Statement by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the G7 Summit in the House of Commons
3 September 2019
John Bercow: Order. Statement, the Prime Minister –
Boris Johnson: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I am sure that the whole House will join me in remembering that it is 80 years today that this country entered the Second World War.
And though it is of course true that the horror of that conflict surpasses all modern controversies, it is also true that this country still stands then as now for democracy, for the rule of law, for the fight against racial…for the fight against racial and religious hatred, and Mr. Speaker, I know that this whole House is united in defending those values around the world.
Mr. Speaker, with your permission, I will make a statement about the G7 summit in Biarritz.
As I speak, vast tracts of the Amazon rainforest are on fire, free trade is in retreat, 130 million girls worldwide are not in education, our oceans are being foully polluted. And so it has never been more important for Global Britain to use our voice as an agent for change and progress.
It’s only by exerting our influence at a global level, only by sticking up for our values and our beliefs, that we can create the international context for Britain to prosper, and to ensure that this is greatest place on Earth to live, to work, to start a family, open a business, trade and invest.
So, at the G7, I made the case for free trade as an engine of prosperity and progress that has lifted billions out of poverty. And yet the reality is that trade as a share of the world economy has been stagnant for the last decade.
In the Leaders’ Declaration, the G7 unanimously endorsed “open and fair world trade”; and we’re determined to reform the WTO, the World Trade Organisation, and reach agreement next year to “simplify regulatory barriers”.
Britain is on the verge, Mr. Speaker, of taking back control of our trade policy and restoring our independent seat in the WTO for the first time in 46 years.
Our exports…our exports to the…our experts to the United States…I wish…I wish my Honourable…I wish my Honourable Friend…all the best.
John Bercow: Order, order. Order, order. Order, order. Resume your seat. Thank you, Prime Minister. Order, order. I ask the House to have some regard to how our proceedings are viewed by people outside the Chamber. I will always facilitate the expression of opinion by this House. Order. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister is making a statement and that statement should be heard and he will be heard as will every other Member. End of subject. The Prime Minister –
Boris Johnson: Britain…Britain is on the verge of taking back control of our trade policy, as I say, Mr. Speaker, on the verge…
And we could achieve even more in our trade with the United States by using the powers we will regain to do a comprehensive free trade deal, a deal in which both President Trump and I have agreed that the NHS is not on the table.
And unlike…unlike some in the House, I consider the United States to be an actual ally and, of course, for good in the world, and I recoil from the visceral, juvenile anti-Americanism that will do such profound damage to this country’s interests.
Mr. Speaker, I know that the whole House will share my concern about the gravity of the situation in Hong Kong.
As a nation with a deep belief in freedom of expression and assembly, we stand firm in upholding Hong Kong’s way of life, guaranteed by “one country, two systems”. And I welcome the unwavering support of my G7 counterparts on this vital matter.
Mr. Speaker, the UK is at the forefront of a new campaign to end the tragic loss of species around the world.
We cannot bequeath a planet where the Sumatran Tiger and the African Elephant and entire ecosystems like the Great Barrier Reef live in the shadow of destruction. So I am delighted that the G7 accepted UK proposals for more ambitious targets to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity.
Britain is responsible for 2.6 million square miles of ocean – the fifth largest maritime estate in the world. Our Blue Belt programme will ensure that marine protected areas encompass 1.5 million square miles, and at the G7, I announced a further £7 million for this vital effort.
I also announced another £10 million to protect the rainforest in Brazil, where 41,000 fires have raged so far this year, more than twice as many as in the same period in 2018.
Britain is bidding to host the UN’s 26th Climate Change Conference next year. If we succeed, we shall focus on solutions that harness the power of nature, including reforestation.
And there is one measure that would address all those issues, Mr. Speaker. And if they think that’s a waste of money, Mr. Speaker, that I think that tells you all you need to know about the modern Labour Party.
One measure…one measure that will address all those issues, and that is ensuring that every girl in the world receives the education that is her right. This would not only curb infant mortality, eradicate illiteracy and reduce population pressures, it would strike a blow for morality and justice.
In Biarritz, the G7 therefore endorsed the UK’s campaign for 12 years of quality education for every girl in the world. And I announced new funding for…of £90 million so that 600,000 children in countries torn by conflict – where girls are twice as likely as boys to be out of the classroom – get the chance to go to school.
And as well as my G7 colleagues, I was delighted to meet other leaders, including President Ramaphosa of South Africa, Prime Minister Modi of India, Prime Minister Morrison of Australia who heroically masked his emotions in the face of the historic innings of Ben Stokes.
And in every conversation, I was struck by the enthusiasm of my colleagues to strengthen their relations with this country, whether on trade, security and defence, science and technology.
Mr. Speaker, I was also able to use the G7 to follow up my conversations in Berlin and Paris with Chancellor Merkel and President Macron on Brexit, as well with…as well with Prime Minister Conte, Prime Minister Sanchez, and President Tusk. I have since spoken to Commission President Juncker, and many other leaders.
And I was able to make clear to them all that everyone in this Government wants a deal. But…we do, we do. But it is a reality that the House of Commons has rejected the current Withdrawal Agreement three times and it simply cannot be resurrected.
And that is why…and that is why…and that is why I wrote to President Tusk…
John Bercow: Order. Mr. Sherman, I look to you as a senior and distinguished elder statesman in the House to set an example of good behavior, analogous to the Buddha-like calm of the Father of the House, which is exhibited at all times. The Prime Minister –
Boris Johnson: Mr. Speaker, that is why I wrote to President Tusk on the 19th August to set out our arguments why any future Agreement must include the abolition of the anti-democratic backstop.
We have also been clear…we have also…at which, by the way, opposed on all sides. We have also been clear that we will need changes to the Political Declaration, to clarify that our future relationship with the EU will be based on a Free Trade Agreement, and giving us full control over our regulations, our trade, and our foreign and defence policy.
This clarity has brought benefits. Far from jeopardising negotiations, it is making them more straightforward.
In the last few weeks, I believe the chances of a deal have risen. This week…this week, we are intensifying the pace of meetings in Brussels. Our European friends can see that we want an agreement. And they are beginning to reflect that reality in their response.
President Macron said if, I quote…I quote, if, Mr. Speaker, they don’t want to hear the words of our counterparts across the Channel, they don’t want to hear about any progress we might be making, they don’t. Mr. Speaker…
John Bercow: Order, order, order. I want to hear everything said in the…Order, order. Well, I’ve never had any difficulty hearing the Prime Minister, but if it is necessary for him to speak up, I am certain…order, order, I’m certain that he’ll overcome his natural shyness in order to do so. The Prime Minister…
Boris Johnson: Mr. Speaker, I think they are wilfully closing their ears to the…to the reality…to the reality that our friends and partners are increasingly seeing the possibilities of an agreement. And I…I again, I quote President Macron of France: “If there are things,” he said, “which, as part of what was negotiated by Michel Barnier, can be adapted and are in keeping with the two objectives that I’ve mentioned – stability in Ireland…stability in Ireland, which we all…which we all support and the integrity of the single market – we should identify them in the coming months.”
Is that the negative spirit of the Opposition Benches? No, no, it isn’t.
And speaking in Berlin of possible alternatives to the backstop, Chancellor Merkel of Germany said: “Once we see and say this could be a possible outcome, this could be a possible arrangement, this backstop is a sort of placeholder which is no longer necessary…no longer necessary,” she said.
That is a positive spirit, which we are not, I’m afraid, hearing echoed on the other side of the House today.
And I believe there are indeed…they…they are fleeing already, Mr. Speaker…fleeing already. There are indeed…there are indeed solutions. They don’t want…they don’t want to hear about solutions, Mr. Speaker. They don’t want to hear about solutions…they don’t want to hear about a deal.
There are practical arrangements that we can find which avoid anyone putting infrastructure on the Irish border. Mr. Speaker, and I say to the honourable members departing back and he does it well. These have been well worked out and involve measures such as trusted trader schemes, transit provisions, frontier zones, reduced bureaucracy for small and local traders, and many others.
In particular, we recognize…I advise…and I advise the honourable opposite to pay attention to what is being said. We recognise that for reasons of geography and economics, agrifood is increasingly managed on a common basis across the island of Ireland. We are ready to find ways forward that recognise this reality, provided it clearly enjoys the consent of all parties and institutions with an interest.
We will also be discussing all this with the EU shortly and I will be discussing it with the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, when I see him in Dublin on Monday.
Mr. Speaker, it is simply wrong…it is simply wrong to say we are not making progress. There is a lot to do in the coming days. But things are moving.
And a major reason for that is that everyone can see that this Government is utterly determined to leave the EU on October the 31st, come what may, without a deal if necessary.
And that is why over the summer, my Right Honourable Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has been leading the Government’s efforts, seven days a week, to accelerate our national preparations for this possibility. And he will be making a statement on that subject shortly.
My Right Honourable Friend the Chancellor has made all the necessary funds available. We have already…we have already reached agreements with our partners to roll over trade deals worth around £89 billion of exports and imports. We have secured air services agreements around the world.
We have increased the capacity of our Border Force, strengthened the resilience of our ports, bolstered our freight capacity, and worked with meticulous detail to ensure the uninterrupted supply of critical goods, including medicines. We will be ready, Mr. Speaker. We will be ready.
Mr. Speaker, I returned from the G7 with real momentum in the Brexit discussions.
I want…I want…I want to return from next month’s European Council in a similar way, with a deal…with a deal that this House can debate and scrutinise and endorse in time for our departure on October the 31st.
But Mr. Speaker, there is one step that would jeopardise all the progress that we have made in the G7 and around the capitals of Europe.
And that is if this House were to decide that it was simply impossible for us to leave without a deal, and to make that step illegal, to force us – that’s what they want – to…to undermine other vision…to force us – that’s what they want – to force us to beg…to force us to beg for yet another pointless delay. If that happens, all the progress we have been making will have been for nothing.
Yesterday…yesterday, Mr. Speaker, a deal was published – a Bill that the Leader of the Opposition has spent all summer working on.
And this is not a Bill in any normal sense of the word. It is without precedent in our history – it is a Bill that, if passed, would force me to go to Brussels and beg an extension. It would force me to accept the terms offered. It would destroy any chance of negotiations for a new deal, it would destroy. And indeed, it would enable our friends…it would enable our friends in Brussels to dictate the terms of the negotiation, that’s what it does.
There is only one way, Mr. Speaker, to describe this deal – it is Jeremy Corbyn’s surrender Bill. That’s what it is.
It means…it means running up…it means running up the white flag. The Bill is shameful. It means running up…it means running up the white flag.
And I want to make clear…I want to make clear to everybody in this House – there are no circumstances in which I will ever accept anything like it.
I will never surrender the control of our negotiations in the way the Leader of the Opposition is the modern…Mr. Speaker, Mr. Speaker, you…
John Bercow: Order, order. People must keep ranting from a sedentary position however long it takes. The statement will be heard and the response to it will be heard – that is the reality, and nothing can gainsay. The Prime Minister –
Boris Johnson: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Speaker, we promised the people we would get Brexit done. We promised to respect the result of the referendum and we must do so now.
Enough is enough. This country wants this done. And they want the referendum respected. We are negotiating a deal and though I am confident…and though I am confident…and though I am confident of getting a deal, we will leave by October the 31st in all circumstances. There will be no further pointless delay.
This House…this House has never before voted to force the Prime Minister to surrender such a crucial decision to the discretion of our friends and neighbours overseas. Because what this Bill would mean is that unless we agree to the terms of our friends and partners, they would be able to keep us in the EU for as long as they want and on their terms.
So I urge therefore this House to reject this Bill tonight so that we can get the right deal for our country, deliver Brexit and take the whole country forward.
And I commend this statement, Mr. Speaker, to the House.