David Davis speech on the future security partnership between the UK and the EU at the Royal United Services Institute library in London.
Thank you Deputy Director General for that kind introduction. As you alluded to it’s a pleasure to be speaking here, in this grand library in the Royal United Services Institute. This think-tank has, for centuries, hosted debates about matters of defence and security. And it’s this security I want to talk about today, in the context of the overarching, new partnership we want with the European Union after we leave. One that recognises the history that we share — history that fills the hundreds of books in this magnificent room. And builds on it as we start a new chapter in our relationship with the European Union.
We have five main aims for the new partnership. They were laid out by the Prime Minister in detail in her Mansion House speech. But there’s one aim I want to particularly concentrate on today – and it’s the need for this new partnership to stand the test of time. Because while we can get bogged down in the day-to-day grumblings — we must not lose sight of that goal during these negotiations. That’s why we have deliberately avoided ‘tit-for-tat’ briefings out of the talks — because we’ve seen how it has damaged other European negotiations.
And we don’t want to undermine efforts to build a lasting, positive relationship with the United Kingdom’s closest neighbours and allies in the EU. A stable relationship, built on trust. That doesn’t need to be re-visited or re-negotiated. One that is not so unacceptable to either side, that in a few years’ time it fails completely. And one that provides the benefits of our collective power to all our citizens for generations to come.
It is not about membership-lite. We will be off the Council, no longer have a Commissioner, and there will be no British MEPs in the European Parliament. No British judges, no opt ins. Put simply — the UK will no longer be a member of the European Union.
The decision to leave the European Union is about delivering control back to the British people. So they get the final say on how their money is spent, how their laws are made, and how their borders are controlled. It will mean a new, different relationship with the European Union.
That should not, however, ignore the decades of trust, collaboration and cooperation that have existed between us, as if they never happened. Collaboration that has benefits beyond the borders of Europe, and out into the wider world. Pan European cooperation has kept people safe. It has kept people alive. And it has protected the peace.
We don’t need to be members of the European Union for this cooperation to continue. But for the relationship to endure: we do need to leave the European Union as friends and allies. Friends who trust each other.
Anyone frankly who suggests that the United Kingdom cannot be trusted, and isn t the proven friend of every single country in Europe, needs to brush up on their history. Britain has always stepped up to its global responsibilities. We put our world-leading military power at the service of our shared values — and always have done. We use our position as one of the world’s most advanced economies to create jobs and spread prosperity. And we celebrate our respected, independent legal system, setting a global example of fair trials and stable laws. We are champions of a rules-based international system, and worked to defend the security of people both here and abroad. So that is why we set out, early and publicly, as the Deputy Director General said, our proposals to continue security cooperation with the EU.
We are publishing detailed technical papers on specific issues, such as Galileo and internal security. And our discussions with the Commission will continue between me and Michel Barnier next week.
Our offer remains unconditional. At its heart is a strategic partnership that allows us to tackle the full range of threats that we face. A partnership that respects the autonomy of the United Kingdom and the European Union — but, importantly, allows us to continue to work together. Because the operational expertise that is currently shared between the United Kingdom and countries in the European Union has meant our people are safer and more prosperous.
Agencies such as Europol have helped break up criminal gangs. And prevented drugs and guns ending up on our streets. The European Arrest Warrant has brought dangerous people swiftly to justice, and put them behind bars. Meanwhile information sharing has helped stop countless terror attacks. By making sure critical information is picked up, shared quickly and acted upon at speed. But these tools and systems don’t work in isolation. It’s the way that they interact that means they’re effective. Because they have been designed carefully that way, over time, to respond to new threats.
Let me give an example. Say a person, radicalised online, leaves Europe to train in a terrorist camp in Syria. Intent on coming back to radicalise even more people and carry out a deadly atrocity. There are multiple systems and tools in place that are able to pick up on suspicious behaviour — from Facebook posts to travel bookings — that link to the functioning of agencies. So European authorities can pick the terrorist up, before they can target and kill innocent people.
And as the threats we face continue to evolve so must our collaboration. Because we must work together — and quickly — if we want to avoid any gap in our operational capability. A gap that could be exploited, putting people in harm’s way.
The first duty of government is to keep its citizens safe. And it’s the pursuit of that safety that made Britain make that unconditional offer to the European Union. Any move by others to place conditions on our offer will only serve to put the safety of everybody’s citizens at risk. Because when terrorists set off bombs or fire guns — be in it on the streets of Paris, or London, or Manchester or Brussels — they don’t check the passports of their victims first.
So in approaching the trade-offs of Brexit, the United Kingdom made a choice. We decided that Europe’s safety was far too important to be negotiated away. And so, while we know things must change when we leave the EU — that cannot be at the expense of citizens’ security. Now that means of course we will make appropriate contributions to the costs of programmes we want to remain involved in. And when participating in EU agencies, the UK will respect the remit of the European Court of Justice. For that, we will need a solution to close legal cooperation, which respects our unique status as a third country, with our own, sovereign legal order.
We have presented serious, considered options about the shape of that future security partnership. Designed to respect the decision-making autonomy of the European Union, as well as the United Kingdom. However it’s sometimes said that the limits of our cooperation have been set by the United Kingdom. That on leaving the European Union — and not being under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice — there will be an automatic drop in security cooperation. That we are the only one with a choice.
I don’t agree. The European Union does have choices. And when I see the positions being proposed by the Commission, I see choices being taken there. Ones which lean towards the protection of legal precedents, above operational capability.
This may be deliberate. It may be where the EU sees us ending up. But there is an alternative path. One that sees the institutional architecture of the EU as a means to an end, not as an end in itself. One that leads to a partnership which reflects the reality of mutual gains available to the United Kingdom and the European Union and its member states. And as the Home Secretary said on Monday — there is not a single European interior minister who wants to reduce the level of co-operation on security that we have now.
Take for example, the European Arrest Warrant. It has played a crucial role in supporting police co-operation, not least in Northern Ireland and Ireland. And when I travel across Europe, speaking to my counterparts in EU member states, I hear how much they value this scheme, and the weight that the UK brings to it. Before it came into force in 2004, fewer than 60 criminals a year were extradited from the United Kingdom. Since then, we have extradited more than 10,000 criminals so they can face justice. And for every person arrested on a warrant from British police under the scheme, we arrest eight people on behalf of other member states. These are gangsters, terrorists, murderers — dangerous criminals who are off the streets and in jail thanks to cooperation fostered across borders.
People like Hussain Osman, who planted a bomb at Shepherd’s Bush tube station during the failed London bombings in July 2005. Despite fleeing to Italy, he was located and extradited back to the UK where he was found guilty of attempted murder and put in prison for 40 years. Before he could carry out his deadly intentions elsewhere.
Or killer Piotr Kupiec, who fled Poland to Britain after murdering a man at a football match. He was working in Wiltshire until a European Arrest Warrant brought police to his door, and his swift extradition back to Poland to face his crimes.
Another example is the European Criminal Records Information System. Through it, the United Kingdom and countries right across the EU exchange tens of thousands of pieces of information about criminal convictions. We are consistently one of the top three contributors and users of ECRIS. Last year alone, we sent and received more than 600 requests and notifications a day. If we were frozen out of ECRIS, neither the United Kingdom nor Member States would be able to quickly obtain criminal records information from each other. Courts might no longer be able to take into account previous convictions when deciding on guilt, sentence or bail. And law enforcement agencies may no longer be able to protect the public when dangerous individuals move between the United Kingdom and the European Union
And it’s through that need to protect the public that we must also look at how we best cooperate over Galileo — the European Global Navigation Satellite. This system will provide significant space capability for Europe. Once in place, it will have secure global coverage. That draws on UK-hosted sensor stations in the South Atlantic. The project is making the European space sector more competitive. It will mean armed forces across Europe can work better together, enabling us to jointly develop operating procedures in the most testing conditions. Our weapons systems will be more effective, better able to achieve their aims with minimum collateral damage to innocent civilians. Because Galileo is so important, UK industry and military experts have been instrumental in its design. We have spent hundreds of millions of pounds on the project, and thousands of hours of work has been dedicated to making sure the system is secure.
But now, the Commission are suggesting that by being involved, the United Kingdom poses a risk to the security interests of the European Union. British companies are being discriminated against, blocked from applying for contracts to design and manufacture parts of the new system. And this is happening, despite the fact that excluding UK industry would delay the project by up to three years — and cost the programme an extra billion euros. Put simply, the Commission’s position seems to be shooting itself in the foot just to prove that the gun works. This is not an issue isolated to Galileo.
The same is at risk of happening with the new European Defence Fund. The UK and our industry are already making a meaningful contribution. But, the EU’s approach to the provisional regulation risks damaging potential cooperation in the longer term. On all of these, unhelpful precedents and assumptions on how third countries should cooperate with the EU is hindering projects that help the entire continent. Dogmatic responses based on what has happened before don’t help anyone.
And actually, when I hear that by going beyond precedent for the UK, agreements with other countries will have to be re-examined. My response is — why is that bad? If it makes our continent safer? So what we are proposing is a collaborative approach. One that goes beyond existing agreements, by recognising the combined successes we’ve had so far. We’re proud of the role that we have played in making our continent safer. We have taken such actions because we are friends and allies of the European Union, and its member states.
Europe’s security is our security. Our relationship can be different because it starts from a different base. When we leave the EU, our data sharing systems will be uniquely compatible with theirs, and our operational processes will already be closely aligned. That makes it much easier to continue our existing cooperation, rather than starting afresh.
On Galileo, we’re proposing a framework that reflects our contribution to the programme. And gives UK industry the ability to participate openly and fairly on its development and usage, including the crucial secure elements. We should be able — as trusted allies and friends of Europe — to get an agreement that allows sensitive information to be shared.
Looking more widely, the security partnership with the EU should enable us to work together on new tools for the future. So that when criminals and terrorists use new and emerging technology to try and evade capture — state and police systems can evolve at pace to tackle them. In our upcoming White Paper, we will say that our future security partnership should include formal, strategic and operational dialogues that allow the United Kingdom and the European Union to learn from each other. It will set out our ambition for a new, reciprocal secondment programme for security experts, as a way of sharing skills and expertise.
We want a comprehensive deep partnership with the European Union on a whole range of matters that have an impact on our security. On counter-terrorism — where systems like SISII mean we flag to our European partners that individuals linked to terrorism had travelled to the UK. And the Passenger Name Record Directive allows us to work with European partners to track individuals on terrorist watch lists, and identify their accomplices from their movements. On foreign and defence policy, we will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our allies in Europe. On addressing the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean — where the UK has committed a ship and vital expertise to the operation which has helped save more than 13,000 lives. And we will look to carry over all EU sanctions at the time of our departure, and continue to work with the European Union to make sure we both implement effective sanctions in the future. Because we must do whatever is most practical and pragmatic to provide security for all of Europe’s citizens.
Now I have spoken before about how the UK has always seen the European project differently. It’s because we think differently about the EU that the people of the United Kingdom, I think, voted to leave. Confident in the knowledge that we would be able to agree a new way of trading with our allies — while taking back control of this country’s own future. So as well as the partnership on security that we want, as I’ve already set out, we want a new economic partnership too.
Many have suggested that the only thing on offer for the UK and the EU’s future trading relationship is an ‘off the shelf’ model, based on agreements made before. But what’s important is that we agree a partnership that is broad and deep — and balanced by mutual commitments. This isn’t a case of asking for special treatment. We are leaving the European Union. We are leaving the Single Market and Customs Union, so things will change.
It’s not about trying to recreate everything the EU does for the benefit of one non-member. It’s about recognising the centuries-old shared cultural, social and economic ties that exist between us. And the fact that we will share those same laws and regulations on the day that we leave. This unique starting point is a solid foundation of mutual trust for this new economic partnership. And also reflect the UK’s position as one of the world’s largest economies, one of the EU’’s closest trading partners, and one of its most dependable allies.
So as well as security our upcoming White Paper will set out, at length, the steps we want to take to keep as close trading ties as we currently have, and make sure that trade stays as frictionless as possible. It will tackle, once and for all, the heavily propagated myth that the UK doesn’t know what it wants. By building on the Prime Minister’s speeches, our existing White Papers, our 17 summer papers and countless presentations made directly to the EU about the partnership we want. One that recognises that these trade negotiations are completely unique in history.
Again, we’re going to need the European Union to recognise that the UK is not your average third country, if we’re going to get the trading agreement that defends jobs across Europe. Our economies have deep linkages in their supply chains. Aeroplanes, vehicles and chemicals that cross the UK-EU border several times during the production process. A typical car part may be moulded in the UK, painted in Slovakia, and then assembled back here in the UK. This is underpinned by the fact that these products need undergo only one set of approvals — which our plans for a comprehensive framework of mutual recognition will ensure continues.
This, of course, essential in the context of Northern Ireland and Ireland. Where the ability of businesses to make world-leading products depends on their ability to cross the border many, many times. Sometimes in the same day. Now, as well as goods moving across borders; engineers, electricians, manufacturers will need to cross them as well. So getting a deal that reflects the deep economic ties that both the United Kingdom and the European Union benefit from is vitally important for both of our economies. And strong economies, of course, are vital to security and vital to the people whose livelihoods depend on them.
So those who say, or think, that the UK must be seen to be damaged by Brexit, should think again. Because the truth is, if you harm Britain, you harm all of Europe. Every trade deal is bespoke, tailored to meet the needs of each side. And to be fair that approach is understood by the EU’s negotiators as well. They have suggested a number of unprecedented elements in their proposals for the economic partnership. Their call for commitments on level playing field go far beyond any ordinary or conventional free trade agreement. So again, this idea pedalled by some that the UK face a stark choice — Norway or Canada — doesn’t hold water.
So what’s next?
Now of course I recognise that Brexit isn’t popular for many people in the EU. Going around Europe, it’s clear that people do not want us to leave. I understand that. But the British people made their decision — for reasons that I think are correct, decent, and in the long-term interests of our country.
We will still be the open, tolerant, welcoming country we have always been. We will still welcome young people from across Europe to our universities. And doctors and nurses to train and work in our hospitals. Meanwhile tourists, business people — even Government ministers — will still travel between the United Kingdom and the European Union to exchange ideas, do deals and work.
Now, both sides of the negotiating table have a choice about how best to get the new partnership we need. And make the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union as smooth and orderly as possible. We have chosen right from the beginning to recognise the specific responsibilities that lie with us, as the party choosing to leave. And that is why we are putting forward practical solutions to the obstacles that might otherwise undermine the long-lasting, deep and special partnership we want with the European Union. One that respects the institutional architecture of the European Union, and the constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom.
For Northern Ireland in particular, that means both sides recognising the commitments that we have made to avoid a hard border. And the responsibilities each side has, flowing from the Belfast Agreement, to respect both communities. But we must move on from the fiction that a customs border down the Irish Sea would be acceptable, or indeed enforceable.
When I look at the relationship between the United Kingdom and the twenty seven remaining members of the EU, there are reasons to be optimistic. And I make no apologies for being so. Our interests are so aligned that the only threats come not from deliberate action, but from what we fail to do. The primary risk in these negotiations is actually now one of accident. That due to a lack of ambition — by resting on third country precedents — we miscalculate somehow. And the cost of this miscalculation is a deal that is unacceptable to both sides. That lets down the citizens we are both duty bound to protect. Now is the time to redouble our efforts, and open our minds once again. To build an enduring new partnership between the closest of friends and allies.
There is every reason for these negotiations to succeed. But there is a big world out there outside of the Berlaymont negotiating room. One that faces complex challenges, that demand collective action. One that is depending on us getting these talks right.
Right: for the sake of the hundreds of thousands of European jobs, that depend on trade being as frictionless as possible.
Right: for the safety of our citizens, who depend on security cooperation that transcends borders.
If the decades, the centuries of European cooperation are to continue and evolve. If we are to build a partnership that stands the test of time. And if we’re to deliver a bright new future for the European Union and United Kingdom.