[Political content removed]
Nonetheless the most important thing is that the immigration bill, a vitally important bill has completed its commons stages without any troublesome amendments.
On the European issue, Europe needs to change and Europe is changing. The Eurozone needs change as Francois has just said. It needs greater coordination. It needs those elements that make a single currency succeed. And that’s why in recent years we’ve already seen treaty changes. Since I’ve been Prime Minister, there have been 2 carried out, and others proposed.
And just as the Eurozone, needs change, so Britain wants change in Europe, change for all of Europe to make Europe more competitive, more flexible, better able to succeed in this global race, but also changes that Britain wants to see because just as the Eurozone countries want to see changes, we want to see changes too.
[Political content removed]
For the first time we see a reformed European budget. For the first time we see Britain no longer involved in the Eurozone bailouts. Important changes have already been made and further changes are to follow.
The next question is from the French press.
The United Kingdom has an unemployment rate of 7% and you have gone back to growth and I wonder whether this can be used as an inspiration for policy in France? [Inaudible] officials of a party who consider a third to Mr Francois Hollande’s policy is scarecrow. It’ll frighten people off particularly with his idea of company tax and I’d like to know whether you’d agree with this. I would like to let David answer first. It’s an old practice.
In terms of policy, what I would absolutely commend is the steps that Francois has taken to reduce spending and to use that firepower to cut taxes on employment and to help businesses to grow and expand. I think that is absolutely the right approach. These things are never easy. Both of us are facing situations where we have to take difficult economic decisions.
Of course, we’re not going to agree about everything. Francois is a French socialist; I’m a British Conservative. It’d be odd if we agreed about everything. But on this point, we do agree that we need structural reform and changes in our economy to improve growth, to improve employment and to give our people the best chance of having that security and stability of a regular pay packet so they can provide for their families. The ends that we seek are the same and I would commend the steps that Francois has taken to make business in France more competitive.
Everybody can have their own policy; that’s quite legitimate, but we have to have the same objectives in order to get the best results. Our own – our sole objective is to get greater demand, to get a growth. It’s not just to get over the effects of the recession but we have to be competitive in matters of innovation and investment so that we are placed at the best possible level in the world.
In regard to the reforms which have to be undertaken, we have to carry out the reforms in our own way and that is what I was doing in introducing the responsibility pact in mobilising the people involved in order to simplify the work of the companies. Cut down on their costs and they would try to invest in employment and locate their jobs in the right places.
Now we’re in a period of recovery, but we can’t just wait for that recovery to happen. We have to stimulate it; to amplify it. And the greater the growth will be in the United Kingdom, the better it will be for Europe and for France. And the greater the growth will be in France, the better it will be for the UK.
I would like to remind you that we – in our trade between the United Kingdom and France, there is a surplus in favour of France; that’s not true for all the parts of the world. So anything that David can do is good for France in terms of growth.
There’s obviously a small deficit in the wine trade although the British wine industry is beginning to make that up and I think I’m right in saying that Britain now almost produces as many different types of cheese as France. So the trade deficit picture is a changing picture.
Prime Minister, do you agree with your party chairman Grant Shapps who told the Telegraph this month that the policies being pursued by President Hollande are driving the French economy into the sand? And can I just ask, also, on treaty change: Must that be completed before any in/out vote in 2017?
And Monsieur le Président, I know this is a very sensitive subject for you. Do you think your private life has made France an international joke? Are you still having an affair with Julie Gayet and do you wish she was here?
First of all on policies, what I’ve talked about – what Francois is doing in France, I think, taking difficult decisions about spending to keep taxes down on business and to help make your economy more flexible – I think that is the right approach.
On treaty change and the changes Britain wants to see, I answered that earlier. We believe that treaty change has not only happened in the last 3 and a half years; clearly, there will be further treaty changes coming, not least, because of what’s happening in the Eurozone.
The Eurozone is examining all sorts of further steps that need to be taken in terms of coordination, some of which I believe will require a treaty change.
[Political content removed]
The United Kingdom is entitled – it is perfectly free to organise a referendum to know what their place is going to be in Europe. And I perfectly respect their choice. Then in Europe, there is a discussion underway on our own fate, how we should get organised. But I don’t think that we should make the United Kingdom choice something which is going to influence what is happening in Europe. This is something which is being debated.
In France, a change in the treaty would also involve procedures. Minor changes, for instance, well, there we could have a parliamentary vote. But when you’re dealing with major changes – and that has happened in the past, you will remember for the single currency with the Maastricht Treaty. There was the constitutional – the European constitutional treaty in 2005; we had to have a referendum. So everybody has to assess what procedures there are which exist. We can’t just expect to follow the example of one country in Europe in order to determine what the rest do – and regard to your last question, I’m afraid I would decline to answer.
Mister President, in regard to a question of a – demonstrations planned for Sunday, and last – last week there was a sort of similar demonstration and – and anti-Semitic slogans. I would like to know whether you’re worried about this atmosphere, and whether you have promised to pacify the French society. And don’t you think you’re increasing the split?
Well, this is a paradox, to think that since there are anti-Semitic slogans, because there are unworthy attacks – because there’s violence, by a very small minority and because there are unfounded rumours which have been started off by people who are making use of fear and manipulation, I don’t think that the government should be made responsible for this.
On the other hand, what is the duty of the government is to ensure security and to make quite certain that the school can still remain equal, egalitarian and secular. And anybody who is committing violence should be pursued. In France, it is absolutely natural that you should have demonstrations in the streets of our towns because that is a basic freedom. But we are on our guard. We have to be.
It’s not just what I’m going to talk about here, even if I’m in the United Kingdom, because this concerns us all. We have to be vigilant in regard to extremist groups and racist groups who don’t know any frontiers and who try to create a climate. And even in Europe, in our organisations, there may be varying points of view between David and myself; we have the same values, the same principles, the same requirements for freedom. And we will fight, as long as it’s necessary, against racism, anti-Semitism and the use of violence.
Thank you very much. Thank you very much, indeed. Having spent some time in, I think, probably the largest building in West Oxfordshire, we’re now going to one of the smallest buildings in West Oxfordshire, which is one of the very good local pubs. So that’s where I’m going to take the President now, where we can discuss all of these issues and more.