With permission Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the G20 summit in Argentina. Before I do so, I would like to put on record my thanks to President Macri for hosting such a successful summit. This was the first visit to Buenos Aires by a British Prime Minister, and only the second visit to Argentina since 2001. It came at a time of strengthening relations between our two countries, when we are seeking to work constructively with President Macri.
As we leave the European Union, I have always been clear that Britain will play a full and active role on the global stage as a bold and outward-facing trading nation. We will: stand up for the rules-based international order; strive to resolve, with others, challenges and tensions in the global economy; work with old allies and new friends for the mutual benefit of all our citizens; and remain steadfast in our determination to tackle the great challenges of our time. At this summit, we showed that the international community is capable of working through its differences constructively, and the leading role the UK will continue to play in addressing shared global challenges. We agreed, along with the other G20 leaders, on the need for important reforms to the World Trade Organisation to ensure it responds to changes in international trade. We pursued our objective of making sure that the global economy works for everyone and that the benefits are felt by all. We called for greater action in the fight against modern slavery and tackling climate change, and I held discussions with international partners on security and economic matters, including on the progress of our exit from the European Union and the good deal an orderly exit will be for the global economy. Let me take each of these in turn.
At this year’s summit, I came with the clear message that Britain is open for business and that we are looking forward to future trade agreements. Once we leave the EU, we can and we will strike ambitious trade deals. For the first time in more than 40 years we will have an independent trade policy, and we will continue to be a passionate advocate for the benefits open economies and free markets can bring. We will forge new and ambitious economic partnerships, and open up new markets for our goods and services in the fastest growing economies around the world. During the summit, I held meetings with leaders who are keen to reach ambitious free trade agreements with us as soon as possible. This includes Argentina, with whom I discussed boosting bilateral trade and investment, and I announced the appointment of a new UK trade envoy. I also discussed future trade deals with Canada, Australia, Chile, and Japan, with whom we want to work quickly to establish a new economic partnership based on the EU-Japan economic partnership agreement.
On the global rules that govern trade, we discussed the importance of ensuring an equal playing field and the need for the rules to keep pace with the changing nature of trade and technology. There is no doubt that the international trading system, to which the United Kingdom attaches such importance, is under significant strain. That is why I have repeatedly called for urgent and ambitious reform of the World Trade Organisation. At this summit, I did so again. In a significant breakthrough, we agreed on the need for important reforms to boost the effectiveness of the WTO, with a commitment to review progress at next year’s G20 summit in Japan.
On the global economy, we recognised the progress made in the past 10 years, with this year seeing the strongest global growth since 2011. However, risks to the global economy are re-emerging. In particular, debt in lower income countries has reached an all-time high of 224% of global GDP. I called on members to implement the G20 guidelines on sustainable finance that we agreed last year, and which increase transparency and encourage co-operation. At this year’s summit, I continued to pursue our mission to make the global economy work for everyone, and the need to take action, in our own countries and collectively, to ensure that the benefits of economic growth are felt by all.
Around the world, we are on the brink of a new era in technology which will transform lives and change the way we live. This has the potential to bring us huge benefits, but many are anxious about what it means for jobs. That is why in the UK, alongside creating the right environment for tech companies to flourish through our modern industrial strategy, we are investing in the education and skills needed so that people can make the most of the jobs and opportunities that will be created. We made strong commitments to improving women’s economic empowerment, and alongside that I called on G20 leaders to take practical action to ensure that by 2030 all girls, not just in our own countries but around the world, get 12 years of quality education.
To build fair economies and inclusive societies, we must tackle injustice wherever we find it. Around the world, we must all do more to end the horrific practice of modern slavery, and protect vulnerable men, women and children from being abused and exploited in the name of profit. Two years ago, I put modern slavery on the G20 agenda at my first summit, and this year, I was pleased to give my full support to the G20’s strategy to eradicate modern slavery from the world of work. I announced that next year, the Government will publish the steps we are taking to identify and prevent slavery in the UK Government’s supply chains in our own transparency statement. This is a huge challenge. Last financial year, the UK Government spent £47 billion on public procurement, demonstrating just how important this task is. I urged the other leaders around the G20 table to work with us and ensure that their supply chains are free from slavery, as we work to bring an end to this appalling crime.
On climate change, I made clear the UK’s determination to lead the way on the serious threat that this poses to our planet. We need a step change in preparing for temperature rises, to cut the cost and impact of climate-related disasters, and to secure food, water and jobs for the future. As a UN champion on climate resilience, the UK will continue to pursue this agenda at next year’s UN climate summit. Nineteen of us at the G20 reaffirmed our commitment to the Paris agreement, but it remains a disappointment that the United States continues to opt out. I also announced that the UK will be committing £100 million to the Renewable Energy Performance Platform, which will directly support the private sector in leveraging private finance to fund renewable energy projects in sub-Saharan Africa.
This summit also gave me the opportunity to discuss important matters directly with other leaders and raise concerns openly and frankly. In that context, I met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, first to stress the importance of a full, transparent and credible investigation into the terrible murder of Jamal Khashoggi, and of those responsible being held to account—a matter which I also discussed with President Erdogan—and secondly, to urge an end to the conflict in Yemen and relief for those suffering from starvation, and to press for progress at the upcoming talks in Stockholm. Our relationship with Saudi Arabia is important to this country, but that does not prevent us from putting forward robust views on these matters of grave concern. I also discussed the situation in Ukraine with a number of G20 leaders. The UK condemns Russian aggression in the Black sea and calls for the release of the 24 Ukrainian service personnel detained and their three vessels.
At this year’s summit, we reached important agreements, demonstrating the continued importance of the G20 and international co-operation. It also demonstrated the role that a global Britain will play on the world’s stage as we work with our friends and partners around the world to address shared challenges and bolster global prosperity. I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Prime Minister for the advance copy of her statement. This G20 summit met 10 years after the global financial crash, and the 20 nations that control 85% of the world’s GDP have been too slow to reject the failed neoliberal economic model that caused the crisis in the first place, but there are signs of change. On Saturday, I attended the inauguration of a G20 leader, President López Obrador of Mexico, who has won a significant mandate for change to the corruption, environmental degradation and economic failure of the past.
Of course, some G20 countries have no such democratic mechanisms, so while economics are important, our belief in universal human rights and democratic principles must never be subservient to them. The Prime Minister—[Interruption.] The Prime Minister told the media she would—[Interruption.]
Order. Do be quiet, it is awfully boring and terribly juvenile—[Interruption.] Order. The Prime Minister was heard, and overwhelmingly with courtesy. The same will apply in respect of the Leader of the Opposition. It does not matter how long it takes; I have all the time in the day. That is what will happen. Please try to grasp this rather simple truth.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister told the media she would sit down and be robust with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the chief architect of the brutal war in Yemen, which has killed 56,000 people and brought 14 million to the brink of famine. The Crown Prince is believed to have ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Rather than be robust, as she promised, we learn that she told the dictator, “Please don’t use the weapons we are selling you in the war you’re waging,” and asked him nicely to investigate the murder he allegedly ordered. Leaders should not just offer warms words against human rights atrocities; they should back up their words with action. Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and others have stopped their arms sales to Saudi Arabia. When will the UK do the same?
On Ukraine, as NATO has said, we need both sides to show restraint and to de-escalate the situation, with international law adhered to, including Russia allowing unhindered access to Ukraine’s ports on the sea of Azov.
Britain’s trade policy must be led by clear principles that do not sacrifice human rights. The International Trade Secretary claimed last summer that a trade deal between the UK and the EU would be easiest in human history, but all we have before us is 26 pages of vague aspirations. It seems that neither has he got very far on the 40 trade deals he said he would be ready to sign on the day we leave next year, unless the Prime Minister can update us in her response. In the light of last week’s report from the Foreign Affairs Committee, how does she intend to ensure that the 240 export trade negotiators she promised by Brexit day will be in place, given that the Government have had two years and only 90 are currently in post?
Did the Prime Minister speak again to President Trump at the G20? He seems to have rejected her Brexit agreement because it does not put America first. The International Trade Secretary claimed that bilateral US and UK trade could rise by £40 billion a year by 2030,
“if we’re able to remove the barriers to trade that we have”.
She claims that under her deal we can and will strike ambitious trade deals, but this morning we learned that Britain’s top civil servant in charge of these negotiations wrote to her admitting that there was no legal guarantee of being able to end the backstop.
It is clear, however, that some in the Prime Minister’s Government do want to remove barriers. Just this weekend the Environment Secretary said, with regard to the Brexit deal and workers’ rights, that
“it allows us to diverge and have flexibility”.
Our flexible labour market already means that the UK has the weakest wage growth of all the G20 nations. Did the Prime Minister ask the other leaders how they were faring so much better?
UK capital investment is the second worst in the G20. The previous Chancellor slashed UK corporation tax to the lowest level in the G20, telling us—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] In doing so, he told us it would boost investment. It did not. Did the Prime Minister ask other G20 leaders why, despite having higher corporation tax, they attracted much higher investment?
Given that the G20 is responsible for 76% of carbon dioxide emissions, I welcome the fact that building a consensus for a fair and sustainable development was a theme of the summit. Why then did her Government vote against Labour’s proposal to include the sustainable development goals as a reference point when the Trade Bill was put before Parliament earlier this year? If present trends continue, many G20 nations will not meet their Paris 2015 commitments, so I am glad that the Government will be pursuing this agenda at next year’s UN climate summit, and I hope that they will also pursue it this week in the talks in Katowice, Poland.
Given that climate change is the biggest issue facing our world, it is imperative that a sustainable economic and trade model be put forward that puts people and planet over profit. Our country has the lowest wage growth in the G20, the lowest investment and poor productivity. Ten years on from the global financial crisis, this Prime Minister and too much of the G20 have simply failed to learn the lessons of that crash.
The right hon. Gentleman ranged over a number of issues. Let me pick out some key ones.
First—as I have made entirely clear in my conversations with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in the Foreign Secretary’s conversations with King Salman himself, in my conversations with King Salman, and in other interactions with Saudi Arabia, we have been absolutely robust in our response in relation to the terrible murder of Jamal Khashoggi, and very clear about the need for those responsible to be held to account.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the war in Yemen. I might remind him that the coalition intervention in Yemen was actually requested by the legitimate Government of Yemen, and has been acknowledged by the United Nations Security Council.
The right hon. Gentleman asked whether I had spoken to President Trump. I did speak to President Trump in the margins of the meeting. I was clear with him that we can indeed do a trade deal with the United States of America with the deal that is on the table with the European Union. We recognise that the working group that exists between the UK and the USA, which is looking at trade arrangements for the future, has been making good progress.
The right hon. Gentleman made various other references to issues relating to trade. Yes, I did discuss trade with a number of the other leaders I met. Prime Minister Abe of Japan made it very clear that he looked forward to being able to discuss the United Kingdom’s possible membership of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, and, indeed, that was echoed by others with whom I spoke at the G20 summit.
I am very interested that the right hon. Gentleman made so many references to trade. Of course, he used to want to do trade deals with other countries, and he put that in his manifesto, but just last week he said that he did not want to do trade deals after all. Trade deals will be important to the economy of this country in the future, and we are certainly committed to those trade deals around the rest of the world.
The right hon. Gentleman then talked about corporation tax. I might remind him that yes, we have cut corporation tax, which has been of benefit to businesses, employers and jobs in this country, and guess what? We cut corporation tax, and we are raising more money from it. We have employment at record levels, and we are the first choice in Europe for foreign direct investment.
One thing that I omitted from my statement was that during some of the other conversations that I had with leaders of countries in South America, they were reflecting on the migration problem that is being caused by the terrible situation of the economy in Venezuela.
As the Prime Minister apparently did discuss with President Trump the question of future trade arrangements with America, will she tell us whether the President indicated any area of the American market, such as public procurement or financial or other services, that he might be considering opening up to us? If he repeated his request that we should open ourselves up fully to food imports, did she explain to him that we are unwilling to abandon the European standards that we have developed over the years to accept lower standards set by Congress, as he wishes, and that he really must adjust to the fact that we cannot forfeit all our other overseas markets in order to allow him to export food to this country?
My right hon. and learned Friend has raised two aspects of a potential trade deal with the United States of America. I have made it very clear to a number of people, in relation to the issue of agricultural products, that this is not a question of our membership of the EU or our adoption of EU standards, but will be a question for everyone in this country about the standards that we want to continue to have in relation to those products in the future.
As for the issue of opening up the American market for public procurement and financial services, the working group that exists between us and the United States is looking at exactly that.
I thank the Prime Minister for advance sight of her statement, and join her in congratulating President Macri on Argentina’s presidency of the G20. It is pleasing to hear that President Macri and the Prime Minister had productive talks on trade and investment; perhaps she will share more details of their content with the House.
Given the current strains on international diplomacy, it is welcome that the G20 was able to come together and deliver a joint statement of endeavour. The communiqué itself is clearly a compromise agreement, but it falls short in a number of areas. In particular, the pledge to look at WTO reform requires further explanation from the Prime Minister on what reform she believes is needed and why. Also, on the refugee crisis and our responsibilities, it seems that the communiqué has the bare minimum commitment rather than real ambition. That is particularly shocking given that this weekend marks the 80th anniversary of the Kindertransport—the journey of children who fled the Nazis. We should still have the same generosity of spirit towards refugees in this country today. I do, however, agree with the Prime Minister’s sentiments about the importance of the G20 to international economic co-operation, and I welcome the fact that commitments have been made to work together on economic opportunities and the greatest threat to our generation, climate change.
However, I note that in her press release the Prime Minister exclaimed that the summit gave her the opportunity to update leaders on her Brexit plans. Did the Prime Minister share with world leaders any concern that her deal is a lame duck? There are many questions for her to answer. Will she explain how she was discussing trade agreements when she will not be able to strike any deals until after the transition? Furthermore, can she explain how any of these discussions can take place when the backstop comes in, as she confirmed in the House last Monday that the UK will not be able to have any independent trade deals?
Does the Prime Minister see the direct contradiction in her claims of working in collaboration and partnership to deliver economic prosperity when her Brexit deal rips economic stability and opportunity from beneath our feet by taking us out of the European Union? I can see her shaking her head, but that is the reality: young people are going to be denied the opportunities that our generations had.
At the summit, did the Prime Minister use her time to discuss pressing human rights issues? What discussions did she have, and did she raise the matter of Khashoggi’s death with Mohammed bin Salman?
Finally, will the Prime Minister share with us an update on her Government’s actions over the past two years to tackle climate change, or has she been too distracted to get on with the job of government?
The right hon. Gentleman asked me about WTO reform, so let me give him a couple of the issues I raised in relation to that—I think from conversations with others that it is recognised that it needs to be addressed. One is the dispute resolution mechanism, which everybody recognises is too slow. If people are to be able to have faith in the rules set by the WTO, there needs to be a dispute mechanism in which they can have faith as well. Another key area of concern is the very slow progress the WTO has made on the digital economy and looking at the whole area of e-commerce. Those are just two of the issues that will be referenced in relation to WTO reform.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about trade deals and said—I was listening carefully—that we would not be able to strike trade deals until after the transition or implementation period. That is not correct: during that period we will be able to negotiate, sign and ratify trade deals, which can then come into operation at the end of the implementation period.
I hope we will all welcome the growing and developing bilateral relationship between the UK and Argentina, and when I was there I was pleased to be able to welcome the extra flight that will now take place from the Falkland Islands via Cordoba to São Paulo.
The right hon. Gentleman asked whether any pressing human rights issues had been raised. I specifically referenced in my statement a human rights issue on which this Government have been leading the world: modern slavery.
It is true, through the Modern Slavery Act 2015, and I am pleased to say that the Australians are now introducing legislation that mirrors ours in relation to supply chains. I encourage other countries around the world to do the same.
What was quite striking for many people when they saw the photograph was that, apart from Christine Lagarde, the chief of the International Monetary Fund, the Prime Minister was the only woman in the photograph, given that Mrs Merkel’s plane did not quite make it. The lack of women as leaders is really striking. The Prime Minister rightly says that since we put modern slavery on the G20 agenda two years ago, part of the purpose of the G20 is to build fair economies and inclusive societies, and in doing that we must tackle injustice. What does she hope to achieve to tackle the injustice of there not being enough women involved at all levels of government in the G20, but especially at the top?
My right hon. Friend and I share the desire to encourage more women to come into politics, and not just here in the UK. We want to see more women able to take senior positions in the political world in other countries as well. We have a good overall record on women’s employment here, but there is still more for us to do to encourage women to see politics as a career that they want to come into. To do that, we need to tackle some of the problems that have arisen, such as the harassment and bullying that women politicians sometimes receive, particularly through social media. Until Chancellor Merkel arrived, I was the only female Head of Government there, and the lack of female leaders sitting around the table was raised not just by Christine Lagarde but by other leaders around the table as well.
We regularly raise individual cases with the Saudi Arabian Government, and we talk about human rights issues every time I meet them, but I am sure that the Foreign Office will look at the particular case that the right hon. Gentleman has raised.
Did my right hon. Friend gain the impression from the G20 that beyond the European Union there is a big wide world waiting and wanting to do business with the United Kingdom? Contrary to the impression given by the spokesman for the Scottish National party, Ian Blackford, will it not be perfectly possible under the withdrawal agreement for us to strike and sign deals, ready for immediate implementation at the end of the transition period?
I am able to give my hon. Friend the confirmation that he seeks in relation to those issues. On his second point, it is absolutely the case that during the implementation period—the transition period—we will be able to negotiate, sign and ratify trade deals with other countries around the world. Indeed, there may be aspects of those trade deals that we will be able to bring into practice.
As the Prime Minister knows, this year is the 10th anniversary of the Climate Change Act 2008. I welcome what she has said about providing a leadership role at the UN climate summit next year, but our own country is not on track to meet the fourth and fifth carbon budgets, so what are we going to do to provide real leadership on these issues at the G20 and to get back on track to meet those important carbon budgets?
The first thing is to lead by the example that we have set. As the hon. Lady says, the Climate Change Act came into place 10 years ago, and that was an important step that showed leadership here in the UK. We must continue to do that, but another aspect that we are also leading on is encouraging the greater development of resilience to climate change. As we look around the world, we see many people, particularly in the Pacific islands, who will be significantly affected by climate change. Helping those people and others—in the Caribbean, for example—to build their resilience is also important.
Will my right hon. Friend elaborate on what executive actions, beyond condemnation, the G20 partners agreed in response to Russia’s blatant and wholly unacceptable piracy in the sea of Azov and the wider Black sea?
As my right hon. Friend has indicated, the G20 was clear in its condemnation of this action. There was discussion among the G20 leaders on condemnation of the action, but of course one of the G20 leaders is President Putin. That is why the question of executive action is one that I think we will be taking up in other forums. We, the UK, have been one of the leaders in pressing in the European Union for sanctions against Russia for activity in Ukraine, and we will continue to do so.
Speaking today at the UN climate summit, Sir David Attenborough told world leaders that the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world are on the horizon, which is a stark warning. I welcome the Government’s contribution to the renewable energy platform, but will the Prime Minister explain why they are refusing to engage in the important fossil fuel subsidy peer review process, which is being led by the G20, despite the UK handing out billions to dirty energy every single year?
We recognise the significance of climate change, but—the hon. Lady referenced a quote from David Attenborough—we also recognise the importance of action in other areas, such as the protection of species around the world. That is why we held a conference here in October on the international wildlife trade, which is another aspect of the future of our world. As for energy sources, we believe in having a mixed economy, but we are of course a member of the Powering Past Coal Alliance and we are encouraging others to become members.
I thank my right hon. Friend for the Government’s support for Ukraine in the face of increased Russian aggression. Will she look at ways of stepping up pressure on Russia to release not just the 24 sailors, but the 68 other Ukrainian political prisoners held in occupied Crimea and in Russia, and to cease the blockade of Berdyansk and Mariupol in the sea of Azov?
As my right hon. Friend points out, recent events in Ukraine are not the only example of Russian aggression, and in fact they fit into a pattern of Russian behaviour. We will continue to press for appropriate action to be taken in these matters. As I said in response to a previous question, the UK has been leading in the EU in pressing for sanctions, and we will continue to do so. I look forward to discussing with EU leaders the further steps that can be taken.
Members from across the House campaigned for a Magnitsky Act to deal with human rights abusers in Russia and other countries, and we were delighted when such measures made their way into the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018. However, the Foreign Office is dragging its heels and has not yet implemented any of them. Will the Prime Minister please chivvy along the Foreign Secretary to ensure that we get them in place as soon as possible? That is something we could do now.
I will of course ensure that the Foreign Office is looking at this issue. Along with the Dutch, we are encouraging others to take on the concept of a human rights-related Magnitsky Act, but until we leave the European Union there is a limit to what we can do when it comes to the individual imposition of sanctions.
I thank the Prime Minister for pointing out that an orderly exit from the EU will benefit the entire world’s economy. In the backstop, the UK will have tariff and quota-free access to the entire single market, but we will not be paying contributions to the EU budget or following EU rules on free movement. Who should be more uncomfortable about that: the UK or the EU?
It is precisely because, should that circumstance come into place, we would have access without paying and without free movement that the EU is uncomfortable about the prospect of the UK being in the backstop.
The Prime Minister mentioned that she spoke to President Trump on the margins of the summit about trade policy. Is she aware that the summit did not look that inspirational back home? Did she have any good informal talks with European allies? Did she get any really good bonuses out of those conversations?
I had a number of discussions with European allies, but I focused my meetings at this G20 summit on those to whom I do not normally get the opportunity to speak. That was why I was pleased to have bilaterals with Prime Minister Trudeau, Prime Minister Abe, President Erdoğan, President Macri of Argentina and the President of Chile, and I have referenced the particular issues taken up with Saudi Arabia.
The Prime Minister continues to show commitment to the world’s poorest nations. In her ongoing discussions with G20 allies, will she urge them to step up to the plate and ensure that next year’s replenishment round for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is full and effective so that the world can take another step forward in fighting these killer diseases?
I am very happy to take up the issue my right hon. Friend refers to. There was recognition of the issues around HIV and AIDS, and of course one of the days of the summit was World AIDS Day. This is one of those issues where everybody around the table recognises that there is still work for us to do.
When the Prime Minister was discussing the brave new world of post-Brexit free trade deals with world leaders, did any of them point out the supreme irony that her own Treasury forecasts show those deals can be achieved only by reducing the amount of free trade we do with our nearest market of 500 million people and by losing access to 36 other free trade deals that our membership of the European Union currently gives us?
As the hon. Lady will know, we are working on the continuity arrangements for the trade deals that currently exist between the EU and various countries around the world. It is not right to say that it is only by not having that trade relationship with the EU that we can have trade relationships around the rest of the world. There is a recognition, both in the political declaration and in the Government’s own proposals, that we can have a good trading relationship with the EU and good trading relationships, different from those that currently exist, with other countries around the world.
The Prime Minister’s mention of the World Trade Organisation reminds me that the Chancellor, in his Budget, wisely allocated £3 billion to £4 billion for practical preparations for exiting the EU on a WTO basis. Has each Government Department now received its allocated share of those funds? If not, why are they being held back?
The funds are not being held back, and Government Departments will receive notification of the allocation of the funds in the next few days.
What I discussed with the crown prince was the need to find a political solution to what is happening in the conflict in Yemen. This is very important, and talks are due to take place in Stockholm. I have encouraged all parties to take part in those talks. The way to resolve the issue in Yemen is through a long-term political solution.
The Prime Minister has twice given assurances to the House today that we can, indeed, do trade deals and that those deals can be signed and ratified, but not implemented until we have left the transition period. Can she confirm what the status of those trade deals would be should we go into the backstop period?
The backstop would require some restrictions in relation to trade deals—notably, we would be applying the common external tariffs—but there would be some freedom for us in relation to trade with other countries around the world. I am glad my hon. Friend has repeated the confirmation I have given that it would be possible during the transition period to ratify, negotiate and sign up to trade deals. Of course, it is the intention of the Government, and the clearly stated intention of the European Union, that at the end of that implementation period we will be in a position to operate those trade deals.
The Prime Minister has referred to a pattern of Russian behaviour, and she has also condemned the Russian aggression in Ukraine. Did she also have an opportunity in her conversations with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman or with President Erdoğan to talk about Syria and the continuing crimes being carried out by Russia and its Iranian and Hezbollah allies there?
We regularly raise the issues around Syria with other partners in a variety of ways. We recognise the continuing problems in relation to Syria. Of course, again, a long-term solution in Syria can only come with a political solution. It is good that we have seen some limitation of the action taking place in certain parts of Syria in recent months, but obviously we have sadly also seen continuing action against people in Syria.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s announcement that the Government will be taking steps to eradicate slavery in their supply chain, as that was an issue I highlighted in a private Member’s Bill a couple of years ago. Does she agree that everyone in this House should be able to be united on this issue?
It is absolutely the case that this eradication of modern slavery is an issue that everybody across the whole House should be working towards, and they should be supporting the Government’s efforts in this area. The Modern Slavery Act 2015 was an important step, but there is much more for us to do, which is why we are continuing to press forward on further action on this.
The high five between President Putin and Crown Prince bin Salman may have seemed jovial, but the undertone of geopolitically significant relationships comes with it. Did the Prime Minister have any discussions with our NATO allies on supporting the international rules-based order, which she mentioned, not only through encouraging compliance, but perhaps through coercing it?
I certainly had a number of conversations about exactly the point of maintaining the international rules-based order. We recognise that in a number of different areas this is under significant pressure, but we have been leading in some areas to ensure that it continues, not least, of course, in the work we have done in the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
Among the members of the G20 are some countries that were in crushing poverty only a few decades ago. Will the Prime Minister reject the calls to move away from liberal free market economics and instead promote that as an agenda, removing tariff barriers imposed by wealthy countries and using free trade to lift other poor nations and people around the world out of that poverty?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right; it is trade that develops economies, helps to lift poor countries out of their poverty and helps to provide for people in those countries. One of the points I made at the summit was that the increasing protectionism we see—the increasing pressure on the rules-based international order in relation to trade—will only hit the poorest hardest.
The Japanese Prime Minister clearly does not want Japanese companies such as Honda and Nissan to face friction at the UK-EU border. When will our Prime Minister be clear that there is a trade-off between retaining the frictionless access to EU markets we currently enjoy but which will not be in place after the transition period in her deal and striking free trade deals with other countries around the world?
First, the hon. Lady has made an assumption about the political declaration. If she looks at it, she will see the ambition that is there on our future trading and relationships with the European Union. Yes, there is a balance for us in that relationship with the EU between an acceptance of rules and standards, and the checks that take place in relation to frictionless trade. The Government have recognised that—we did that when we published the White Paper in the summer—but that does not mean we cannot sign trade deals with the rest of the world. We will be able to sign those trade deals around the world.
I will tell my hon. Friend one of the negotiations I successfully negotiated. When I became Home Secretary, I was told that the exchange of passenger name records across the European Union would be very important in improving our security against terrorists and organised criminals. I was also told that we were the only country that wanted it and therefore it could not happen inside the European Union. What do we now see? By painstaking work, because I refused to accept that view, we have a passenger name records directive.
There is a time in politics when words are not enough; 56,000 people have been killed and 14 million are living through a humanitarian crisis in Yemen—what is the Prime Minister’s price to ensure that human rights are more important than blood money from the sale of arms?
The question of providing for those people who are suffering terribly in the Yemen today is about ensuring that there is a political solution in the Yemen. We believe that there is an opportunity for that now and that is what we have been encouraging all the parties to come together for. That is why the talks that are going to take place in Stockholm over the coming days and weeks are so important.
While the G20 were meeting in Buenos Aires, the COP24 conference was gathering in Poland. Will my right hon. Friend reaffirm our commitment to maintaining our world-leading position on climate change resilience, and our commitment to meet our obligations as agreed in Paris three years ago, no matter what the position of our closest ally, the United States, or our future relationship with the European Union?
I am happy to give our continued commitment to the obligations that we signed up to. In fact, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, in her previous ministerial role in energy, was a leading figure in helping to ensure that the Paris accord came together. We remain committed to it.
I hope that during the course of the summit the Prime Minister managed to speak to the Brazilian President, Mr Temer, about his successor, Mr Bolsonaro, who takes over on the 31st of this month and whose virulent homophobic remarks during the election campaign were unacceptable and unconducive to good relations with the United Kingdom.
Of course, the incoming President who made those remarks was not there at the G20 summit; as my hon. Friend said, it was the current President, Mr Temer, who was there. We will continue to be clear with all countries around the world about the importance that we attach to equal rights and human rights.
May I congratulate the Prime Minister on all the air miles she has clocked up recently on our behalf? I urge her Government not to forget their promises on anticorruption. The G20 declaration commits leaders to tackling
“vulnerabilities in the financial system”.
What with the National Crime Agency—which the Prime Minister had a hand in setting up, as she reminded us—estimating that hundreds of billions of pounds are currently being laundered through the UK, will she give us a date for when the commitment to consult on the creation of a criminal offence for corporations of failure to prevent money laundering will materialise, so that we can practise what we preach?
I thank the hon. Lady for her remarks. I did set up the National Crime Agency and it is doing important work in this area. The new economic crime centre has been set up, and that is an important step in dealing with these issues. We continue to look at the powers that are necessary to deal with money laundering, but we have already introduced new powers that enable us to take action against those involved in these matters.
I thank my hon. Friend for pointing that out. The point of the intervention we are making and the money that we are making available is that it will help to leverage private finance. It is through Government working together with private finance that we will be able to ensure that projects can come on board in a number of countries in Africa.
If the Prime Minister’s Brexit proposals are implemented, the trade deals that she talks about will have to concentrate primarily on services, as opposed to goods. Will she therefore make a commitment to rule out using public services as a bargaining chip?
We have always been clear in relation to public services. The economy of the United Kingdom relies significantly on services—it is one of the areas in which we are particularly leading across the world—and I expect that we will be able to ensure that the trade deals that we do around the world incorporate those aspects of services in which we are leading.
If I might return to the subject of the sixth replenishment of the global fund to continue the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, will my right hon. Friend confirm from her engagement with the US Administration that the United States, currently the biggest donor to the fund, shares her commitment?
I am very happy to say to my hon. Friend that, obviously, as he has said, we restated the commitment to ending HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. The G20 is an important venue for doing that and, indeed, in one of his interventions at the summit, President Trump made reference to the need for the work that continues to be done in terms of HIV.
The Prime Minister understands the supreme importance of cross-border and national security. She also understands how difficult and how long a process it inevitably is to agree and ratify new treaties. Will she level with this House and the public that there is actually very little chance of being able to agree and then fully ratify a new security treaty by the end of the transition period?
I have a different opinion from the hon. Gentleman. We have a clear structure within the political declaration in relation to that. I simply say to him that the December joint report on withdrawal was 16 pages. Within less than a year, we have negotiated 585—nearly 590—pages of legal text. The political declaration is, I think, 26 pages. It is perfectly possible to negotiate on all aspects of that within the two years available.
Order. This is rather unseemly. I am bound to say that Henry Smith was entitled to a somewhat more respectful welcome. His constituents were entitled to hear him heard with greater courtesy. Now that the Prime Minister is replying, this great hubbub of voluble and unnecessary noise should cease. Let us hear her reply.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. With the launch event of the Global Compact on Migration next week, it is absolutely right that migration is being discussed in a number of forums, including, obviously, the references that we saw in the communiqué that came out of the G20 summit. That Global Compact is one way in which we can bolster international co-operation in these areas, because it does set out an approach to reduce irregular or illegal migration while improving regular and managed migration. It enables all states effectively to manage their borders. This issue is recognised across the G20 as one that needs to be addressed.
When the Prime Minister met the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, did she discuss with him the 11 exchanges that our American allies said that he had had with the leader of the hit squad who murdered and dismembered Mr Khashoggi at around the time of those events? If so, is she happy still to be described as she was by the leader of the Liberal Democrats as a “candid friend” of the Saudi crown prince?
The point that I made to the Saudi crown prince was very simple: everybody needs to be absolutely confident that the Saudi Arabian investigation is full, proper, credible and transparent. We are encouraging Saudi Arabia to ensure that it does that, and I also discussed the nature of the investigations with President Erdoğan.
It is the rise of technology that will change more lives across the G20 than any other factor. Will the Prime Minister restate her commitment to increase our spending on research and development so that we in this country make the most of the opportunities?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We have a firm commitment as a Government to increase the percentage of GDP being spent on research and development to 2.4%—that is both public and private sector investment. This is the way that we can ensure that we are investing in the jobs of the future.
Today is International Disability Day. With more than 1 billion disabled people worldwide—and that number is set to increase—was the equality and empowerment of disabled people discussed at the G20 and, if not, will the Prime Minister commit to discussing it at a future meeting?
What was discussed was the importance of ensuring that economic development benefits all people, including those who currently feel that they are not benefiting from it and obviously including disabled people. A number of events around the margins of the G20 also addressed a number of these issues.
The Prime Minister mentioned in her statement the importance of securing free trade deals around the world, yet some Members of this House are proposing the so-called Norway-plus option—membership of the single market and the EU customs union, most likely with a backstop. Does she agree that that would prevent free trade deals from being done, that we would still be paying money in and that there would be unlimited free movement, and will she join me in saying that would be an extremely bad choice for our country?
I am happy to confirm what my hon. Friend has said. That option would indeed mean that we would continue to pay and would have to accept free movement; the Norway-plus model also has the issue of the customs union. We have negotiated a deal that is right for the United Kingdom.
The hon. Lady will be aware that we have developed a national shipbuilding strategy. This is an important step forward that will support shipbuilders around the UK.
We are already one of the countries that is putting significant funds from its international development funding into the whole question of girls’ education, and we will continue to do so.