Press Conference with The Rt Hon Theresa May MP, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

July 11, 2017



Good afternoon.

I am pleased to be hosting Prime Minister Turnbull – whom I have known for many years – on his first visit to Downing Street.

This morning, we visited the site of last month’s brutal terror attack at Borough Market, where eight people tragically lost their lives, among them two Australians.

We paid tribute to the professionalism and bravery of the police and emergency services who undoubtedly prevented further loss of life, and the heroism of local business owners who shielded people from the terrorists.

I am deeply grateful to Prime Minister Turnbull and the Australian people for the solidarity and support they have shown the UK. At times such as this we are reminded of the importance of the strong ties that have bound our two nations together for over a hundred years.

And we will continue to stand together as close allies and firm friends against those who want to destroy our precious values and our way of life.

As the UK leaves the EU and forges a new role in the world, I am clear we should take the opportunity to strengthen our close partnership with Australia.

So today we have talked about how we can step up our cooperation in a range of areas, including security and defence, trade and investment, and on the world stage.

Let me take each of these in turn.

For over a century our soldiers have served together to preserve the fundamental values of freedom and democracy that we share. They stood shoulder to shoulder in two World Wars, in Iraq and in Afghanistan.

And this month, as we commemorate a hundred years since the Battle of Passchendaele, we again remember their service and their sacrifice.

Today we are leading partners in the Counter-Daesh Coalition, and as the fight moves from the battlefield to the internet we will work together to tackle the spread of Daesh’s hateful ideology online.

We have also discussed how we can address the challenge of end-to-end encryption which creates a safe haven for terrorists to communicate.

Alongside this, our national cyber security centres cooperate closely to crack down on malicious cyber activity. Our law enforcement agencies work together to tackle serious and organised crime – particularly the illegal financial flows that fund criminal gangs and terrorists.

And our intelligence-sharing partnership under the Five Eyes alliance is central to our efforts to address the shared threats we face.

Later this month our Defence and Foreign Ministers will meet in Sydney for their annual ministerial dialogue, to look at how we can deepen our security and defence co-operation to protect our shared interests and project our values around the world.

The UK and Australia are major trading partners and investors in each other’s economic success. Our strong and growing trade relationship is worth close to £14 billion.

We have both made clear our intention to continue to deepen our trade and investment relationship as the UK leaves the EU.

Our Brexit negotiations have started well. And I made clear to Prime Minister Turnbull that an ambitious and comprehensive bilateral trade deal with Australia remains a priority for the UK.

Australia was the first country with whom the UK established a Trade Working Group following the vote to leave the EU, and we are keeping up a regular and productive dialogue on the future of our free trading relationship.

We will continue to work together to push for greater global trade liberalisation and reform.

And I’m pleased to confirm that International Trade Secretary Liam Fox intends to travel to Australia in the coming months as part of these ongoing talks, and ahead of a further meeting of the Working Group later this year.

The UK and Australia remain close partners on the international stage. We work alongside each other through the Commonwealth, United Nations and G20 to address the shared global challenges we face.

Last week’s missile test in North Korea showed yet again the danger the regime poses to our friends and allies. We are united in our condemnation of their continued nuclear weapons and ballistic missile tests, which are in flagrant breach of the UN Security Council resolutions.

And at the G20, the Prime Minister and I discussed with our partners how we can step up international efforts to increase pressure on Pyongyang, and find a peaceful solution to the ongoing threat North Korea poses to global security.

Australia and Britain are also proud members of the Commonwealth, and its unique, vibrant and diverse alliance of nations. And I am delighted that the UK will host the 2018 Commonwealth Summit in London and Windsor next April, just after the Commonwealth Games take place on the Gold Coast.

The Prime Minister and I are united in our commitment to work together to support the renewal of the Commonwealth. We agreed that the Summit offers a platform to re-energise and revitalise the network, to cement its relevance to this and future generations.

So thank you Prime Minister, thank you Malcolm, for visiting us today, and for the excellent discussions we have had.

It’s always a pleasure to welcome our Australian friends to London, even more so when we have just beaten them at cricket. That’s women’s cricket, of course.

The ties between our countries have endured for generations, and I look forward to working closely with you to strengthen those bonds in the years ahead.


Well thank you very much Theresa. We’re not really debating today but the last time we debated was at the Oxford Union. Theresa Brasier and Malcolm Turnbull were both on the notice paper and the President was Philip May. So now all we need is President May here to oversee the debate.

So look Theresa, it’s wonderful to be here.

Australians feel at home in the United Kingdom and Britons feel at home in Australia. Most Australians have some of their ancestry at least from the United Kingdom and five per cent of Australians were actually born in the United Kingdom.

The culture, the laws the traditions of Britain were brought to Australia with the European settlement, British settlement that were brought as part of the heritage of the men and women, including my forebears, that founded what we know today as modern Australia. The most successful multicultural society in the world.

Built on the foundations of the most ancient human civilizations and cultures in the world, the first Australians. But also built on a foundation of British history, of British law, of a British conception of democracy and Parliamentary democracy in particular.

So when your institutions are attacked we feel that ours are too. When Britain is attacked by terrorism, we feel we are attacked as well.

The attack on Westminster Bridge, the assault, the cruel assault of young children in the Manchester Arena, the attack at London Bridge and the Borough Market, these were felt by the Australian people as keenly as the attacks we have suffered at home in Australia. We stand shoulder to shoulder now as we always have in freedom’s cause today, defying and defeating the Islamist terrorists that seek to do us harm, that seek to destroy our way of life and prevent us from living our way of life, living as we always have.

Now, down at London Bridge and the Borough Market, we were there today and we thanked the first responders. We thanked the police – unarmed police in the first instance – that rushed to the aid of the people that had been injured, including two officers who performed CPR on one of the two Australian women that were killed, Sara Zelenak.

We saw where Kirsty Boden, a brave Australian nurse, rushed out into harm’s way to help those who had been injured. Who heard there was an accident and, being a nurse, rushed out to help. We saw where she was killed.

And we thank those police, and we thank the ambulance workers, we thank the National Health Service workers, we thank them for the extraordinary service.

And Prime Minister, Theresa I should say, we were so proud, I was so proud to be with you and Cressida Dick, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and thank her for the extraordinary, rapid, effective, decisive action by the tactical response crew who got to the scene within eight minutes and killed the terrorists before they could do even more harm than they did.

So whether it is here, help cooperating on intelligence – and we had a very good meeting earlier today with Cressida Dick and of course with your Joint Intelligence Committee in your COBR briefing room – our cooperation is very intense and that is because it is built on trust. There are no two nations in the world that trust each other more than the United Kingdom and Australia.

We are family in a historical sense. We’re family in a genetic sense. But we are so close and that trust is getting stronger all the time.

It is vital to defeat terrorism at home, in the Middle East, right around the world. We talked today about the activities of Daesh or ISIL in the Philippines. This is a global threat and we cooperate and collaborate everywhere. Intelligence is absolutely the key. Now we’ve touched on, Theresa, cybersecurity and this was a big topic as we know at the G20, where we worked together to ensure that we had a strong communiqué after G20 on counter-terrorism and the need for more cooperation. And indeed, the need to ensure that the rule of law prevails online just as it does offline.

We cannot allow the internet to be used a means to create dark places where terrorists cannot be found.

And so the leaders of the 20 largest economies agreed there, and Theresa and I made this case very strongly to our colleagues, agreed there that we are calling on those big internet companies not simply to assist in taking down poisonous propaganda from the internet but also to ensure that lawful rights of access to information needed to keep our people secure are able to be enforced online just as they are offline. This is vitally important.

We talked about the very dangerous situation on the Korean Peninsula and Theresa and I are both of one mind on this. The North Korean regime must stop its dangerous and reckless conduct, it’s escalating dangerous conduct, and we’ve called on all the parties to do more, but in particular China which has the greatest leverage, and hence the greatest ability to bring that reckless regime to its senses.

We’ve talked about the economic challenges that we face and we recognise that as Britain moves to completing its exit from the European Union, we stand ready to enter into a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom as soon as the UK is able to do so.

So once that Brexit has been achieved, then we look forward to speedily concluding a free trade agreement with Australia and as you said, I think we were the first on the phone to offer our support and assistance in that regard.

At the same time I should say we are looking forward to the early conclusion of a free trade agreement with the European Union.

My government’s position is very simply this, economic prosperity has been demonstrated to be delivered by free trade and open markets. That is one of the major reasons Australia has had 26 years of uninterrupted economic growth.

And so we will seek to open up every door to every market that we can.

Whatever our differences may be on particular sporting contests or another, or our determination to triumph and regain the ashes, can I say that we believe that the bigger, the wider the field that Australians can run onto, the more success they will have.

And I know that you share that vision for Britain. Your vision for Britain, a post-Brexit Britain, is one filled with optimism, it’s not a council of despair as some people have said. I know Theresa, that you believe passionately that the British people can do anything, can achieve anything, and that your post-Brexit Britain will be a Britain with big horizons, big opportunities, free trade, open markets. You’re right, that is the future. That is where our prosperity has been delivered and I know that is where your prosperity in the future will come.

So thank you very much for your hospitality, we’re inspired by some of your reforms – and particularly your reduction in company tax. You’re already at 19 per cent, you said, and heading to 17. We’ve made some progress in that direction but we’ve got a way to catch up.

And finally, can I say that it was a very kind thought for you to invite the Australian chef, 30-year resident of London, Skye Gyngell to cook us lunch. Skye’s father Bruce Gyngell, as all the Australians here know, was a great television executive. In fact, he was the first face on Australian television, in a tiny little studio in Sydney, when it began in 1956.

And Bruce was a great mentor of mine, a really really good friend, a very dear friend. And he always used to say to me when I was a kid, he said “Malcolm, one day, you’ll be Prime Minister” and the idea that as Prime Minister I’m your guest at lunch here at Number 10, and his daughter has cooked us the lunch, is very, very special. So thank you for that too.


And a very good lunch it was.


Thank you – we’ll now take some questions.


Thank you Prime Minister, both of you. Prime Minister – what the opposition to contributes as well as to criticize, you’re expected to say tomorrow, what do you say to your own critiques though including in your own party who say it’s you that needs to change? And might a new way of doing business include maybe easing up the pressure on the public sector? Perhaps increasing public sector pay, getting rid of the pay cap?

Prime Minister Turnbull – you say that you’re very keen to get on with a UK-Australia trade deal but you also want an early agreement with the EU and those talks are already ongoing. How quickly do you think you could get a deal with Britain done once we leave?


As soon as possible. We move quickly. Australians are fleet of foot. We don’t muck around. We are very simple. We will move as quickly as the UK will move and we’ll move as soon as Britain is lawfully able to enter into a free trade agreement.

But we are very keen, we are working very fast and hard to get a free trade agreement with EU and ideally, as we discussed, as I discussed with Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker and indeed with Chancellor Merkel and President Macron and other European leaders, we’d like to get moving with that and get that done before Britain actually leaves the EU.

You know, I just want to be very clear about this. We are absolutely signed up for free trade, open markets. It has been the key to our continued run of economic success.


And just on that point as well, just to say that while we remain a member of the EU, we are continuing to press for these trade deals with other countries like Australia and indeed with Japan, a deal which we reached a political agreement just a few days ago. We are continuing to press the EU to get on with their own deals in place as well.

Now on the first question that you asked Laura, the Government’s got an ambitious agenda. It is an ambitious agenda which is there to address the big challenges that the country faces. Of course, one of those is getting the Brexit negotiations right but there are other challenges that we face as a country too. And I think the public will rightly want us to get the broadest possible consensus in looking at those issues and this is something I’ve done before. I did it as Home Secretary on counter-terrorism measures like the Investigative Powers Act, working with other political parties to ensure that we got that legislation right. I did it on the [inaudible] Act, working with other parties to ensure that that went on to the Statute Book.

And if you look at some of the issues that we’re addressing in the future, the report that's coming out tomorrow, Matthew Taylor's report - of course, I asked him to do that not that long after becoming Prime Minister, to look at the gig economy, to look at the changing face of the world of work here in the UK, to ensure we've got those workers' protections right.

And who would not want to work to ensure that workers had the best possible rights and protections in the workplace as it changes?

Who would not want to work with us to ensure that we've got the right counter-terrorism powers and capabilities in place?

Then there's another issue that, as you know, has come up recently through the general election, which is this whole question of the abuse and bullying and harassment that people suffered through the general election - a number of MPs have clearly identified that that happened to them. Yvette Cooper has been cleared - that's something we need to address. I think we should be working together to find a way to ensure that that sort of behaviour - which was, of course, targeted not just at candidates, but at others during the election - makes sure that the message goes out very clearly that that has no role in our democracy.


My question to you both – both Australia and the United Kingdom were involved in the invasion of Iraq in 2003 on the grounds there were weapons of mass destruction. There weren't, but we've now got a very real threat of weapons of mass destruction when it comes to North Korea but it seems, at the moment at least, very little is having much effect.

Now, I understand both of your positions - that China is the one that needs to do more - but again, there's no sign that it is taking any further steps putting any more pressure on Pyongyang.

My question is - are either of you willing to accept a nuclear-armed North Korea?


No. Absolutely not.


We want to see denuclearisation of North Korea.


Let me add a little bit to that. I hope that wasn't too short an answer for you. Would be the first time anyone's complained about one of my answers being short.


Look, the reality is that the Chinese, in practical terms, David, are the only country that has the ability to bring the North Korean regime to its senses without some form of military intervention. I mean, they have the potential, they've got the ability to impose huge economic pressure on North Korea, and they should do so. And we've encouraged them to do so and I've encouraged them to do so in every discussion I've had with Chinese leaders on this matter for a long time.


We have the same approach to this. As we say, we don't want to see North Korea with nuclear weapons, and that China is the country that has the greatest possible leverage on North Korea. And that's a message that I gave to President Xi, and I think that Prime Minister Turnbull has been giving to the Chinese, as he says, as well.


It's a red line?


What we want at the moment, what we want to do at the moment is to ensure that we can see the denuclearisation of North Korea.

The pressure that needs to be put on at the moment is from China.

Obviously there's been talk about further sanctions, but I think China has the greatest leverage. That's why this is an issue that we both take up with the Chinese President.


Prime Minister, the great repeal bills are being introduced this week. Are the areas of compromise for you, in terms of getting help from the Labour Party - does that include Brexit? If I may, does it concern you that Jeremy Corbyn has failed to condemn the actions of some of his supporters in the time since the election and all of these accounts of abuse have come out?


First of all, you're right - the repeal bill is being introduced.

That's obviously a key part of legislation for delivering Brexit because it will repeal the European Communities Act and set the scene for other pieces of legislation that will need to be brought in as we've highlighted in the Queen's Speech and afterwards.

And we said at the time of the Queen's Speech that we want to see the broadest possible consensus.

This is a huge decision that was taken by the British people last year.

We want to ensure that the deal we get is the right deal for Britain and we want to make a success of it.

As Malcolm Turnbull has said, in his remarks, I want to see Britain coming out of that relationship with the EU and into a new global Britain trading our way around the world with old friends and new allies alike, and standing tall and confident in the world.

We will work to ensure that we get the right deal for the United Kingdom as we leave the European Union.

On the issue of the bullying and harassment that has taken place of candidates and MPs, I call on all party leaders to condemn that. There is no place at all for that in our democracy. I am surprised at any party leader who is not willing to condemn that.

Frankly, we should stand together on this and say there is no place for this in our democracy. People should be able to stand for election, we should be able to conduct elections, without people fearing as to what's going to happen to them as a result of that.


Mr Turnbull, to you first. Your Government at home at the moment is considering a change to the bureaucracy regarding security apparatus. Some speculation has been around adopting a British-style Home Office. I'm just wondering, in your discussions here, is that feeding into your decision-making in that process?

And to both of you, on an issue of grave mutual concern to both our countries – there is a real there may not be an Ashes Series this year because of the players' strike in Australia. I am just wondering whether either of you would like to reflect on the likelihood of that not happening? And do you have advice for the negotiating parties in Australia?



Well, I'll answer the question about the Home Office, and then I think Theresa should go first on the cricket, and I'll conclude on the cricket.

The UK has an integrated Home Office - in fact, Theresa was the Home Secretary - in which they have all of their domestic security agencies - MI5, police and border protection, immigration – is all part of that. That's been the case for a very long time. Obviously, we're very always interested in learning about the British experience.

As far as administrative arrangements in Australia with respect to national security, I'd just repeat what I've said many times that this is no place for set-and-forget. We have to be dynamic, agile, constantly asking can we improve the way our agencies are keeping Australians safe? And we will always continue to seek improve them.

And I've demonstrated that with the cyber-security strategy already, and some of the matters I've raised. I've demonstrated that with the laws that we've changed - domestic counter-terrorism laws. As you know, as Australians know, we've passed laws that will enable a court to - the decision of a court, on the application of a court - for a person who is in jail for a terrorist offence to be kept in jail after the expiry of their sentence if they are judged to be a continuing threat. A tough law. No doubt about that. But it's an example of the changes that I've made.

Also, we've made changes to our criminal code so that our troops in the field, in the Middle East, are able to target and kill terrorists whether they are active combatants with a gun, a bomb or a knife in their hand, or whether they're in the back office planning or doing logistics or something else.

We will always seek to improve our national security arrangements to keep Australians safe. This is no place for set-and-forget.

So, cricket?


Just to reiterate, though, from the UK's point of view, in terms of counter-terrorism, we also look and we are doing, after the number of attacks that we have seen here in the UK - of course, four terrorism attacks in just around three months - but five other attacks foiled by our security services, and police during that same time frame. So as we see terrorism breeding terrorism - as we see people using the crudest means to conduct these terrorist attacks, we need to look at whether our powers and capabilities are the right ones for being able to deal with this threat. That's what we're doing at the moment.

But we're also working internationally, of course, indeed, with the online threat, which we've both referred to and, crucially, at the G20 - a very good discussion about how we deal with terrorist financing, which is another important element that we need to address.

Look, we always welcome every opportunity to play the Australians at cricket and show them a thing or two! As our women have just done! And I hope we can hear it for the women's cricket, actually, which is an excellent standard.


Well, thank you, Phil. Look, your question - really for the first time in both of our careers - has made me feel young again. Normally your questions make me feel the pressure of office and the pressure of the years but you know, 40 years ago, I was working for Kerry Packer setting up World Series Cricket. So there is a sort of a players' administrators' conflict that's got a certain ring about it, a resonance about it, for me.

But, look, Australians want their team on the field beating the Poms.


I encourage both sides, both sides to settle it as quickly as possible.

Thank you all very much.


Thank you.


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