No. 10 Afternoon Press Briefing From 12 Nov 2007
Afternoon Press Briefing from 12 November 2007
Briefing from the British Prime Minister's Spokesman on: PM's Lord Mayor's Banquet speech, Landmines and Pakistan. "The Prime Minister's Spokesman began the briefing by talking Lobby through the speech the PM would be making at the Lord Mayor's Banquet later this evening.
PM's Lord Mayor's Banquet Speech
The Prime Minister's Spokesman (PMS) began the briefing by talking Lobby through the speech the Prime Minister would be making at the Lord Mayor's Banquet later this evening. The speech started with the Prime Minister setting out some of the main new challenges that we faced in the 21st century. He talked about the new uncertainties from failed states and rogue states, the spread of terrorism, destroying the old assumption that states alone could access destructive weapons, the big changes in the world's economy, the new challenges from climate change, and some of the other cross-border challenges we faced such as pandemic flu and worldwide migration. The Prime Minister concluded from this that because the world is so connected and interdependent, we were able to contemplate a global society that empowers people. But he also concluded that a nation's self-interest would not be found in isolation, but in cooperation. So the issue was how do we best cooperate internationally to meet these global challenges?
The paragraph that best summarised the speech was where the Prime Minister talked about his approach of hard-headed internationalism. It was internationalist because we were accepting that there were global challenges and that these needed global solutions, and that there was a strong case for cooperation in order to meet our shared interest. But it was hard-headed because it recognised that we needed to reform the international reform rules and institutions in order to deliver that.
The Prime Minister then went on to talk about Britain's alliances, with some strong language about our relationship with America. He said "I have no truck with anti-Americanism in Britain or elsewhere in Europe", and reiterated that our relationship with the US is our most important bilateral relationship. As he was saying over the weekend, France and Germany were looking to strengthen their relationships with the EU and that left us in the best position that we had been in for some time for Europe and America to work together to reform the international framework.
There were then three specific examples of what hard-headed internationalism might mean in practice. The first was around reconstruction, where the Prime Minister said we must give equal weight to reconstruction alongside peacekeeping at the UN and elsewhere. He also referred to the possibility of having an international standby civilian force, not a new proposal, including police and judiciary which could be deployed to rebuild civic societies. On nuclear non-proliferation he talked about the need to hold both active providers and potential users to account, saying this was about the supply side of nuclear fuel and expertise as well as the demand side. He referred to, again not a new proposal but an example of how we could regularise the supply of nuclear fuel, the idea of a nuclear fuel bank where countries that wanted to make use of nuclear fuel for civilian purposes could access nuclear fuel as long as they renounced nuclear weapons and met internationally enforced non-proliferation standards, rather than try to develop their own processed nuclear fuel.
On Iran, the Prime Minister talked about Iran having a choice, and that unless we saw positive outcomes flowing from Solana's report and the IAEA's report due later this month, we would lead in seeking tougher sanctions both at the UN and at the European Union, including in oil and gas investment. And that Iran should be in no doubt about our seriousness and purpose.
On reform of international institutions, the Prime Minister talked about reform of the Security Council and the case for countries like Japan, India, Brazil and Germany, or an African country becoming members. He also talked about the G8 becoming broadened, and the need to reform the World Bank so that it had a much greater focus on environment.
Those were the main themes of the speech, there was also a paragraph on Pakistan, and he talked a little about the Middle East Peace Process.
Asked how he would define "hard-headed intervention", the PMS replied that by hard-headed intervention we meant intervention that made a real difference on the ground. The Prime Minister gave a number of examples of that later in the speech, for example it meant having credible processes in place to ensure that reconstruction follows peacekeeping. In relation to reform of the international institutions, it ensures having mechanisms in place which make them relevant to the 21st century. In relation to sanctions in ensured having sufficiently tough sanctions in place that they make a difference to a countries behaviour.
Asked if "hard-headed intervention" included military options and cruise missiles, and that it was striking that the speech talked a lot about sanctions building up to something and reconstruction afterwards, but not what happened in between, the PMS replied that one would never rule out military options when talking about foreign policy.
Asked if a UN Security Council that was more representative, more credible and more effective, included having Britain as a permanent member, the PMS replied yes it did.
Put that the Royal Navy was sending a fleet down to that part of the world, and asked if this was linked in any way, the PMS replied not as far as he was aware.
Asked if the Prime Minister would be wearing white tie and tails tonight, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister would be.
Asked why the Prime Minister had decided to go in white tie having worn a lounge suit to city functions as Chancellor, the PMS replied that this was the decision that the Prime Minister had made.
Put that the menu of sanctions had not been as extensive as it might have been, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister believed that we could use whatever options we had available. There was no particular new thinking he was outlining on specific types of sanctions.
Put that the Prime Minister stressed several times including in his speech, his desire to seek tougher sanctions should Iran continue not to comply with its obligations, and asked if he was frustrated by China and Russia continually blocking moves in that direction, the PMS replied that we wanted to take this forward both in the European Union and at the UN. And depending on the outcome of the IAEA report, if Iran continued to defy the international community then there would need to be a further discussion at the UN. Let's see how that progressed.
Asked how this foreign policy approached differed from Tony Blair's approach, the PMS replied that he would leave the interpretation to journalists. It was not for him to interpret Tony Blair's foreign policy.
Asked for details on the new sanctions the Prime Minister was proposing on Iran, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister was specifically referring in his speech to oil and gas investment, something we had not done before. Asked to elaborate on this, the PMS replied that it would mean sanctions on investment in the oil and gas sector. Obviously the practical details would need to be worked out, but it we had not gone this far before from a UK perspective talking about the oil and gas sector in this way. Clearly it would have an impact on any new investment in oil and gas development from overseas in Iran. Asked if people would be prevented from investing in those areas, the PMS replied that that was a fairly general understanding of what that meant. But obviously the specific detail would be subject to negotiations.
Put that the Prime Minister had never mentioned including oil and gas investment in relation to sanctions before, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister had not mentioned it specifically before.
Asked if it was considered a measure that would hit Iran hard, the PMS replied that clearly the oil and gas sector was a significant part of their economy.
Asked when was the last time the Prime Minister spoke to President Bush, the PMS replied that he did not have that information to hand, but there was regular contact between the Prime Minister and the President, and there was very regular contact at all levels between Downing Street and the White House.
Asked that given the closeness of relations between Russia and Iran, was there any prospect of getting Russia to sign up to these new sanctions, the PMS replied that we would have to see. We were talking about UN and EU sanctions here, but we would have to see how things developed. Asked if it could be the EU without Russia, the PMS replied that there was a UN process and an EU process. Typically the EU sanctions were tougher than the UN sanctions, but we would have to see how negotiations developed over the next few weeks.
Asked if the Prime Minister was proposing sanctions that would be EU wide unilateral, that they would have an impact through Europe even though other countries may not do it, the PMS replied that we already had EU sanctions in relation to Iran. This would be about toughening up existing EU sanctions.
Asked if there were sanctions on oil and gas investment, did this mean that a company wanting to go in and drill in Iran would be told that they could not, the PMS replied that this was his understanding.
Asked to give example of the financial sector sanctions, the PMS replied that he had no specific examples, but it would not be that difficult to find them out. He was not going to set out our negotiating position over the next weeks and months, we were setting out the sectors where we thought that sanctions could be extended.
Asked how these measures were such a big stick, the PMS replied that it would obviously have an impact on the economy of Iran.
Put that the danger was that non-signatories would get the contracts, the PMS replied that it was the case at the moment that we had tougher EU sanctions than UN sanctions, but we were trying to move everything step by step.
Put that if the Russians and the Chinese did not sign, then surely they would be the first to pile in and start drilling, the PMS replied that we did have the discussions at the UN, and let's see how they developed.
Asked to what extent the British oil and gas companies and banks have operations already in Iran, and would this effect their future operations, the PMS replied that he did not have that information to hand, and was sure that the Financial Times could find out that information themselves.
Asked was there not a danger that slapping sanctions on oil and gas development would make Iran more dependent on their nuclear programme, the PMS replied that this was not the case as we were also looking to take action in relation to the supply of nuclear fuel.
Asked where was the incentive, the PMS replied that if they wanted to continue to defy the rule of the international community then they would pay an ever greater price.
Put that this approach was therefore all stick and no carrot, the PMS replied that the incentive might be for example in relation to the ideas about a nuclear fuel bank, where responsible states may in the future be able to get access to processed nuclear fuel for civic purposes.
Asked if when talking about sanctions on investments did this mean new investments, the PMS replied that it said what it said.
Asked what an enrichment bond was, the PMS replied that he was sure a Google search on "enrichment bond" would give a much more coherent answer than he could give.
Put that the Saudis came with a particular proposal about Iran being able to access a nuclear fuel bank in Switzerland, the PMS replied that the Saudi proposal was not dissimilar to this, the Prime Minister was speaking in quite general terms, there were a number of specific proposals of which one was an enrichment bond, and one was a nuclear fuel bank. There were a number of different ways in which this might be done. The Prime Minister here was using this as an example of how we needed to take action not only on the demand side in relation to potential users, but on the supply side as well in terms of how these countries get access to nuclear fuel and expertise.
Asked if the Prime Minister had made any assessment of the likely impact on domestic oil and gas prices, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister thought that this was about dealing with nuclear proliferation potentially in Iran. This was a very serious issue for the world economy. Asked if this was worth paying more than $100 a barrel, the PMS replied that no one was saying that.
Put that the Prime Minister said that Iran has a choice, and asked if this was a "comply or else" type message, the PMS replied that this was about the next stage of increasing diplomatic pressure on Iran. We had the IAEA report coming out quite soon, which would assess Iran's progress against commitments entered into in relation to the UN. If it was clear that they continue to defy the international community then we would have to move things to the next stage in the UN.
Asked if the idea of a nuclear fuel bank were to take off, where would we build the nuclear power stations, the PMS replied that he was not an expert on processing nuclear fuel. There were a number of detailed proposals already out there, the Prime Minister here was making reference in general terms to these proposals around nuclear fuel banks.
Asked if military action was still an option, the PMS replied every time the Prime Minister had been asked this he had said that nothing was ruled out, but we were continuing to pursue a diplomatic route, and there were signs that sanctions were having an effect.
Asked for examples of situations where the standby civilian force could be sent, and would they need some sort of military protection, the PMS replied that we were not denying they would need military protection. The standby civilian force would need to work alongside and be conceived at the same time as the UN Security Council or the African Union for example gave its endorsement to any peacekeeping forces. Examples of where this might be used - Darfur would be an obvious one.
Asked if we envisaged Britain making a contribution to such a force, the PMS replied that Britain was always prepared to play its role in contributing to international peace and stability.
Put that the speech talked about a new network of change makers, and asked who were they, and should journalists Google them as well, the PMS replied that one of the points that the Prime Minister made was that in this new global society, developments were no longer shaped solely by international countries working together through international cooperation, but through a whole new range of global networks that globalisation and change had facilitated.
Asked about the title of the speech "Hard-Headed Internationalism" and did this mean that we should work more closely with the UN and that we would not go to war unless there was international agreement on issues as important as this, or was it still a "pick and mix" approach, the PMS replied that it said that we would continue to work with the international institutions, but the international institutions need reforming and need to be reformed in order to make them more relevant for the 21st century.
Asked if there was any disappointment from the Prime Minister at a report today in Geneva by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which ranked the UK among 12 countries along with Chad and Mozambique who were likely to miss the 2009 deadline to clear all landmines from their territories, and was this a concern, the PMS replied that he did not have any information on this, best to check with the Foreign Office.
Asked for the Prime Minister's position on Pakistan and possible suspension from the Commonwealth, the PMS replied that the clearest exposition of the Prime Minister's position on Pakistan was the one that he would deliver this evening in his speech.