European Council

Isil – in the House of Commons at 3:33 pm on 19th October 2015.

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Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party 3:33 pm, 19th October 2015

With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement on last week’s European Council. The main focus of the Council was on migration, but there were also important discussions on Syria and the UK’s renegotiation. Let me take each in turn.

The European Union is under massive pressure over the migration issue. The numbers arriving remain immense. Some countries have attempted to maintain and police external borders; others have waved migrants through. Some 8,000 people are arriving in Germany every day. The response of the Schengen zone is to establish hotspots in the countries where most migrants are arriving so that they can be properly processed, and then to have a mechanism for distributing them across the EU. That is what most of the Council’s discussions and debates were about.

Of course, the UK does not take part in Schengen. We have maintained our borders while others have taken theirs down. We are not participating in the quota system for migrants who have arrived in Europe. Instead, we are taking 20,000 Syrian refugees straight from the camps. We think that that is the right approach.

I will turn to some of the specifics of how the EU is planning to ease the crisis. First, on aid to the affected area, Britain was praised for its contribution to the World Food Programme. We have provided $220 million of the $275 million that was needed to close the funding gap for the rest of the year. The Commission President made a particular point that the rest of the Council members should do more and follow Britain’s lead on that. It is still the case that the United Kingdom has spent more on aid for Syrian refugees than any other EU country—indeed, more than any other country in the world save the United States of America.

Secondly, the EU agreed in outline a new joint action plan with Turkey. That includes potential additional financial support to help with the huge volume of refugees—there are more than 2 million in Turkey—and assistance with strengthening its ability to prevent illegal migration to the EU. Although the terms of the EU’s assistance remain to be finalised, any visa liberalisation agreed under the action plan will not, of course, apply to the UK, and we will continue to make our own decisions on visas for Turkish nationals.

Thirdly, we agreed more action to stop criminal gangs putting people’s lives at risk in the Mediterranean. The EU’s naval operation is now moving to a new phase, in which we can board ships and arrest people smugglers. Britain played a leading role in securing the United Nations Security Council resolution that was required to make that possible, and Royal Navy ships HMS Richmond and HMS Enterprise will help to deliver that operation.

Fourthly, obviously the most important thing is to deal with the causes of the crisis, and in particular the war in Syria. The Council condemned the ongoing brutality of ISIL, and when it comes to Assad its conclusions were equally clear:

“there cannot be a lasting peace in Syria under the present leadership.”

I presented to the Council the facts about Russia’s intervention, with eight out of 10 Russian air strikes hitting non-ISIL targets. The Council expressed deep concern over Russia’s actions, and especially attacks on the moderate opposition, including the Free Syrian Army. Our view remains the same: we want a Syria without ISIL or Assad.

Ahead of the Council I convened a meeting with Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande, and we agreed the importance of a renewed diplomatic effort to revive the political process and reach a lasting settlement in Syria. We agreed that, together with our US allies, we must seek to persuade Russia to target ISIL, not the moderate opposition. The three of us also discussed the situation in Ukraine. We welcomed recent progress, and agreed the need to maintain the pressure of sanctions on Russia until the Minsk agreement has been fully implemented.

On the UK’s renegotiation, I set out the four things that we need to achieve. The first is sovereignty and subsidiarity, where Britain must not be part of an “ever closer union” and where we want a greater role for national Parliaments. Secondly, we must ensure that the EU adds to our competitiveness, rather than detracts from it, by signing new trade deals, cutting regulation and completing the single market. We have already made considerable progress. There has been an 80% reduction in new legislative proposals under the new European Commission, and we have reached important agreements on a capital markets union, on liberalising services, and on completing the digital single market. Last week the Commission published a new trade strategy that reflects the agenda that Britain has been championing for years, including vital trade deals with America, China and Japan. But more needs to be done in that area.

Thirdly, we need to ensure that the EU works for those outside the single currency and protects the integrity of the single market, and that we face neither discrimination nor additional costs from the integration of the eurozone. Fourthly, on social security, free movement and immigration, we need to tackle abuses of the right to free movement, and deliver changes that ensure that our welfare system is not an artificial draw for people to come to Britain.

As I have said before, those are the four key areas where Britain needs fundamental changes, and there is a clear process to secure them. The European Union (Referendum) Bill has now passed through this House and is making its way through the other place. I have met the other 27 leaders, the Commission President, the President of the European Parliament, and the President of the European Council, and will continue to do so. Technical talks have been taking place in Brussels since July to inform our analysis of the legal options for reform. There will now be a process of negotiation with all 28 member states leading up to the December European Council. As I said last week, I will be writing to the President of the European Council in early November to set out the changes that we want to see.

Throughout all this, what matters to me most is Britain’s national security and Britain’s economic security. I am interested in promoting our prosperity and our influence, and we have already made some important achievements. We have cut the EU budget for the first time ever, we took Britain out of the eurozone bail-out mechanisms—the first ever return of powers from Brussels to Westminster—and we vetoed a new treaty that would have damaged Britain’s interests. Through our opt-out from justice and home affairs matters, we have achieved the largest repatriation of powers to Britain since we joined the EU. We have pursued a bold, pro-business agenda, cutting red tape, promoting free trade and extending the single market to new sectors.

I want Britain to have the best of both worlds. Already, we have ensured that British people can travel freely around Europe, but have at the same time maintained our own border controls. We have kept our own currency while having complete access to the single market. I believe we can succeed in this renegotiation, and achieve the reform that Britain and Europe needs. When we have done so, we will put the decision to the British people in the referendum that only we promised and that only this Conservative majority Government can deliver. I commend the statement to the House.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party 3:40 pm, 19th October 2015

I thank the Prime Minister for his statement.

I note that the issue of the UK’s in/out referendum was deferred, yet again, to the December European Council meeting. I think that all of us across the House and people across the country would echo the words of Chancellor Angela Merkel when she asked the UK to

“clarify the substance of what it is envisaging”.

There have been indications from Government advisers that the Prime Minister is trying to diminish the rights of UK workers through opt-out or dilution of the social chapter and the working time directive. However, other sources say the Prime Minister has retreated on those proposals. Working people in Britain are losing trust in a Government who attack their trade union rights and cut their tax credits, while giving tax breaks to millionaires. Will the Prime Minister today finally confirm to the House whether there will be an attempt to opt out of, or dilute, the social chapter and the working time directive?

Following reports in the weekend press, which seems to have been extremely well briefed, will the Prime Minister confirm that Britain will remain signed up to the European convention on human rights and will not repeal the Human Rights Act 1998? The lack of clarity and openness from the Prime Minister means we do not know on what basis he is negotiating. Too often, we have been guided by anonymous press briefings from his inner court. Let me say this to the Prime Minister: we will be on his side to support the proposed “red card” mechanism to give national Parliaments greater powers of influence over European legislation. In fact, it is such a good thing that it was in Labour’s manifesto at the general election. Does he agree with Angela Merkel, as we on the Labour Benches do, that

“there are achievements of European integration that cannot be haggled over, for example the principle of free movement and the principle of non-discrimination”?

Again, clarity from the Prime Minister on that would be welcomed not just, I suspect, by his own Back Benchers but by millions of people across the country.

We believe we need stronger transnational co-operation on environmental and climate change issues, on workers’ rights, on corporate regulation and on tax avoidance.

We will continue the European reform agenda. Labour is for staying in a Europe that works for the people of the UK and for all the people of Europe. We will not achieve that if all we are doing is shouting from the sidelines. On the referendum, will the Prime Minister confirm that the Government will now accept votes at 16 for the referendum, as per the amendment in the House of Lords?

I turn now to the refugee crisis. We are concerned that some within Europe would like to outsource the refugee crisis to Turkey to solve it. There is a responsibility for all European nations to act in a co-ordinated way, first to help the refugees, and secondly to try to resolve the conflict that is driving so many Syrians to flee. I have said it before and I will repeat it in the House today: I praise the Government for the level of aid they have provided for the camps in Lebanon and elsewhere in the region. That is welcome and it is supported on the Labour Benches. However, we must do more to aid those who have come to Europe. Turkey, I understand, has made a request for £2.2 billion in aid to support it in dealing with the 2.5 million refugees in its country. Will the Prime Minister give the House a little more detail on these negotiations and inform the House what negotiations there were at the Council for all the countries of Europe to welcome their fair share of Syrian refugees, including, of course, this country?

My right hon. Friend Yvette Cooper, who is heading up Labour’s taskforce on refugees, has said:

“There is chaos at borders across Europe, people are dying and children are walking miles, sleeping in the open despite the falling temperatures. It is unbelievable we are seeing scenes like this in a continent which includes four out of the top ten richest countries in the world.”

European Council conclusion 2(d) states that we should be

“providing lasting prospects and adequate procedures for refugees and their families, including through access to education and jobs, until return to their country of origin is possible”.

Will the Prime Minister consider any necessary amendments to the Immigration Bill to ensure this is the case?

The Under-Secretary of State for Refugees, Richard Harrington, was unable to provide figures to the Home Affairs Select Committee last week. Will the Prime Minister now inform the House how many Syrians have been accepted under the Government’s vulnerable person’s relocation scheme, and will he give a substantive reply to the letter from 84 bishops calling on him to accept 50,000 refugees? If Britain played a more positive role on this front, it might create the good will in Europe to make headway in his other forthcoming negotiations. In addition, is it not right that we should take firm action against the evil trade of people smuggling? I note what the Prime Minister said about the naval operation and the role played by the Royal Navy, but will he give us more details to clarify the command structure and rules of engagement for this operation, given that innocent refugees will be in close proximity to them?

Does the Prime Minister agree that the refugee crisis will not be solved and that therefore there should be a duty on all European nations to fulfil the UN target of spending 0.7% of GDP on international development, as is happening, with cross-party support, in the UK?

Will he work with us to put pressure on fellow EU nations to increase their aid to that level? Currently, only Sweden, Luxembourg, Denmark and we achieve that figure.

The situation in Syria is complex, and I welcome the words from the European Council that the

“EU is fully engaged in finding a political solution to the conflict in close cooperation with the UN and the countries of the region” and its recognition of the

“risk of further military escalation”.

The humanitarian crisis has seen half the population of Syria flee their homes—including, let us not forget, millions to neighbouring countries, which have borne the greatest burden—as well as hundreds of thousands of innocent Syrian civilians killed, the vast majority of them at the hands of Assad’s forces. The people of Syria need a political solution, and the world needs an answer to ISIL’s abhorrent brutality, which indeed threatens us here too.

We need concerted action to cut off the supply of money, arms and fighters to ISIL, and a co-ordinated plan to drive it back from Iraq and Syria. I once again urge the Prime Minister to consider working with our allies to establish safe zones in Syria so that some of the millions of displaced people can return to their homes, humanitarian aid can get in and we can stop the killing. Does he agree we should urgently be seeking a new UN Security Council resolution on a comprehensive approach to the Syrian crisis, including action against ISIL? What action is he taking in that regard?

Briefly on Libya, the European Council conclusions state:

“The EU reiterates its offer of substantial political and financial support to the Government of National Accord as soon as it takes office.”

Will the Prime Minister indicate when this will take place?

Finally—[Hon. Members: “Hooray!”]—I turn to a subject that will be of great interest to all Government Members, and that is Redcar and the other steelworks. Will the Prime Minister tell the House whether he took the opportunity to speak to his Italian counterpart about the role the Government could play in protecting vital infrastructure, such as the steelworks in Redcar, while keeping within EU state aid rules? Will he learn from other European Governments so that a similar fate does not befall Tata steelworks in Scunthorpe or sites in Scotland? Was the dumping of Chinese steel raised at the European Council, and will he be raising the dumping of subsidised Chinese steel on European markets with the Chinese President when he meets him this week, especially given today’s announcement that Caparo steel, which employs 2,000 people in Britain, is about to go into administration?

We need a full debate in Government time and ahead of the December meeting on the negotiating points the Prime Minister has raised in response to the European Council. I hope he will give us some positive news on at least that point.

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his detailed questions, to which I shall try to respond in detail.

Taking his last point first, of course we are doing everything we can in Europe to help our steel industry, which is why we voted in favour of dumping tariffs against the Chinese and will do everything we can to help our steel industry, including by looking at how we help with high-energy usage and the necessary clearances there.

As to whether we will raise the matter with the Chinese, we will of course raise all these issues. That is what our relationship with China is all about. It is at such a high level that no subject is off the table, and all these issues, including the steel industry, will of course be discussed.

Let me go through in order all the questions that the hon. Gentleman asked. First, he claimed that the discussion of our referendum had somehow been deferred once again, but that is simply not the case. This process was launched in June, as I always said it would be, although people doubted it would happen. There was always going to be an update in October, and then a full discussion in December—and that is exactly what is happening.

The hon. Gentleman asked what we were delivering for working people in Europe. I would point out that we are delivering 2 million jobs here in Britain for working people, with tax cuts for 29 million working people. I have set out in this statement again the reforms that we are pressing for in Europe.

The hon. Gentleman referred to a briefing in the weekend newspapers that he said seemed to be surprisingly well sourced about our plans. I am amazed that he feels it necessary to read or believe everything in the newspapers; I would have thought that that would be a route to deep unhappiness, so I advise that he desists at once. Let me tell him that our plans for a British Bill of Rights are unchanged. We want to get rid of the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights.

We do need to reform free movement; it should not be free movement for criminals or for people who are benefit shopping, for example, and we are already taking steps to ensure that that is not the case.

The hon. Gentleman specifically asked whether votes at 16 would apply to referendum. We voted in this House of Commons on votes at 16, and we voted against them, so I think we should stick to that position. I welcome the fact that everyone on the Labour Benches now seems to welcome having a referendum, even though they all campaigned against it at the last election.

On Turkey, refugees and Syria, I thank the hon. Gentleman for what he said about the British aid programme. It is right that we are making such a major contribution to the refugee camps. The precise deal with Turkey has not been finalised—some items are still being discussed—but I think it right to offer some financial support to Turkey when it is housing more than 2 million refugees and some 88% of them have stayed within the country. We obviously want Turkey to do even more to make sure that people do not get on dangerous dinghies and launch themselves into the Mediterranean, which is what the recent discussions have been about.

The hon. Gentleman asked what share of migrants arriving in Europe we would take, and I have explained that that is not the approach we are taking. We are not members of Schengen and we are not compelled to do that. We are taking people out of the refugee camps, which does not encourage people to make this journey.

I have to say that in the discussions we have in Europe, there is a lot of respect for the British position. Indeed, the EU Commissioner on refugees said:

“I commend the UK for offering to take 20,000 refugees, it shows the UK is doing something beyond normal. The UK has a great reputation on migration”.

That is the view of the EU Commissioner.

On numbers, we have said that we want to see 1,000 refugees brought to Britain by Christmas, and we will report on that after Christmas to tell people how we have done.

As for the bishops, no one has more respect for them than me—[Interruption.] Yes, but on this occasion I think they are wrong, and I shall say so very frankly. I think the right thing to do is to take 20,000 refugees from the camps. If we become part of the mechanism of distributing people around the European Union, we are encouraging people to make the dangerous journey. I would like the bishops make a very clear statement, as the hon. Gentleman just did, that Britain has fulfilled our moral obligations by making a promise to the poorest countries and the poorest people in the world to spend 0.7% of our gross national income on aid. How many other big countries that made that promise have kept it? Let us hear an in-depth intervention from the bishops on that issue.

Finally, on Syria, the hon. Gentleman is right to say we need a political solution and that we should cut off the money and supply of weapons and fighters to ISIL. However, I do not believe that is enough; I believe we also need to be taking military action against ISIL, as we are in Iraq.

On the issue of the United Nations Security Council resolution, I am all for setting these things out in UN Security Council resolutions, but we have to deal with the plain fact that there is every chance that the Russians will veto such a resolution. I do not think we should stand back from taking our responsibility and safeguarding our country simply because we cannot have a UN Security Council resolution. I thank the hon. Gentleman for all his questions and hope that those were satisfactory answers.

Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Conservative, Rushcliffe

The Prime Minister will recall that for over 20 years successive British Governments have quite eagerly supported Turkey’s aim of eventually becoming a full member of the European Union, because of its strategic importance as an ally in its part of the world. Will he confirm that that remains the policy of the present Government, so long as Turkey adheres to the liberal, democratic political values that are key to the EU? Will he also confirm that, apart from in connection with visa arrangements, we are playing a full part in negotiations with Turkey, and are prepared to discuss the sharing of financial and other burdens? The migrant crisis that is affecting Turkey is the same migrant crisis that is affecting this and every other EU country, and we must all participate in the solution.

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I can confirm that the British Government’s policy has not changed, and what my right hon. and learned Friend has said about the importance of helping Turkey is absolutely right. More than 2 million refugees, almost nine out of 10¸ have stayed in Turkey, and everything that we can do to help the Turks to keep those refugees—perhaps allowing more of them to work and to play an economic part in Turkey—will obviously help in this crisis. I think it fair to say that, although the Turks have done extraordinary work in looking after refugees—their refugee camps are some of the best anywhere in the world—we all need to help them to do more to stop people taking off from western Turkey into the waters of the Mediterranean, because that is a journey on which so many have died.

Photo of Angus Robertson Angus Robertson Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader

It is appropriate, in the context of a European statement, to acknowledge the sadness across Europe about the last of the European nations exiting the rugby world cup. Our thoughts on these Benches are with Vern Cotter, Greig Laidlaw and the whole Scotland team—they did us proud.

Five of the six pages of the European Council conclusions rightly deal with the humanitarian crisis. Our EU neighbours are doing a great deal to help the refugees who have made it to Europe. As the Prime Minister knows, we support and acknowledge the role of the United Kingdom in helping refugees in Syria and the countries surrounding it, but will he confirm that he is prepared to reconsider his position and do more to help refugees who have made it into Europe?

In those six pages of European Council conclusions, there is not a single mention of whether the steel crisis was raised in the discussions. Did the Prime Minister raise the subject and, if he did, why is there no mention of it whatsoever in the conclusions?

The six pages of conclusions contain only two lines relating to the EU renegotiations that are being pursued by the UK. Meanwhile, we hear that European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said:

“I cannot say huge progress has been achieved”,

and that the Belgian Prime Minister, Charles Michel, has said:

“To have a negotiation, we need to know.”

Why is there such a gap between the experience of European Union Heads of Government and Heads of State, and the rhetoric that the Prime Minister has deployed today?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Let me begin by joining the right hon. Gentleman in commiserating with Greig Laidlaw and the Scottish team. They played magnificently. It was absolutely heartbreaking to watch that match, particularly the last 10 or 15 minutes, when it went from triumph to tragedy so quickly. They really played like lions. I do not think I have seen a braver, more bold performance; it was remarkable to see.

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Apart, of course, from that of Wales the day before—that must have been the Cameron in me coming out. However, the match was heartbreaking to watch.

Angus Robertson raised the issue of helping refugees and other European Union countries. Although we are not in Schengen and although we are not taking part in the quota, we are helping Frontex, the border organisation, of which we are not formally part. Moreover, Britain has made one of the biggest contributions in sending staff to the hotspots that are being established to help with the fingerprinting and processing of migrants so that they can be properly registered and looked after.

As for the steel crisis, it is not mentioned in the conclusions because this was a European Council meeting to talk almost purely about migration. The discussion went on for hours because of the disagreements about hotspots and how this way of moving migrants around Europe should work. However, the British Government are absolutely clear that we will do everything that we can to support and help our steel industry, and that includes the vital discussions that we have held with the European Commission about state aid.

On renegotiation, I know the right hon. Gentleman is disappointed that more is not set out in the conclusions, but they set out what is necessary. The process was launched in June, there was an update in October, talks are progressing very well and we will have further discussions in December. I am confident that we will reach a good deal and, when we do, I look forward to his support.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Chair, European Scrutiny Committee, Chair, European Scrutiny Committee

On renegotiation, will my right hon. Friend recognise that even if the words “ever-closer union” were removed from treaties in the future, it would not change any of our existing EU obligations and laws, nor fundamentally change our relationship with the EU under the existing treaties? Will he please comment on that?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

The issue of ever-closer union is important both symbolically and legally. It is important symbolically because the British people always felt that we were told we were joining a common market, and were never really told enough about this political union, which we have never been happy with. I want to make it explicit that for us it is principally a common market and not an ever-closer union, but this concept does have legal force because ever-closer union has been used by the courts to enforce centralising judgments and I want that to change.

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Labour, Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford

The Prime Minister will know that there are thousands arriving on Greek islands every day, many of whom are refugees from Syria. The humanitarian response they get when they arrive on Europe’s shores is still hopelessly inadequate. He has said that we should not help directly because we are not in Schengen, but he knows that it is not Schengen that has caused the crisis; this is a humanitarian crisis and we should all respond. May I urge him to rethink this? The programme he has announced for Syrian refugees direct from the camps is welcome, but it is still very slow—4,000 a year is not enough. In the short term, people are going to be coming whether or not Britain acts, so please will he be the Prime Minister who rethinks, show some leadership in Europe, not just outside Europe, and let us do our bit to help those who are arriving directly on Greece’s shores?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Let me repeat something I said earlier: taking action when people arrive in Greece and other European countries is something we can do, and that is why we are giving staff and expertise, including technical expertise, to help to make sure these people are properly processed. However, we have taken a decision—I think it is the right decision—to say that in terms of the refugees we take, we should be taking them from the camps, rather than from among those who have already arrived in Europe. That means that we can target the most vulnerable people. One of the reasons why it is taking time to identify and then get the right people is that we are often dealing with the most vulnerable people—those who have had the most difficult time in those camps—but I am confident that we are doing the right thing. That means we are also helping other European countries with people as they arrive.

Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee, Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee

Does the Prime Minister expect to conclude the renegotiation at the December summit? Whenever it is concluded, in what form does he expect its results to be presented?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I cannot put an exact timetable on when the negotiations will be concluded. Obviously the House of Commons knows that we must have the referendum come what may by the end of 2017, but I do not want to put a timetable on how long it is going to take to complete this negotiation. I am confident that we will make good progress and I will update the House regularly.

Photo of Tim Farron Tim Farron Leader of the Liberal Democrats

The decision by some Governments in Europe to close borders has severely impacted their neighbours, thus exacerbating the humanitarian crisis, so will the Prime Minister call on Viktor Orban of Hungary and others to reopen borders and engage in meaningful discussion to tackle this growing crisis, or is there no point because the Prime Minister’s refusal to take a single one of the 600,000 refugees in Europe has destroyed his credibility among Europe’s leaders?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

First of all, what actually happens at these European Councils is not Britain coming under pressure for the approach we have taken. People respect the fact that we are not part of Schengen and that we have made a decision about taking refugees from out of the camps, and above all people respect the fact that we spend on some occasions 10 times more than other European countries of our size on the refugee aid programme to Syria—for the Syrian refugee camps and the neighbouring countries. That is the right thing to do.

As for Europe’s external borders, they are not my responsibility. I will leave Viktor Orban to defend himself, but the point that the Hungarian Prime Minister and others make is that Europe has an external border and needs to prove that it has an external border to ensure that people do not believe it is a risk-free, easy journey to go to the EU. However, that is a matter for them. We have an external border; it is at Calais and that is the border that we will properly police.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

I fully support the Prime Minister’s policy towards economic migrants and refugees. It is more realistic and caring than the Schengen group’s muddled, dangerous policy, which has given false hope and encouraged too many dangerous journeys. Does not this show that what this country needs from the renegotiation is the right to make our own decisions on the things that matter, as we are able to do outside Schengen and outside the euro, from where Britain can often come to a wiser judgment?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

As I said in my statement, we need to achieve the best of both worlds in which we recognise the advantages of being in a reformed European Union while ensuring that this is a membership and a type of European Union that suit us. If we look at what has been achieved in the past, through maintaining our own currency and having a single market, we can see that that is the sort of approach we need for the future.

Photo of Gisela Stuart Gisela Stuart Labour, Birmingham, Edgbaston

It is now almost 12 years since I chaired a group examining the role of national Parliaments, which came up with the idea of a red card system. It is good to see some ideas being recycled. We also concluded that unless there was a mechanism whereby national Parliaments were co-ordinated—a kind of COSAC but without MEPs—any such system would be utterly meaningless. Will the Prime Minister tell us what negotiations he has had on the development of such networks?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

The right hon. Lady is absolutely right; it has taken far too long to get this sort of change in place. This is, however, exactly the sort of change that the British process of renegotiation and a referendum is putting squarely on the table. I shall look carefully at her suggestion as we go into the detailed phase of the negotiations to ensure that we get the right sort of deal.

Photo of Andrew Tyrie Andrew Tyrie Chair, Liaison Committee (Commons), Chair, Treasury Committee, Chair, Treasury Committee, Chair, Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards (Joint Committee), Chair, Liaison Committee (Commons)

Further to the question that has just been put, the EU institutions were specifically designed as a ratchet to deliver ever-closer union year by year. Whatever protections the Prime Minister secures in these negotiations are therefore at risk of being clawed back over time. In the light of that, does he agree that if renegotiation is to succeed in the longer term, we shall need major reform of how the EU takes its decisions in order to give a much stronger voice to member states and Parliaments, and to enable what has hitherto been a one-way street towards ever-closer union to be decisively challenged?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

My right hon. Friend makes an important point. I would argue that specifically getting Britain out of ever-closer union is not just symbolic; it would also have a legal effect. We can boil down into a single sentence what is required to make a success of the organisation: it is has to be just as possible to be a successful member of the European Union outside the eurozone as it is inside it. That is where things really need to change. The European Union needs to recognise that the same set of processes and decision making is not going to be right for both types of membership. If we can achieve that change, we will have achieved something very important for the UK.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Labour, Bolsover

If the Prime Minister did not get the chance, as he said, to raise the question of the Chinese dumping steel and steel goods in Britain, will he take the opportunity of taking it up with the Chinese this week? Otherwise, the devastation that he and the Chinese have created in Redcar will be repeated in countless other places around the British Isles.

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

As I said earlier, nothing will be off the agenda in those talks. Steel is an important part of our economy, and we will of course be discussing those issues with the Chinese when they arrive this week.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

Has the Prime Minister seen today’s statement by the two Syrian Catholic archbishops in which they beg Europe not to encourage further migration of the Christian community from the middle east as it could result in that ancient community vanishing from the region completely? Some of us have been raising this matter in the Council of Europe in recent years, and we have managed to persuade that body to turn the spotlight on it in order to try to keep those people in the middle east, and to give them safe havens and help there. Does my right hon. Friend think that that is the right approach?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I have not seen that specific statement, but I will look at it because my hon. Friend makes an important point. Everything we can do, not just to help Syrian refugees stay in Lebanon, Jordan or Turkey, but to help Syrians stay in Syria, where they can, is clearly worthwhile, and my right hon. Friend the aid Secretary has done some extraordinarily good work on that.

Photo of Mary Creagh Mary Creagh Labour, Wakefield

May I tell the Prime Minister that there is dismay among civil society and church groups about his decision not to participate in the EU-Syria refugee resettlement programme? That decision stands in sharp contrast to the actions of Denmark and Ireland, which have chosen to participate in that programme despite not being parties to Schengen. I wish to press the Prime Minister: how many Syrian refugees have been resettled from the camps since he made his announcement last month?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Obviously the hon. Lady and I are not going to agree about this. I think we have taken the right approach—taking people from the refugee camps and not taking people under the EU relocation programme. We have been clear about that right from the start, which I think is why other European countries have not taken exception to what Britain is doing. We have said that we aim to resettle 1,000 people by Christmas and we will report back on how we have done after Christmas. I think that that is the right way to do it. I make the point that we have already resettled some 5,000 Syrians through other processes.

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Conservative, Ashford

The Prime Minister started his statement by talking about migration. Does he agree that having Britain’s border controls in France not only is a good example of European co-operation, but serves to make our border controls much more effective? Does he therefore agree that anything putting those arrangements at risk would be a very foolish step for this country to take?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right about that. Obviously, the situation we face at Calais is difficult and there are still several thousand people who would like to, as I put it, break into Britain, but we see that that is a very small share of the overall scale of migration when we look at the bigger picture. We are very fortunate to have this excellent agreement with the French. It works well for both countries and clearly we should not do anything to put that at risk.

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee

I welcome the target of 1,000 Syrian refugees by Christmas and the extra support for Turkey, which is long overdue. The Prime

Minister needs to accept, however, that the scenes of migrants being shunted from EU country to EU country—from countries such as Hungary that believe in the values of the European Union—are desperately sad. Will he tell the House what additional support is going to be given to Europol, because criminal gangs are still preying on innocent migrants who are trying to get to the European Union and we have to act together if we are to stop these gangs?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to say that the scenes of what is happening are deeply depressing, concerning and worrying, which is why we want to discourage people from making this journey. On the help that we can give, as I have said, we have given resources and personnel to Frontex, even though we are not a member of that organisation, and we have given resources—more than most other European countries—to the European Asylum Support Office, which is providing a lot of the technical support. I will certainly look at what Europol needs and its requirements, but it can always make a business case to us for more support.

Photo of Andrew Rosindell Andrew Rosindell Conservative, Romford

On the pressing issue of the EU renegotiation, does the Prime Minister agree with small businesses in my constituency that want social and employment law to be brought back as a sovereign issue decided by the UK Parliament, not the European Union? Will he make that one of his red lines in his renegotiation?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I have set out the four areas on which I think we need to see progress in the negotiation. A lot has changed since the social chapter, which of course John Major kept us out of in the Maastricht treaty, but which has now, in effect, been put into the body of EU legislation. However, those four areas are the ones we are pursuing.

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Clearly we want to see a peaceful, stable and secure Turkey, but I do not think it would be right to link the arrangements that the EU is coming to with Turkey about migration, which are about financial support and Schengen countries’ visa arrangements, and the extra help that Turkey can provide on holding migrants in Turkey, with the issue that the hon. Gentleman raises.

Photo of Keith Simpson Keith Simpson Conservative, Broadland

On Syria, the Prime Minister said that EU members were going to try to persuade the Russians to attack ISIL. It seems to most of us that the Russians are attacking everybody but ISIL. How do we persuade them not to do that?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

My hon. Friend will be aware from my figures that 85% of the targets that Russia has attacked have not been ISIL targets. It is quite easy to tell that by looking at the parts of the country where the Russians have been attacking—ISIL are not in those parts of the country, but the Free Syrian Army and others are. It is true to say that some six days of Russian air strikes went by before a single ISIL target was attacked. The case that we have to make is that Russia, like us, is at risk of Islamist extremist violence. Indeed, in many ways, it is more at risk. Russia has a large Muslim population, principally a Sunni Muslim population. The fact that they are if anything helping ISIL by bombing the moderate opposition to Assad demonstrates that, at the moment, they are both on the side of the butcher Assad and also helping ISIL potentially to take territory as Syrian opposition groups that are not ISIL are attacked by the Russians. It is the wrong approach and we need to do everything we can to persuade them of that.

Photo of Gavin Robinson Gavin Robinson Shadow Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights)

The Prime Minister is well aware that this House has continued to consider the humanitarian crisis and the refugees from Syria. I do not think that anyone in this House has suggested that the right hon. Gentleman has either been excessive or premature in his response, but will he indicate whether, during the summer, he offered any regrets, or received any regrets from his European counterparts during their considerations?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

If the hon. Gentleman is asking whether anybody at the European Council criticised the British approach, the answer is no, there was no criticism of our approach. It is understood that we are taking 20,000 refugees. We have always been clear about exercising our opt-out on the quota, and there is a lot of respect for us for the money that we have put into the refugee camps. One way that we can demonstrate that we want to help our European partners at this time of need for them—these are very difficult debates about having hotspots in countries where people are arriving, how we distribute people around the European Union, and the massive pressure that is currently on Germany, Austria and Sweden—is to offer our technical expertise at the border, and that is where we are giving support and where we can contribute more if necessary.

Photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg Conservative, North East Somerset

My right hon. Friend said that we have maintained our own border controls. I wonder how effective he thinks that is when we admitted 183,000 economic migrants from the European Union last year and how effective it will continue to be if he and the German Chancellor have their wish and Turkey becomes a full member.

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

On the issue of Turkey, one point I have made about our renegotiation is that we should treat accession countries in a totally different way in terms of unfettered rights to come to Britain. We made that very clear from the start of our renegotiation. We think that these transitional periods have been too short and that it was wrong when they were not properly used. It is important to note that we have borders and border controls in the way that Schengen countries do not. One question that we will have to ask ourselves as a country as we get towards the end of this renegotiation process is, can we guarantee that we will be able to have the excellent juxtaposed border controls in France that we have today if we do not have an adequate relationship with the European Union? That will be an important point.

Photo of Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Trade and Investment)

All negotiations involve a degree of give and take on both sides. Does the Prime Minister not think that his chances of securing support from the member states for his proposals—whatever the details of those may be—would be enhanced by him playing his full, proper and proportionate part in the Syrian refugee crisis, which certainly does not mean fewer than two refugees per constituency by Christmas?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I do not agree with the hon. Lady’s point. People look at Britain’s contribution, particularly our financial contribution to the Syrian refugee crisis, and they see that we are playing a very full role. Although we are not in Schengen and do not have to opt in to these procedures, we are also helping in the ways that I have indicated.

Photo of Peter Bone Peter Bone Conservative, Wellingborough

I wonder whether I could help the Prime Minister. I think everyone in this House would agree that he is a very hard-working Prime Minister who has lots of things to deal with. He and I are very close on the issue of the European Union, and he is going to write to Europe next month. Would it be a help to the Prime Minister—and perhaps a birthday present to me—if he allowed me to draft that letter?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

There is only one thing that would be better than that, and that would be if Mrs Bone were holding the pen. I think it is safe to say that I will keep hold of the pen myself.

Photo of Pat McFadden Pat McFadden Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

Further to that question, may I ask the Prime Minister a bit more about this letter? Up until now, he has not wanted to write down his negotiating agenda precisely because he knows that he cannot satisfy many of those sitting behind him. Has not this enforced change of tactics been dragged out of him by European allies who are increasingly frustrated by the vagueness of his demands and increasingly irritated by the narrowness of his focus while they are trying to cope with the day-to-day reality of the eurozone crisis and the urgency of the refugee crisis?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I do not recognise that picture at all. I want to set out our approach in a letter to the European Council, and Council President Donald Tusk is particularly keen to receive that letter because the Council wants to know that we are looking for change in the four areas we have raised and that that is the breadth of the negotiation. I think the right hon. Gentlemen, like some others, has been reading too many newspapers and reports that want to hype all this up into a great row with people being angry or dissatisfied. If there was a meeting like that, it was not the one I attended.

Photo of Steven Baker Steven Baker Conservative, Wycombe

As the Secretary of State for Defence said yesterday, we are all Eurosceptics now, so does my right hon. Friend agree that the EU institutions ought not to campaign on either side or assist either campaign in the referendum, whether financially or otherwise? Will he accept the amendments in the House of Lords to that effect?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

The European Commission has said that it will not campaign in the referendum and those of us who want Britain to stay in a reformed European

Union probably breathed a sigh of relief when we had that news. There will clearly be an in campaign and an out campaign, and there will be plenty of material on which everyone can make up their mind.

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Shadow Minister (Energy and Climate Change)

With your customary perspicacity and eye for detail, Mr Speaker, you, too, will have noted that the section of the Prime Minister’s statement that is entitled “UK renegotiation” is punctuated with 14 separate “dot, dot, dot” gaps. Did the Prime Minister fill those gaps at the European Commission and did he lay down red lines to the commissioners? If so, will he state that to the House now?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I can put the hon. Gentleman out of his misery. I put the “dot, dot, dots” into my statement because sometimes I have a bit of trouble reading what I have written down. It is purely stylistic and has nothing to do with the content, but I think he knows that.

Photo of David Nuttall David Nuttall Conservative, Bury North

Which outcome does the Prime Minister think would be most helpful after he writes to the President of the European Council setting out his list of demands next month? He will either get everything on the list, in which case he will be accused of not asking for enough, or not get everything on the list, in which case he will be accused of having failed in the renegotiations. I should add that as I believe that the United Kingdom would be better off leaving the European Union, I will be equally satisfied whatever the outcome.

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I will make my hon. Friend happy whatever I do. I often read the fairy story of Goldilocks and the three bears and, obviously, we want the porridge to be at just the right temperature.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

Does the Prime Minister share my view and that of my constituents that in this turbulent world, with the migration crisis, the threat from Russia, the threat to our great steel industry and so many other things, we need European leadership? We need it to confront Russia, the Chinese exports of cheap steel and so many other things. Does he understand that people like me who are cautiously positive about Europe and want reform and an early referendum are worried to hear him say today that he wants to reduce Europe to just a trade association?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I very much agree with the hon. Gentleman. Like the British people, I want to know that our membership is principally about that common market that we wanted to join. However, as I put it in my party conference speech—I am sure he has read it—we should not just think about the things that we have got out of, such as the single currency or the Schengen agreement, but talk about the things that we have got Europe into, such as putting sanctions on Iran to get it to the negotiating table. We are on the brink of signing with American the biggest trade deal in our history, and we should be proud of that. It is something that was started by the British at the G8 summit in Northern Ireland. Let us talk about the positive things that Europe can achieve and which enhance our national prosperity and our national security.

Photo of Jeremy Lefroy Jeremy Lefroy Conservative, Stafford

I welcome the $222 million additional contribution to the World Food Programme. I also welcome the approach of our hon. Friend Richard Harrington, who is getting a real grip on the issue of refugees. May I ask that he be given whatever support he needs to hasten the movement of refugees who are indeed vulnerable from the camps around Syria?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I can certainly give my hon. Friend that assurance. Let me make a serious point to the bishops. To those organisations that want to help us to house, clothe, feed, school and look after these 20,000 people I say please help us to provide the very best welcome we can. I am sure the Church can play an important role in that.

Photo of Kelvin Hopkins Kelvin Hopkins Labour, Luton North

On 29 June, the Prime Minister set out 24 pledges for his renegotiation of UK membership of the EU. It seems that 14 of those pledges have been dropped, and most of the other 10 are unlikely to be accepted at the EU, with some requiring treaty change. The promised November letter is already looking a bit thin, so can I offer to help him put a bit more substance in it?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman, who has never wavered in his view that everything to do with the European Union is wrong and we need to get out of it—he has been pretty clear about that. I have been very consistent. He can read in our manifesto what we want to change in Europe, and that is exactly what our four points are all about.

Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin Chair, Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Chair, Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee

Will my right hon. Friend join me in commending one of our foremost business leaders, who has said that the idea that investment will flee the United Kingdom if we leave the EU is “scaremongering”, saying that the EU

“is an overinflated bureaucracy. There are too many unelected people…who are trying to get even more power”?

He also said:

“It’s not going to be a step change or somebody’s going to turn the lights out”,

and

“if you vote to come out in the referendum, you’re not going to suddenly find on the Monday morning I can’t do this, this and this.”

Does my right hon. Friend agree with Lord Rose, who is chairman of the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I certainly think that Lord Rose has said many sensible things about this issue, and he does not take a wildly hysterical view on either side. The truth is this: some people said that even having a referendum would lead to such uncertainty that people would not invest in Britain. We know that that is not the case. We are a massive recipient of inward investment. The only point I would make is that as we get closer to the debate on whether Britain can stay in a reformed European Union, those of us who want that outcome will be able to point clearly to what business gets from Britain being in the single market with a vote and a say, and those, like my hon. Friend, who might want to leave, will have to answer the question of what guarantees they can get on single market access and single market negotiation ability. I think that the business argument will increasingly concentrate on that very important point.

Photo of Debbie Abrahams Debbie Abrahams Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

The Prime Minister referred to 8,000 refugees a day entering Germany which, for comparison, is double what we will receive in one year. Given that, will he expand on an earlier response and explain why he thinks that the 84 Church of England bishops who think that the Government’s response to the refugee crisis is inadequate are wrong and he is right?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I think they are wrong and I am right for the following reason: as we are outside the Schengen agreement and do not have to opt in to the European quota, the best thing we can do is to help Europe with its border arrangements and processing systems, which we are doing, and then take refugees directly from the camps so that we can take the most vulnerable people and, as we do that, not encourage people to make this dangerous journey to Europe. That is why I think it is the right approach, but where I would like to work with the bishops is in making sure we offer the warmest possible welcome to people when they come.

Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester

The Prime Minister called for an ISIL and Assad-free Syria, although encouraging the Russians to target ISIL risks relatively strengthening Assad. While the Syrians continue to suffer in this increasingly complicated civil war, how does my right hon. Friend think we can persuade Assad’s army to stop barrel-bombing his own people?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

We should seek to persuade President Assad not to use barrel bombs against his own people, not least because they are illegal under international law because in many cases he is using chemical weapons. We have to be frank that in many ways the reason why the Russians became more involved in the conflict is that they feared that Assad was on the brink of falling. What we need to do now is get to a situation where it is clear that there is a stalemate and the only way forward for Syria is to have a new Government, who can of course have a relationship with Russia and Iran, but who are also capable of governing on behalf of all the people of Syria, not just the Alawites, but the Sunnis, the Christians and the Kurds.

Photo of Stephen Gethins Stephen Gethins Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe)

Research made available to me from the House of Commons Library showed that we spent 13 times more bombing Libya than we did on reconstruction efforts afterwards. Does the Prime Minister think he got that right? What lessons can be drawn from the Libyan campaigns in terms of long-term strategic planning for Syria?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

In the Libyan campaign we acted in response to a potential humanitarian catastrophe when Gaddafi was about to murder his own people. After that conflict we stood ready to help the new Libyan Government in any way they wanted help. I brought them to the G8 summit in Northern Ireland. We tried to help them train some of their security forces. We were ready to help in any way we could. It has to be remembered that Libya is not a poor country.

It is a middle-income country with huge oil resources which, if spent in the right direction, could help the welfare of its people, but it did not take that path. That is the tragedy for the people of Libya.

Photo of Neil Carmichael Neil Carmichael Chair, Education Committee, Chair, Education Committee

Does the Prime Minister agree that the aviation sector, both airline operations and aircraft manufacture, demonstrates the success and value of Britain being a member of the single market, and also that the ever-reforming European Union will pack a bigger punch in getting more free trade agreements, which will benefit that sector and all other sectors?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

If people who are wondering about Britain’s relationship with Europe want to see some tangible consumer benefits rather than the arcane things that we can talk about in this House, the open skies policy, the cut in air fares and the availability of cheap air travel in Europe have probably been among the biggest changes we have seen in the past 20 years. I hope that the agreement we have recently come to on getting rid of roaming charges will make it much cheaper for holidaymakers and Britons to use their mobile phones abroad. We need to focus on some of these things.

Britain has a very strong aviation sector and I am sure it will make its voice heard during the debate.

Photo of Patrick Grady Patrick Grady Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Development)

Why is a double majority procedure appropriate for English votes for English laws in this House, but not in the European referendum, risking Scotland being taken out of the EU against its will?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

The point about the referendum on the European Union is that this is a decision for the whole of the United Kingdom to take. When we look across the United Kingdom and ask what people in this family of nations think about the idea of having a referendum, from the opinion polls I have seen it is equally popular in Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Everybody in our country wants a say on this issue, and quite right too.

Photo of Jason McCartney Jason McCartney Conservative, Colne Valley

I am very proud that the United Kingdom is the second largest bilateral international aid donor to Syria. Will the Prime Minister confirm that this aid is making a real difference to the lives of Syrian refugees in the region?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I can certainly confirm that. I have seen that with my own eyes, because we give major funding donations to the formal refugee camps, many of which are in Jordan and some of which are in Turkey. We also give a lot of bilateral aid to the neighbouring countries—Lebanon and Jordan. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development is no longer here, but we have a number of aid programmes that try to support Syrians who are staying in their homes. The figures are still these: 12 million Syrian people have been made homeless and so far only about 4% of them have made the journey to Europe.

Photo of Mark Hendrick Mark Hendrick Labour/Co-operative, Preston

When is the Prime Minister going to stop playing cat and mouse with Members of this House, the British public and our

European partners with regard to his negotiating position? He mentioned four key areas, three of which are “motherhood and apple pie” issues that we could all agree to, but on ever-closer union, does he seriously think that our European partners are going to back down on that?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I believe that I will get the outcome that we need. The hon. Gentleman should look at the four areas. They are all important and they are all significant. They all go very directly to the things that the British people have been concerned about in Europe: that it can be a brake on competitiveness, and that needs to change; that it can have ambitions to be a superstate rather than a common market, and that needs to change; that we need more control over our welfare, and that needs to change; and that we need proper fairness whether you are in the euro or out of the euro. That is a serious negotiating package, and that is what I will be taking forward in the coming weeks.

Photo of David Rutley David Rutley Conservative, Macclesfield

The recent progress made by Turkey in achieving more of its aims in its relationship with the EU shows that the EU can change when it focuses its mind and when there is a greater sense of urgency. Does my right hon. Friend agree that EU member states, and the EU’s institutions, should now be giving greater focus to his reform agenda, because the majority in this House and across the country believe that that is a clear priority and that the situation is increasingly urgent?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I agree with my hon. Friend. We have approached this in a very calm and sober way, winning a majority at a British general election, setting out the plans for renegotiation with a mandate behind us, going to see each of the 27 Presidents and Prime Ministers, getting it on to the European Council agenda, and setting a deadline of 2017 but giving ourselves plenty of time to conduct the negotiation. Yes, it is urgent, and yes, it is important, but we should take the time to get it right.

Photo of Chris Matheson Chris Matheson Labour, City of Chester

Does the Prime Minister agree that in the past the European Union has played a useful political role—for example, in helping to integrate former communist bloc nations into the sphere of democratic politics after 1989-90? When he sends his letter to the President of the Council, will he come back to this House to discuss its contents?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I agree with the hon. Gentleman about the former communist countries of eastern Europe. It has been a real success for the European Union that these countries are now committed to democracy and to economic freedoms. That was very much the British agenda, and the British agenda has come through. In terms of the letter, obviously I will keep the House regularly updated.

Photo of Angela Watkinson Angela Watkinson Conservative, Hornchurch and Upminster

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the excellent job being done by our Royal Navy in the Mediterranean in combating the criminal gangs of people-traffickers underlines the importance of keeping to our commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defence?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Yes, my hon. Friend is absolutely right. Of course, the aid commitment has been hugely helpful in making sure that we can respond very rapidly to the humanitarian needs, but some hard military power is required, not least in stopping these people-traffickers, boarding their boats and arresting them. That requires military power, and you cannot have that without proper spending plans.

Photo of Emma Reynolds Emma Reynolds Labour, Wolverhampton North East

If the UK was outside the EU, which many of the Prime Minister’s right hon. and hon. Friends seem to want more than anything else, what position would he have been in last week to influence European discussions on the refugee crisis, on Syria, and on the middle east? If we were not members of the European Union, would not the border most probably move back from Calais to Dover?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

The direct answer to the hon. Lady’s question is obviously that if we were not in the EU we would not be in those discussions. I am trying to secure for Britain what I would call the best of both worlds, which is that we are involved in those discussions, but where we have a discrete national interest in not joining the euro, maintaining our border controls and not being in an ever-closer union, we have that specifically set out properly in the treaty. As for her second question—I cannot remember what it was on—

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Oh, borders. Well, I think that is unknowable. There is a very good agreement between Britain and France that is in the interests of both our countries. We know that it can be maintained with the current arrangements, but it will be for those who are arguing to leave the European Union to discuss and explain those points.

Photo of Rehman Chishti Rehman Chishti Conservative, Gillingham and Rainham

The Prime Minister said that the conclusions set out what is necessary. Let me, if I may, take him to paragraph 4, line 4 of the conclusions, which says:

“The European Council agreed on the need to focus on the fight against DAESH”.

The document makes no reference at all to “ISIL”. Given that the United Kingdom has agreed to this document, will we now officially use the word “Daesh”, which will help us to defeat this evil organisation’s propaganda campaign?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

My hon. Friend is very persistent and quite convincing. I have just written him a letter to say that, in all our communications with Arab states and partners that use the terminology “Daesh”, we also now use the terminology “Daesh”. Clearly, that now involves the European Union as well. I am comfortable that we should never say “Islamic State” or “IS”, because I think that confers some legitimacy on them, but I think that if we use “so-called” or, indeed, the term “ISIL”, it is clear what we are referring to.

Photo of Peter Dowd Peter Dowd Labour, Bootle

On the Prime Minister’s elliptical statement on renegotiation, what particular regulations and red tape does he envisage need be cut to ensure enhanced competitiveness, as he is in danger of sounding a bit vague and of outlining more of a wish list than a to-do list?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

It is both a wish list—it is things we want—and a to-do list, because we are going to do them.

Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley

Given that hundreds of thousands of migrants are trying to get into the EU from Libya and Syria, is there anything to stop other EU countries giving those people citizenship and therefore allowing them to travel right across the EU, including to the UK, under the principle of free movement of people for EU citizens? Does the Prime Minister accept that the EU will never give up on that principle, and does he therefore agree that anybody who wants proper control of our borders will have to vote to leave the EU in the forthcoming referendum?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

My hon. Friend makes an important point that will be debated and discussed a lot in the forthcoming referendum. Obviously, in many cases, people who go to other European states will not get EU citizenship, or citizenship of those states, for many years, so they will not be able to travel freely around the European Union. That is important and we should not mislead people about it. One of the things we want to tighten up in the current rules is the ability of foreign nationals living in other European countries to marry EU nationals and then have access to the UK. We would like that particular judgment to be overturned.

Photo of Stewart McDonald Stewart McDonald Scottish National Party, Glasgow South

What exactly is this benefits shopping that the Prime Minister speaks of? It is probably the greatest canard in British politics right now, because I do not know what it is and it seems that his European counterparts do not know either. Rather than being driven by the suspicion of Johnny Foreigner that plagues his Back Benchers and, indeed, his Home Secretary, will the Prime Minister stand up for the freedom of movement, which has enriched this country so greatly over the years?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Let me try to help the hon. Gentleman. Of course, there is an issue—a relatively small issue—of people coming to different European countries and claiming benefits to which they are not entitled. That should be, and is being, stopped: it is now not possible to come here and immediately claim unemployment benefit. The bigger problem, which my renegotiation is examining, is that someone who comes from another European country to Britain is able, in the first year, to access in-work benefits of perhaps as much as €10,000 or €12,000. This is about being able to control our own welfare system to reduce the pressures of migration. European leaders and the British people understand that, even if it has not got through to the SNP yet.

Photo of Andrew Stephenson Andrew Stephenson Conservative, Pendle

I welcome what the Prime Minister has said about the migrant crisis. He will know, of course, that some of the transit countries are bearing the brunt of it. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has today said that more than 10,000 migrants are currently stranded in Serbia because of limits imposed further west in Europe, and he has complained about aid shortages. Could the Prime Minister say more about what he and other EU leaders are doing to help Syria deal with this crisis?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

We certainly stand ready to help any country. One point that needs to be made is that all of the countries that migrants are crossing are, of course, safe countries for the purpose of claiming asylum. I think that one of the longer-term answers to the crisis is to make sure that we have a system whereby people claim asylum in the first safe country they reach.

Photo of Stephen Kinnock Stephen Kinnock Labour, Aberavon

The Prime Minister is aware of the fact that the British steel industry faces a crisis and that massive dumping of Chinese steel is a major contributory factor. Does he agree that all of the other steel-producing nations in the EU are much smarter at applying anti-dumping measures, and that it is time for the UK to smarten up how it uses such measures and to act unilaterally where necessary?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I would say to the hon. Gentleman, first, that we voted with others to put in place the anti-dumping fines—that is important—and we are also working very hard with the steel industry to address excessive energy costs and to get that through the European permission regime. We are also setting out, in our infrastructure plan, our steel needs in the years ahead.

One of the key things we need to do is to look at exactly what other European countries do in making sure, where possible, that we source steel for our own infrastructure needs from our own country. If other countries can do it within the rules, we should do exactly as they do.

Photo of Wendy Morton Wendy Morton Conservative, Aldridge-Brownhills

We all want to see an end to the Syrian migration crisis. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that will be achieved only if we have a considered and comprehensive approach to tackling the crisis, using British aid to help people in the region to tackle the evil gangs and working to bring to an end the civil war in Syria?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. This is only going to work if we have such a comprehensive approach. Easily the most difficult part of it is ending the conflict in Syria, but that will be absolutely key to bringing the crisis to an end.

Photo of Tom Blenkinsop Tom Blenkinsop Labour, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland

Did the Prime Minister not raise the steel crisis because he is embarrassed by the fact that his own carbon floor tax makes us less competitive than our EU allies, that he has personally failed to act on Chinese dumping—unlike our EU and US allies—and that he personally rejected calls to request European globalisation adjustment funds for more than 5,000 directly affected steel workers?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I understand that the hon. Gentleman wants, rightly, to stand up for his constituents and the area he represents, but I do not see any point in trying to play politics over this issue. The British Government are doing everything that we can, and every issue that we can take up, we will. What I would say to him and other hon. Members who represent such constituencies is: work with us, and we will do everything we can to help these industries.

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Conservative, Corby

Did my right hon. Friend have the opportunity to raise at the meetings the rules already in place through the World Trade Organisation to address the dumping of steel on our market? We need action on this, and will he please go away and, on behalf of Members from across the House, make the strongest possible case to the Chinese President that this is unacceptable?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

As I have said, we will take every step that we can—there is looking at the UK demand for steel, there is looking at energy costs, there is looking at any other issues that affect such companies unfairly and there is making sure that we act in Europe in a way that others do, if it is legal, to source steel from our own country. But, there is a problem, which is that the steel price has fallen by more than a half, and that is affecting steel producers the world over. Acting within those constraints, we will do everything we possibly can.

Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs), Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

To assist the Prime Minister in gaining support among the lawyers and bishops who have been so scathing about his refugee policy, may I suggest that he reconsiders the EU relocation scheme—albeit an EU relocation scheme, which he would be justified in seeking changes to—to ensure it recognises the financial contribution the UK makes to the camps near Syria, the 0.7% of gross national income contribution the UK makes, the projected growth in our population and our population density?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I think it is better for us to decide, democratically in this House, the approach we should take. By saying we will take people from the camps and make that our contribution, together with our financial contribution, I think Britain is fulfilling its moral responsibilities in the world, and using its head as well as its heart. I will defend that with any bishop or any lawyer who wants to have the discussion with me.

Photo of Nicholas Dakin Nicholas Dakin Shadow Minister (Education)

A major reason why the steel price has dropped internationally and jobs are being lost—5,000 jobs in the last month alone in the UK—is down to the Chinese dumping of steel. The Chinese dumping of steel is both grabbing market share and taking value out, which is why we want to work, cross-party, with the Government to tackle this issue urgently and to match the standard of the US and some of our European neighbours in tackling this issue. Will the Prime Minister work with us on that?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I absolutely will. I know how hard the hon. Gentleman works on this issue. We will look at all the matters that he raises. As I say, we will look very carefully at what other European countries and other European steel producers do. They are suffering, too. This fall in world prices is not caused simply by the action taken by China; it is an economic impact of the changing pattern in world demand, as he well knows. But inside those constraints, we should do everything we can.

Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Health)

As the Prime Minister has toured Europe’s capitals to talk to his counterparts about subsidiarity, what discussions has he had about the deepening of the common security and defence policy? What does he envisage Britain’s role in that to be, particularly in the European operational headquarters?

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Until the last sentence, I was in almost full agreement with the hon. Gentleman. I am a great believer in British influence, prosperity and national security. Those things often mean acting in concert with others. That is why we are a member of the European Union and NATO. That is why we have British frigates operating in the Mediterranean and why we helped to pass a UN Security Council resolution so that we can take action against the pirates. That is all good. It is about political will, action and having a military that we can deploy—love all of that. Is another European headquarters really what this world needs, when there is already a NATO one? I would say that it is duplication, it is wasteful and it is exactly the sort of thing we should not be doing.