With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the G7 summit in Quebec. The G7 is a forum that allows close allies with shared history and values to discuss issues that affect the security and prosperity of our people, and of the world at large. Discussion at this year’s summit focused on our shared efforts to promote the rules-based international order; to advance free and fair global trade by making the global economy work for everyone; to strive for equal opportunities for all our citizens; and to drive further action to protect the environment, and, in particular, our oceans.
As was clear over the weekend, there was strong debate and disagreement on some issues. But after detailed discussions between both leaders and our teams, we were able to find common ground and draw up a communiqué that reflected those discussions and the agreements we reached. I want to pay a particular tribute to Prime Minister Trudeau for his leadership and skilful chairing, which enabled us, after two days of negotiation between leaders, to agree actions and a shared approach on some of the most pressing challenges facing the international community and our citizens. The United Kingdom fully intends to honour the commitments we have made.
Recent events have underlined the importance of a strong international response to malign state activity. We cannot stand by when international law is undermined, when the security of our citizens is compromised and when foreign interference in our democratic institutions threatens the values and interests that we share. So at this summit we agreed to establish a new rapid response mechanism. As a result, G7 nations will work together to share intelligence, co-ordinate action and develop new strategies to tackle this growing threat. We also agreed that we must maintain the global norm against the use of chemical weapons and that we will strengthen the ability of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to attribute responsibility for chemical weapons attacks. We all agreed in our discussions and our communiqué that we need to maintain sanctions on Russia, in the light of its failure to fully implement the Minsk agreements in Ukraine, and that we stand ready to take further restrictive measures if necessary.
Turning to trade and the global economy, it is clear that in many of our countries some people feel left behind by globalisation, and not all countries are playing by the rules. We must address that. We need to make the international rules-based trading system work better, so that the benefits of free trade can be felt by all. That includes encouraging the World Trade Organisation to operate more effectively in supporting a global economy that works for everyone. Multilateral action is the right way to achieve this; it cannot be done by taking unilateral action against our partners. So at this summit we expressed deep disappointment at the unjustified decision of the United States to apply tariffs to steel and aluminium imports. The loss of trade through tariffs undermines competition, reduces productivity, removes the incentive to innovate and, ultimately, makes everyone poorer. In response, the EU will impose countermeasures, but we need to avoid a continued tit-for-tat escalation. That is why it was right that we had such an open and direct discussion at this summit and why, as a champion of free trade, the UK will continue to support a constructive dialogue. As long-standing allies, we do not make progress by ignoring each other’s concerns; rather, we do so by addressing them together.
Turning to equality, there was a special session at this summit focused on empowering and supporting women and girls around the world. Efforts to tackle global poverty are fundamentally undermined for as long as millions of girls are not getting the education they deserve, so at this summit the United Kingdom announced £187 million of new funding to support over 400,000 girls in developing countries in getting 12 years of quality education.
We also called for new action to prevent gender-based violence, abuse and harassment online. Women and girls must be able to use the internet without fear of being subjected to online rape threats, harassment, cyber-stalking, blackmail and more.
Following the UK’s call for action last year, tech companies have made real advances in tackling online terrorist propaganda, so in Canada I called for this work to be extended to end the abuse targeted specifically at women and girls. We committed in particular to new joint working on stopping the internet being used to facilitate people trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation.
Finally, on World Oceans Day, the UK sought to build on the international agreements we reached at the Commonwealth summit in April by calling for a global effort to protect our oceans from avoidable plastic waste. This is one of the great environmental challenges facing the world today. The summit recognised the need for global action, including work with business, industry and non-governmental organisations, to find innovative solutions. The UK is continuing to lead by example at home through our 25-year environment plan, and on Friday we proposed to extend the blue belt protecting sea life around the English coast with a further 41 new marine conservation zones.
This was a difficult summit with, at times, some very candid discussions, but the conclusion I draw is that it is only through continued dialogue that we can find ways to work together to resolve the challenges we face. The countries round the G7 table have been pillars of the rules-based international order, which has benefited all our citizens and, I believe, the world as a whole. The United Kingdom, with our allies and partners, will continue to play our part in promoting that order to the benefit of all. I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Prime Minister for an advance copy of her statement. In her last couple of sentences, she almost gave us an inkling of the atmosphere there must have been at the summit. We could do with more.
The G7 meeting can only be described as a failure, and the blame for that lies with the current incumbent of the White House. In the past, the G7 has played a positive role in responding to the global financial crisis, and indeed in pushing forward the millennium development goals and now the sustainable development goals. The problem facing leaders is that the White House is inhabited by a President committed to his slogan, “America first”. That has meant a dismantling of multilateral agreements, pulling out of the Paris climate change accords, the destabilisation of the Iran nuclear deal and now the imposition of tariffs on steel and aluminium.
Attempts by G7 leaders, including President Macron and the Prime Minister, to engage with President Trump have resulted in no discernible moderation or deviation from “America first”. In these circumstances, it is clearer than ever that UK policy, whether trade or foreign policy, cannot be outsourced to the US. Will the Prime Minister join me in condemning the comment of President Trump’s trade adviser that:
“There’s a special place in hell” for Justin Trudeau?
The use of chemical weapons, whether on the streets of Salisbury or in the cities of Syria, is deplorable, and the perpetrators of these crimes must be held to account under international law. The leaders of France and Germany, and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, are right to call for continued political dialogue through the NATO-Russia Council. Will the Prime Minister commit to lead on establishing that dialogue at the NATO summit next month?
For European countries, it is vital that unity is maintained, both in support of the Iran nuclear deal and over trade policy. UK jobs are dependent upon our exports, and it is therefore vital that we robustly defend those interests with multilateral agreed action. However, this must not descend into escalating a tit-for-tat trade war, so what steps are the Government taking with our allies to mitigate that threat?
That is not the only threat to our exporting industries and skilled jobs in this country. In the current climate, that puts a particular obligation on each of us in the Chamber as we consider the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill this week. We must act to guide the Government in negotiations so that our industry, our workers and our communities get the best possible Brexit deal. That concern must be even more acute in the light of the announcement by Jaguar Land Rover that the production of the Discovery model will now happen in Slovakia.
While she was at the G7, did the Prime Minister raise with European leaders the crisis of the Aquarius ship, which the Italian Government refused to allow to dock? I want to put on record my thanks to the Spanish Government and Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez for showing humanity in accepting the rescue ship.
I welcome the fact that the Prime Minister raised the issue of online abuse and the harassment of women and girls as a global problem, but will she today commit to begin negotiations immediately with political parties in Northern Ireland to bring forward legislation to extend abortion rights and end what the United Nations has denounced as a violation of international human rights standards?
On the environment, the Prime Minister’s wafer-thin so-called national plan fails to match her rhetoric on the global stage. There was nothing to tackle deadly levels of air pollution in our cities or the disgracefully low levels of recycling in this country. We can only ever be taken seriously abroad if we speak from a position of moral authority and respect and without any double standards. I appeal to the Prime Minister again today finally to suspend UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia. With a more unilateral United States Government, it is more important than ever that we work with our allies and that we do so based on social justice, equality and human rights.
The right hon. Gentleman raised a number of issues, some of which were not on the agenda of the Quebec summit. I will do my best to address the issues that actually were on that agenda.
The right hon. Gentleman talks about the environment and the 25-year environment plan here in the United Kingdom. In fact, the United Kingdom is seen throughout the world as a leader on many environmental issues, not least in the work that we have been doing in relation to plastics. I was pleased to get agreement at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting on action that we are taking in relation to clearing our oceans of plastics. It was important that there was agreement from the G7 as well that action should be taken on this issue. As a Commonwealth country, we have a responsibility in this regard. Many small island states in the Commonwealth are already feeling the problems caused by this issue, especially in the impact on their oceans, and it is important that we act on that issue.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about the relationship with Russia. As we have discussed, and as I said in my statement, it is important that we recognise the need to maintain sanctions on Russia given that the Minsk agreements have not yet been fully put into place and that we stand ready to take further restrictive measures if necessary. He said that Russia plays a role in Syria. Indeed, Russia does play such a role. What we want to see is that the efforts to bring about a political solution and future stability and security for Syria and the Syrian people come through continuing the United Nations process.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about the attitude of the United States of America and whether we are working together as allies. We should, of course, look at the recent action that the US has taken in support of the United Kingdom. It expelled a number of Russian diplomats in solidarity with us after the Salisbury incident, as indeed did other countries around the world. The Americans have recently taken action on Russia by imposing more sanctions.
What is important is that we are able to sit down and talk about these issues together, share the information that we need to share and determine the way forward. On the steel and aluminium tariffs, I was very clear—I have been clear directly to President Trump and I have been clear in this House and elsewhere—that they are unjustified, and the European Union will take countermeasures on them. We want to ensure that we can get a dialogue going forward so that we do not simply see a continuous tit-for-tat escalation on these measures, because that is in the interests of nobody. We will be playing our part, as we have done already, in discussions with others around the European Council table to ensure that the EU is able to take the right proportionate action in line with the World Trade Organisation rules. Of course, the EU is taking a case at the WTO on this very issue.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about the importance of trade, saying that this country depends on exports. Well, of course we are an exporting country. I want to see more companies around the United Kingdom exporting. The Department for International Trade and the Secretary of State are doing excellent work in increasing the number of companies that are exporting around the world. But if we are going to export around the world, we need to be able to ensure that we are negotiating trade deals with other countries and that we negotiate a good trade deal with the European Union, but that we are free to negotiate the trade deals that are in our interests.
The right hon. Gentleman may stand up here and talk about the importance of exports, but it is of course the Labour party’s policy to put the United Kingdom into a relationship with the European Union that would mean that, without being a member of the EU, we would hand over the negotiation of trade deals to the EU. That would certainly not be in our interests.
Does not last week’s summit sadly demonstrate that President Trump has little or no time for multilateral meetings or multilateral agreements, and no time at all for the WTO and its rules, and that he wants to take steps that he hopes will force rich and developed countries like ours to export less to the United States and to import more from politically-sensitive sectors of the American economy? Does not the Prime Minister reflect on last week’s unfortunate events and think about when she negotiates in Europe? Although things are going to change when we leave the European Union, does she not think that we must keep frictionless trade and as many qualities of a single market, customs union and totally free trade as we possibly can, because we are probably going to need it more in the near future than we have in the past?
As my right hon. and learned Friend will know, we have set out very clearly the objectives we have for our future customs arrangements with the European Union, which indeed reflect having as frictionless trade as possible, alongside being able to negotiate our own trade deals with an independent trade policy and having no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. As we leave the European Union, we want to ensure that we have a good trading relationship with the EU, but we also want to have an independent trade policy that enables us to negotiate trade deals around the rest of the world.
I thank the Prime Minister for the advanced copy of her statement.
I will start by congratulating all those who marched yesterday in Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast and London to celebrate 100 years of the women’s vote. It is very fitting that the G7 had such a strong focus on advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment. The Scottish National party strongly welcomes the Charlevoix declarations on increasing safe and quality education for all girls, particularly in conflict-affected and fragile states, and further declarations on resolving to end all forms of sexual and gender-based violence.
It is of course right that the summit shone a light into some of the most hostile conflict zones around the world. SNP Members fully support the urgent call to address the dire and deteriorating situation in the Gaza strip. The urgency could not be more apparent, as the UN has been clear that the Gaza strip will be uninhabitable by 2020.
On matters of the global economy, the G7 sought to invest in growth for all. Underlining the role of rules-based international trading systems and continuing to fight protectionism drew a wall of intransigence from the President of the United States. The summit may have been a diplomatic disaster, but in an increasingly fractured world the co-operation of world leaders is essential if we are to strive for peace and prosperity.
Before going to Ottawa, the Prime Minister was pushed around by her hard Brexit supporting Ministers; some might say that she was Trumped. The looming trade war with the US demonstrates the weakness in the so-called special relationship, and I associate my remarks with the observation made by Mr Clarke. Does not the Prime Minister agree, following the chaotic summit she attended at the weekend, that her Brexiteer sidekicks’ belief that this Government can secure a trade deal with the US post Brexit is simply delusional?
First, I add my congratulations to those of the right hon. Gentleman to all those who took action to recognise the 100 years’ anniversary of women getting the vote. This is a very good year for women in politics. We should continue to recognise that anniversary.
There was indeed, as the right hon. Gentleman said, a focus at the Charlevoix summit on the question of gender equality and women’s empowerment. As he said, there was the important declaration on increasing opportunities for at least 12 years of safe and quality education for all, and to dismantling the barriers to girls’ and women’s quality education, particularly in emergencies and in conflict-affected and fragile states. We also recognised that marginalised girls, such as those with disability, face additional barriers in maintaining access to education. That was an important commitment from all those around the table.
The right hon. Gentleman ended up by talking about trade deals and the possibility of a trade deal with the United States of America. We have committed, when we have an independent trade policy, to ensuring that we are able to put in place trade deals around the rest of the world. The United States has been speaking to us about the possibility of such a trade deal. Of course, when we negotiate with the United States, or indeed any other country around the world, we will be ensuring that we negotiate in the interests of the United Kingdom. But we do believe that that free trade—those open markets—is the best way to bring prosperity, to bring jobs, to encourage competition, to increase productivity, and to encourage innovation, which, at the end of the day, is what advances medicine and advances people’s lives in so many different ways. We will be looking forward, as I say, to making sure that we do trade deals that are firmly in the interests of this country.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that global free trade has been the single biggest reason why poverty around the globe has fallen so dramatically over the past few years, and that the UK, as an exponent of free trade, stands on that position and wants to advance it? So apart from the particular place in hell that Mr Trudeau apparently must occupy, did she hear, as I saw in a report today, that the American delegation maintain that they offered unilateral free trade to all the G7, but that this was rebuffed? Does she recall that particular conversation?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right that free trade is one of the best ways of ensuring that developing countries are able to move themselves out of poverty and improve the lot of their populations, and it is very important that we continue to advocate it. There was a discussion about the possibility of completely open and free trade, but open, free and fair trade. That means not just tariff-free but also dismantling barriers to trade. It also means ensuring that there are no anti-competitive, unfair subsidies.
With bitter divisions on trade and the imposition of tariffs by the US that are indeed undermining the international rules-based order of which the Prime Minister spoke, what impact does she think this will have on the timing and the content of any trade deal with the United States of America, bearing in mind that the backstop proposal she published last week for Northern Ireland will mean that we are going to be remaining in a customs union with the European Union until the end of 2021, and possibly for longer?
In relation to the timing of trade deals with America, or indeed with any other country, the right hon. Gentleman knows full well that we are not able to put those in place until we have fully left the European Union. We will be able to talk about these issues—to sign and negotiate those treaties—in advance of that.
The right hon. Gentleman talks about the backstop. The point of the backstop is that it is there if, as at
Given that it is nearly four years since 10 British citizens were murdered when flight MH17 was destroyed over Ukraine by a Russian missile launcher and the west is still trying to refute Russian denials of responsibility, can the Prime Minister tell the House how the very welcome rapid response mechanism agreed in Quebec will help us to better challenge Russian misinformation with much faster truth?
My right hon. Friend raises a very important point. The point of the rapid response mechanism is that it will be able to do that in two ways. First, one of the key things is to have faster attribution when these events happen; of course, we have only relatively recently seen a final attribution in relation to the Russian role in MH17. It is about being able to work together to achieve faster attribution when incidents happen and then—this is the crucial point—to co-ordinate activity to counter exactly the propaganda that he mentions. Working collectively will have a much greater impact than individual states trying to work on their own.
The right hon. Gentleman asks what the point of the G7 is. He should look at the communiqué to see the agreed actions that we will be putting in place, which will be of benefit across areas relating not just to trade and foreign policy but the empowerment of women and girls.
I congratulate the Prime Minister on her resolve at the G7 in standing up for women’s rights, the environment, free trade and the international rules-based order, but given events there, what appraisal has she made of President Trump’s likely approach to trade deals with the United Kingdom after Britain leaves the European Union?
The President of the United States has always made it clear that he is keen to be able to sit down and talk with the UK about a future trade deal. We are also clear that we want to ensure that we have a trade deal that works for the United Kingdom, but let us not forget that we already have a good trading and investment relationship with the US. Every working day, 1 million people in the United Kingdom wake up and go to work for an American company, and 1 million people in the United States wake up and go to work for a British company.
The right hon. Gentleman asks about a police inquiry, which of course is a matter for the police, and the body responsible for looking at elections and the democratic process is the Electoral Commission. He asks about the comments made by President Trump on the G7 versus the G8. There was a good reason why the G8 became the G7—Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea—and the response I have given both in private and in public is that any conversations about whether or not Russia could come back round the table cannot take place until Russia has changed its attitude.
I assure my right hon. Friend that we are indeed working on establishing ourselves as an independent member of the WTO at the point at which it will be possible to become one, having left the European Union.
Does the Prime Minister agree that never since the war has the international rules-based system been more at risk following the outcome of the G7 summit and particularly President Trump’s behaviour, with his tweet deck on Air Force One after he left? How does she think we can shore up the international rules-based system? All of us who study history know what the consequences of its collapse may be.
The hon. Lady refers to the international rules-based order. That can be looked at in a variety of ways. If we take an issue such as the norms that we all accept or have been accepting on chemical weapons, there is absolutely no doubt about the strength of support there is for action to ensure that those international norms and that rules-based order are maintained. As we say in the communiqué, we recognise in areas like trade that the World Trade Organisation needs reform. Its dispute resolution mechanisms are very slow, and we need to work to ensure that it provides frameworks for not just the economies of the past but the economies of the future—in digitisation and services, for example.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the building of the international order, which has enriched us all in the freedoms that we now have, has been paid for not just with the industry of American and British diplomats, but with the lives of the soldiers given in wars and conflicts to protect the freedoms that we enjoy? Does she agree that protecting, defending and, indeed, expanding that order is not only in our interests, but in the interests of all free peoples, including the United States?
My hon. Friend makes a very important point, which is that we as politicians stand and talk about the values that we share, but it is our servicemen and women who actually put their lives on the line to defend those values. It is incumbent on us all to ensure that we are doing them the service of working together to maintain that rules-based international order.
I am not sure that integrating the two institutional structures that deal with those is the right way forward, but there are of course examples around the world where trade deals do indeed incorporate environmental standards.
An initiative at the G7 that we can all welcome is the extra £2 billion pledge to educate some of the poorest women and children in the world. Unfortunately, after such international conferences, quite often, the money does not follow the pledge. Will my right hon. Friend commit to doing everything in her power and commit the British Government to making sure that people pay up and that that fund is properly administered—probably through the Department for International Development, which has the best international network—in order to deliver this much needed education in some of the poorest and hardest-to-reach countries in the world?
I absolutely agree that it is important that this is not just words or words on paper, but money that actually follows through. Of course, the United Kingdom has a very good record on that and we will be doing everything we can to ensure that this money does follow through. It is for a very important objective that is in the interests of us all.
Does the Prime Minister worry that there is a growing trend towards protectionism in the world, as we saw this weekend? In 2010, there were just 300 non-tariff protectionist measures in G20 countries but, in 2015, there were 1,200. How are we really going to make sure that we, as a country that relies on free and fair trade, can prosper if that protectionism grows?
The hon. Gentleman is right that we need to be wary of any seeming approaches taken around the world that increase protectionism or that increase the likelihood of protectionism being adopted. When people talk about trade, there tends always to be a focus on tariffs, but of course free trade depends on a great deal more than tariffs. It depends on having similar systems that ensure that there is not unfair competition and that abilities to reduce tariffs are not simply replaced by the sort of barriers to trade that he talks about. As an independent member of the WTO, we will of course be able to play our part in trying to ensure that we row back any attempt at protectionism.
I am sorry to break the cosy consensus, but has not President Trump got a point to the extent that free trade, like all these theories, depends on some level of equivalence and fair dealing, yet China, with its unlimited population, is rapidly building massive trade surpluses with the rest of the world and draining other economies dry? Given that its secretive Government have proved utterly impervious to previous pressure, perhaps history will prove that there is some method in President Trump’s madness.
We have absolutely no doubt that there is a need to ensure that everybody is playing within the rules-based international order. Obviously, we have spoken in this House and elsewhere in particular about the overcapacity in steel and the role that China has played in that. That is why I was pleased, at the first G20 I went to, that the global forum on steel excess capacity was set up, with China as a member of that forum. As we committed to in the communiqué, we have called on the members of that forum to implement its recommendations fully and promptly, and we need to say that we must bring those countries that are emerging and perhaps not playing fully by the rules of the international rules-based order, into that order. I am pleased to say that we also in the communiqué committed to continue to fight protectionism.
Does the Prime Minister agree that all of us who believe in international peace, prosperity and security—and hope that they will continue—want the G7 and other global international institutions to prosper? But are not her Government, just like the Trump Government, not trusted any longer in partnerships, in the European Union, in NATO or in the G7, because they are driven by an inability to play fair in partnerships?
Nothing is further from the truth. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman look at the international coalition that supported the United Kingdom in response to what Russia did on the streets of Salisbury in the nerve agent attack.
The United States has chosen to reimpose sanctions on Iran and therefore to pull out of the joint comprehensive plan of action—the Iran nuclear deal. We have worked with France and Germany because we continue to believe that, as long as Iran meets its obligations under that deal, it is important to maintain that deal. But we accept—and have been working with those countries, the United States and others—that more needs to be done in relation to Iran’s ballistic missile programme and its destabilising activity in the region. We will continue to work with all partners who want, like us, to ensure that we can take some action to reduce that destabilising activity.
The international rules-based order of which the Prime Minister speaks is under attack from the rise of nationalism in various parts of the world. What does she think about its strength when the President of the United States can call for the readmission of Russia to the G8 just weeks after Russia has used nerve agent to try to kill people on the streets of the United Kingdom? Even if we do not have the United States as a partner in this endeavour, will she commit the UK Government to working as closely as possible with other like-minded allies to uphold that order?
I responded earlier to Mr Bradshaw on the issue of whether Russia should be sitting around the G7 table and we should go back to the G8. On the point that Mr McFadden makes about the United States and its approach to Russia and the nerve agent attack that took place on the streets of Salisbury, I remind him—as I mentioned earlier—that the United States, together with other international allies, expelled Russian diplomats following the attack. Those allies took action, as we did, to recognise what happened in Salisbury. They have also subsequently introduced tougher sanctions on Russia, which have been having an impact on certain individuals in Russia. We continue to work with our allies and others to ensure that we are dealing with the malign state activity that is being undertaken by Russia and others.
I thank my right hon. Friend for defending free trade and the rule of law, and for championing the need to remove plastic from the world’s oceans. What plans does she have to ensure that commitments made by countries are more binding and that real and urgent action is achieved?
I thank my hon. Friend for her comments. First, we have to set an example ourselves, as we have done in the past and will continue to do through the work we are doing on issues such as plastic straws and cotton buds. It is also the case that we can work with other like-minded countries, not just in the G7 but across the Commonwealth, to ensure that they are working with us to take the action necessary. It is widely recognised—this point was emphasised by the Secretary General of the United Nations at the summit—that this is a key issue and a major environmental challenge across our world, and we all need to work together to address it.
The special relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States continues to be strong. It will endure and continue to be strong. The nature of the relationship is such that when we disagree with the United States and the President we are able to tell him.
In the light of the Prime Minister’s discussions at the G7, does she agree that now is not the time to weaken sanctions against Russia? In fact, there is a very strong argument that we should be co-operating with other international partners to strengthen sanctions against Russia to make sure that pressure continues to be applied on Putin to conform to the rules-based international order.
My hon. Friend makes a very important point. The communiqué committed to maintaining sanctions against Russia in relation to the fact that the Minsk agreements have not been fully implemented. That discussion will come up at the June European Council, too. As we made clear at the G7, we stand ready to take further restrictive measures if necessary.
The communiqué includes a pledge to:
“coordinate efforts to build lasting peace and support democratic transition in Myanmar”.
As the first monsoon rains hit the camps in which the displaced Rohingya people are living, will the Prime Minister say what her Government are doing to ensure that that pledge is not just words?
The United Kingdom Government are taking a number of actions. We are providing real support for the refugees in the camps. We are providing real support to Bangladesh to be able to provide for those people. We continue to work and will continue to press the Myanmar Government to create a situation in which the refugees are able to return to their former homes in safety and security—that is the key issue. It is not just about people being able to return home; it is about being able to ensure that, when they do so, they have the confidence of knowing they will be safe and secure.
Moreover, if one were being really pedantic one would have to say that the hon. Gentleman’s question did not contain a main verb.
The G7 summit was a fiasco rescued only by our EU allies and friends who filled the vacuum of leadership created by President Trump’s tweets. Does his abandonment of the international rules-based trading system not reveal how important it is for us to stay in a customs union and in the European single market, not least for the environmental and social protections that any bilateral trade deals with third countries receive?
If we were in a customs union, we would not be able to negotiate our own trade deals and we would not be able to have an independent trade policy. We want to have that independent trade policy, so that we can negotiate trade deals around the rest of the world in our own interests. If we were in a customs union, we would be giving responsibility for our future trade deals to Brussels while not being a member of the European Union. That would mean it would have no incentive at all to negotiate trade deals in our interests. We need to have that independent trade policy and that means being outside a customs union.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s commitment to investing in women and girls and to keeping them safe online. This issue concerns us all deeply because women suffer disproportionately when they go online. Will she update the House on this ambition?
I am very happy to do so. In the United Kingdom, we are committed to doing more on this issue. As I said in my statement, we have already had some success in working with tech companies on other issues and look to do so on this issue. There is a commitment from the wider G7 that this is something to be addressed. We take a simple position that, if an activity is wrong offline, it is wrong online. We need to ensure that that is being enforced.
It seems to be clouded that a great deal of constructive work came out of the G7 meeting—not least the work on reducing plastics in the oceans worldwide and on women’s education. Is it not right that if we really are to tackle those issues, we need to do it jointly with the other members of the G7?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Of course, we in the UK look at those issues and take our own actions, but the impact is likely to be much greater when we are able to work jointly and co-operatively with others to ensure that, around the world, we are addressing these issues. That is exactly what the G7 communiqué committed us to do.
The overwhelming majority of people in this House will welcome the overwhelming majority in the G7 agreeing not to let Russia back to the top table, but Russia is now seeking to exert its influence through the back door, and we learnt about the scale of that over the weekend. The Prime Minister says that it is an Electoral Commission inquiry, but the Electoral Commission does not have the legal power to summon the information that it needs. If she can set up a rapid action taskforce abroad, why can we not have a rapid action taskforce here at home? Why can we not put the Electoral Commission on it along with the Metropolitan police, because that is the only way we will find out whether Arron Banks’ millions were in fact Moscow gold?
As I said earlier in response to a question, of course if there is a suggestion of criminal activity, it will be a matter for the police as to any investigation that would be undertaken. The question whether or not electoral laws have been met is of course a matter for the Electoral Commission, but as the right hon. Gentleman might recall, from the police’s point of view, they have operational independence, and it is not for politicians to tell the police what to investigate.
The Prime Minister referred in her statement to malign state influence. Presumably, that would include Russia shooting down flight MH17, invading a neighbouring country, sponsoring its client state to commit a chemical attack and interfering in foreign elections. Does the Prime Minister intend at the European Council at the end of June to press our European partners to strengthen and expand the range of economic sanctions that we have imposed against Russia?
I have already raised with European partners whether the European Council in June should look not just to the question of the sanctions in relation to the Crimea and Minsk agreements, but also to whether we should look further. Indeed, there are some issues that have arisen in relation to Crimea where I think that we should be looking at whether some further sanctions are required.
The Government’s own impact assessments confirm that even the biggest and boldest trade deal with the US would add between only 0.1% and 0.3% of gross value added to our economy. Have these figures been revisited since the G7 and the imposition of tariffs? How far now do the Government believe that a free trade deal with the US would go towards offsetting the between 2% and 8% loss of GVA associated with any of the likely relationships that we might have with the EU in future?
We are intending to negotiate. We have started talking about and negotiating a trade deal with the European Union that is good for us here in the UK—I think that it will also be good for the European Union—and ensures that we are able to continue to trade well with the European Union. We do not talk about a trade deal with America or any other country around the world replacing an ability to trade on a good basis with the European Union. It is in addition to being able to trade on a good basis with the European Union.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the education, empowerment and emancipation of women, particularly in developing countries, is a skeleton key that unlocks both social and economic development? Will she ensure that, despite whatever else is pressing at the time, we do not let this most important of agenda items slip down the priority list of the G7?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The question of ensuring that women have those opportunities and that gender equality is in place is right in itself, but it is also important for economies, because there would be a significant boost to economies if women were able to play the same sort of role, in terms of businesses that they are setting up and so forth, as the male part of the population. I can assure him that President Macron, who will be hosting the G7 next year, committed at the summit in Quebec to taking this agenda item—the empowerment of women and gender equality—through to the G7 in France next year.
Does the Prime Minister share my concern that the good work she described coming out of the G7 seems deliberately to be having the shine taken off it by President Trump and his tweets—insisting that it should be a G8 and pushing on with his tariffs—and his general inability to play by the collective rules? Or are blond buffoons who seek to undermine her at every turn now becoming the norm?
G7 leaders signed up to a number of actions in the communiqué. We will ensure that we abide by them, and I expect others to do the same.
Given that the number of new jobs and livelihoods needed globally for young people by 2030 is estimated to be at least 1 billion, did the G7 have the opportunity to discuss how these jobs and livelihoods will be created? In particular, did it discuss the investment—not just free trade, which is vital—that makes free trade possible?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. As one of our early discussions, we were able to have a more general discussion about employment, the future of the world of work, the sort of developments that should take place and how we work to ensure, for example, that as artificial intelligence increasingly comes into the world of work, we can retrain and reskill people to take the jobs of the future. Many people fear that AI will just mean job losses. We need to ensure that alternative jobs are available and that people are trained and up-skilled to take them.
Will the Prime Minister look carefully at my Plastics Bill, published today, which says that plastic producers, instead of council tax payers, should pay for recycling, that all plastics should be recyclable by 2025 and that we should introduce a levy on plastic bottles, alongside a refill system, so that, instead of paying £1 for two bottles and throwing them away, consumers pay 65p for one and refill it in a local shop?
The hon. Gentleman has set out several ideas there. I can assure him that we are considering ways to increase the ability to deal with this issue of plastics, including working with industry to ensure that the plastics it produces are all recyclable. That is what we want. Working with industry and creating opportunities for new developments are also an important part of this.
President Trump’s decision to impose steel and aluminium tariffs is obviously deeply concerning for my constituents and British Steel at Skinningrove. We all deplore them, but as my right hon. Friend has said, we need to work constructively to get them overturned. With that in mind, can she give further details to the House about the precise nature of her discussions with the President on getting them lifted?
Obviously, the UK has been affected by tariffs imposed on the European Union, and we discussed how further dialogue could take place between the EU and the United States to avoid an escalatory tit for tat on tariffs. It is through that dialogue that it will be possible to address the issue of tariffs on steel and aluminium.
What presents a good face for our future dealings with the EU is this Government setting out very clearly, as we have done at every stage of the negotiations, the sort of future relationship we want with the EU.
I welcome the £187 million allocated to support girls’ education in developing countries, but does my right hon. Friend agree that we must do whatever we can to ensure that girls have the same opportunities as boys and that both girls and boys in developing countries get improved opportunities?
I agree with my hon. Friend. It is important to ensure that girls are not sidelined in terms of education and opportunities, which is why the funding for girls’ education—for 12 years of safe and quality education, as we have expressed it—is important. We do also need, however, to increase opportunities for all in developing countries, which is why things such as the jobs compact we have entered into with Ethiopia are important. Such action can help countries to develop their economies and make those jobs available for both men and women.
The communiqué was signed up to by all the G7 leaders. As I have said, the UK will abide by its commitments, and we expect others to do so as well.
My right hon. Friend the International Trade Secretary has been in discussion with the United States, but also with the Trade Commissioner, Cecilia Malmström, in the European Union, and I am of course talking to other European leaders. We want to ensure that the action taken is proportionate and within the WTO rules when those countermeasures are put in place.
The Prime Minister has referred to the empowerment of women and of girls in particular. Did she have an opportunity at the G7 to raise two specific issues: the hundreds of thousands of child prostitutes in India and the use of rape as a method of violence in places such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo?
The specific examples given by the hon. Gentleman were not raised, but the overall issue of the prevention of sexual violence in conflict was referred to in the meeting between the G7 leaders and the Gender Equality Advisory Council, which was set up by Prime Minister Trudeau. I was also able, within that, to talk about the issues of human trafficking and modern slavery, particularly modern slavery for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
Paragraph 20 of the communiqué states:
“We…call upon Iran to play a constructive role” for
“peace in the region.”
The same statement was made at the 2015 G7. Iran has continuously displayed aggressive behaviour in the region, and Morocco has now expelled its ambassador. The Prime Minister has spoken of appropriate action and has said that “some action” will be taken to stop Iran’s destabilising activity. What does she mean by “some action”, and what is her timeline for taking that action?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right: paragraph 20 of the communiqué does refer to Iran. It also states:
“we call upon Iran to refrain from launches of ballistic missiles and all other activities… inconsistent with UNSCR 2231—including all annexes”.
That, of course, refers to the joint comprehensive plan of action. We also—as my hon. Friend said—call on Iran to
“cease proliferation of missile technology” and action it is taking that is
“destabilising for the region”.
We will work with our European allies and others on a wide variety of issues relating to Iran, and we will make every effort to bring Iran to a situation in which it is not interfering in other states in the way that we know it is at the moment.
Since 1949, every President of the United States bar one has supported greater economic solidarity as a bulwark against threats from the east and to dampen the far right and the far left. Reflecting on the summit and on future trade deals, does the Prime Minister believe that the President of the United States is a man with whom they can do a deal, or is he sacrificing the inheritance left to us by Presidents from Eisenhower to Obama for mid-term votes for the Grand Old party?
The hon. Gentleman and a number of others have raised the possibility of the United Kingdom’s being able to do a trade deal with the United States. The United States has made clear that it wants to talk to us about such a deal, but, as I have made clear as well, we already have a good trading and investment relationship with the United States. We want to bring more jobs and prosperity into the United Kingdom, and any trade deals that we sign up to will be in our interests.
We must leave our rivers and oceans in a better condition for the next generation. Will my right hon. Friend continue to work with international partners to ensure that the high domestic standards that we are developing are reflected internationally?
I am happy to give that commitment. When I was in China earlier this year, I was pleased to be able to visit Wuhan and look at some of the work that was being done to try to clear up the Yangtze river, which is, of course, a key source of the plastics that go into our oceans. We will continue to work with others internationally to ensure that we can address the issue.
I thank the Prime Minister for her statement and in particular her comments on education for all, especially young girls. Many churches in my constituency and missions across the whole United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland are focused on medical and education provision especially in African countries. What help can we give those churches and missions?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: many organisations are providing that medical and education support for young girls, and I will refer his remarks to the International Development Secretary to look at the issue he has raised.
Multilateralism is vital for the global economy and particularly vital in dealing with the technology giants. Does the Prime Minister agree that, while this is a partnership, it is ultimately for Governments around the world to decide what is illegal and for those companies to comply with that legislation?
That is absolutely right: Governments decide what is legal and what is legitimate activity, and companies are then expected to comply with that and should do so. In a number of areas, we have been able to achieve results through voluntary action by the tech companies and we will continue to pursue that, but we have been very clear that they should comply with any current and future legislation.
Yes, and, as the hon. Gentleman will know, we have taken a number of measures already over the years to try to help the United Kingdom steel industry. It is important to us that the industry can develop, and we will continue to robustly defend it in a number of ways. We will be working with others in the EU to ensure we can deal with the US tariffs, and what we want of course is an exemption and removal of those tariffs in the future.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s call for new action to prevent gender-based violence, abuse and harassment online, and I heard the answer she gave some moments ago to Graham P. Jones, but may I press her to take every future opportunity to raise the important initiative that the UK has led globally to prevent, and prosecute those guilty of, sexual violence in conflict?