PM’s Press Conference with President of France Emmanuel Macron
13 June 2017
President Emmanuel Macron:
Ladies and gentlemen, good evening. I am very pleased to be receiving this evening Prime Minister May. The wind is only taking the papers away, but nothing else. So, I’m extremely pleased to be receiving Prime Minister May. We just had a working dinner together with all staff and all ministers of home affairs, only a few days after the British elections, and I’m extremely grateful to Miss May.
Thank you very much for so quickly accepting my invitation to come to Paris, not only for this working dinner, but for the football match between our 2 countries in a few moments.
Your visit embodies the strong bond between our two countries: solidarity and efficiency; friendship and working together; remembrance as well as projecting ourselves into the future. And I’m saying it just a few days after the terror attacks against Manchester and London.
We talked to one another in the following hours and I had a chance to take the floor at the time, but let me tell you one more time how sad we were, how impacted we’ve been as well, because each time it is freedom, democracy and our youth which are attacked.
And also, because a number of victims – there were a number of victims, and they are the embodiment of the strong bond between our two countries. There are thousands of French people living in the United Kingdom, and thousands of British people living in France.
So this evening, we talked about our common challenges, and first and foremost, of our cooperation in counter-terrorism. It is outstanding when it comes to intelligence sharing and the work between our services. And, as a matter of fact, after these 2 attacks, this was the case. And please allow me to pay tribute to our security forces, to our intelligence services.
They’re working together on a daily basis for our security, and we owe them a lot. But we’ve decided together to do more together, and for a number of days already, we’ve been working on a very concrete action plan that was put together by our teams and we’ll make it public tonight. This concrete action plan will be implemented by all services.
The first purpose is to strengthen the commitments and the obligations of internet operators in order to delete any content promoting hatred and terrorism by any way. Some commitments have been made so far, but they are not sufficient, and Prime Minister May, in Taormina, was reminding us a couple of weeks ago that it is within the first two hours that 50% of the potential terrorists are people who can be influenced or receive information, and that actions are undertaken in 48 hours.
Then the aim is to get access – better access to encrypted content so that these internet tools are not unlimited tools for terrorists. And then we want to improve international cooperation, including with the United States, to improve access to digital content and digital evidence in investigations by our police services and justice services, no matter where the data is localised.
This is absolutely necessary in order prevent as much as we can terrorist propaganda as well as terrorist attacks, and also in order to bring to justice those involved in these terror attacks or attempts.
Of course, beyond that common goal, we want to involve all of the G7 members, and a number of meetings will be held, including interior ministers. We want to do more, in particular, with the United States. President Trump made some strong statements, including Taormina.
And we very much want to act together, and of course, this initiative is open to any of our partners in the European Union, and I have in mind in particular, Germany, which constantly expressed its willingness to work in close cooperation with us on this matter. So the action plan, of course, is intended to be spread, but as for today, the purpose is to take some concrete actions and to get some concrete results any time soon.
This major challenge, the fight against terrorism, should not lead us to forget the other challenges we therefore talked about: the economy, migrations, as well as defence – we have a defence agenda and we’ll continue to work actively on it. And by the end of the year, we will hold another defence summit in the United Kingdom. Lastly, the negotiation on the Brexit continues and we’ll leave it to Prime Minister May to say a few words about it.
But as far as I’m concerned have amounted to very clear negotiation, and I would like the negotiation and then the discussions on the future relationship with the United Kingdom to be launched as soon as possible and take place as quickly as possible. This is what I meant to tell you, and of course, we talked about a willingness to work together in the digital sector in the future and defending our values all around the world.
And lastly, regarding climate change, our countries always stood together. Please allow me to thank Theresa May for coming so quickly after the elections in her country and I’m looking forward to working together with you on all of these topics. We have so much to do together.
In a couple of minutes, teams will be playing football against one another, and of course there needs to be a winner. But even though we may not disagree, there will be such a small disagreement that we will not even show it. You have the floor.
Prime Minister Theresa May:
Thank you, thank you very much, Emmanuel.
As you have said, the United Kingdom and France work side by side together in so many different areas, and there’re ranges 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.
And 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. And a British man, Nick Alexander, of course, also tragically died in the Bataclan attack in Paris in November 2015.
And I know you stand with us against this evil.
And tonight, as you’ve just heard, 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. And 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.
And 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 in the areas we’ve discussed this evening.
And I confirmed to President Macron that the timetable for the Brexit negotiation remains on course and will begin next week.
So, thank you, Emmanuel, for our very constructive discussions this evening. Thank you.
Matt Frei, Channel 4 News. Prime Minister, you talk about a unity of purpose, but the former Prime Minister – your former party leader John Major – has effectively accused you 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, ‘Brexit means Brexit,’ but would be open to remain in the EU. Do you agree with him?
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 an evolved 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, of course, the door remains open, always open until the Brexit negotiations come to an end.
That being said, a sovereign decision was taken by the British people and that is to come out of the European Union and I very much respect the decisions taken by the people, be it by the French people or by the British people. As a matter of fact, in this case, it’s not for me to say whether or not this decision should be questioned. A decision to leave the European Union, but until the negotiations come to the end, of course, there is always the possibility to reopen the door. But let us be clear and organised, and once negotiations have started we should be well aware that it will be more and more difficult to move backwards.