Secretary of State
London, United Kingdom
June 27, 2016
FOREIGN SECRETARY HAMMOND: Good afternoon. I’m delighted to welcome Secretary Kerry today. His visit here just three days after the referendum result underlines the strength of the special relationship and indeed Britain’s many friendships around the world, and I very much appreciate him taking the time to visit with us today.
The result last Friday is, of course, not the result that I wished for, and it means a difficult period ahead for our country as we adjust to the choice that has been made, and over a longer period, our economy adjusts to the new realities. But the people of Britain have spoken and the government is clear that the result must be respected and will be delivered. And as the prime minister set out earlier this afternoon, Britain’s global role remains undiminished. There is absolutely no question that Britain will turn its back on the world or indeed on Europe.
Britain is and always will be open for business, committed to peace and security, and a leading supporter of the international rules-based system. We’re a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the second largest contributor to NATO, a member of the G7, the G20, and the Commonwealth. And even outside the EU, we will seek to continue close collaboration and the strongest possible economic relationship with the 27.
I want to stress again that until an Article 50 notice is served, Britain remains a full member of the European Union. We will continue to engage with it and to contribute to it. Our support for Operation Sophia, the EU task force tackling people traffickers in the Mediterranean, is just one example of how we will continue to play our part. I expect that cooperation will go on regardless of our future status and relationship with the European Union.
I also want to reassure EU nationals living in the UK that there will be no immediate changes in their circumstances. They are as entitled to work, visit, and live here today as they were last Wednesday. The same is true of UK nationals in the EU.
Of course, our priorities are not confined to relationships with our near neighbors. We will remain engaged with our international partners, as we’ve always done, to protect our people, promote our prosperity, and project our values. Our world-class diplomatic service will continue to deliver this vital work using its skills and expertise to uphold British interests and to support our partners around the world.
After this press conference, I will be talking with Secretary Kerry about how to keep up the pressure against Daesh in Syria and Iraq through the global coalition in which the UK plays an important part.
I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome the progress made by the Iraqi Security Forces in Fallujah while recognizing also the serious humanitarian situation faced by people there and the need for the international community to respond to that.
We’ll also discuss how to restart the stalled political dialogue and encourage a transition away from Assad in Syria and how we best support the Government of National Accord in Libya. All of these issues are of vital concern to this country and we will continue to play a vocal role in seeking solutions to them.
I want to end by thanking Secretary Kerry once again for coming here today. It is an important show of support for the special relationship between Britain and the United States. The U.S., of course, has vital relationships also with the other members of the European Union, and I hope that in the weeks and months ahead, we will be able to work out a solution for our future relationship with Britain outside the European Union which supports the stability and the security and the prosperity of the continent of Europe in a way which is hugely in the interests of the people of the UK, the people of the continent of Europe, and the people of the United States.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Philip, thank you. Thank you very much and good evening to everybody. I want to thank Foreign Secretary Hammond for yet another generous welcome here in London, and also for his partnership in seeking to resolve some of the thorniest and most urgent challenges that we face across the globe.
I’m here in this great capital city this evening in the aftermath of last week’s vote to underscore the unbreakable bond that exists between the United States and the United Kingdom. The special relationship that we often refer to is perhaps even more important in these days of questioning on behalf of many people, but I want to make it clear that we believe – we the United States believe that it remains as strong and as crucial as ever.
We are bound together by a lot of different things, bound together by a lot of history, bound together by many shared traditions, shared values, shared language – mostly – (laughter) – and a shared view of the rights and responsibilities of people and of nations. Ours is really, frankly, a storied history among nations. And it is not inappropriate to recall that our troops in World War II fought side by side to liberate a continent from fascism, that our diplomats worked together in tandem to rebuild Europe. And our soldiers and our aviators defended it when an Iron Curtain descended between West and East.
And today, our nations cooperate on virtually every major political and security issue. That is a very simple reason that right here – in fact, in this room was my first visit overseas as Secretary of State. Good friends are important all of the time, but they are especially important in complex times. And I want to make it clear that at this moment of challenge, the United States of America knows it could not ask for a better friend and ally than the United Kingdom.
As Foreign Secretary Hammond and I reaffirmed today briefly in the conversation that we’ve already had – and then we will talk further about the issues that Philip referred to – but we reaffirmed that our two countries are strong and vigilant NATO partners, permanent members of the UN Security Council, commercial partners, global champions of democracy and the rule of law. And the United States counts on strong UK leadership in NATO, the G7, the UN Security Council, the counter-Daesh coalition, and we are both looking forward to the NATO summit next month as 28 nations, including 22 EU members, come together in Warsaw to take the next steps to further strengthen the world’s greatest alliance. And we will continue to be partners in that alliance.
This morning in Brussels – and Philip referred to our relationship with the EU – I reaffirmed the centrality of U.S.-EU relations and the common agenda that we share. This includes the promotion of peace in Syria, the defeat of Daesh, support for Afghanistan in its fight against extremists, support for the Government of National Accord in Libya, support for a sovereign and democratic Ukraine, just to mention a few of the global challenges that bring us together constantly. It includes addressing the global refugee crisis, implementing both climate change agreement approved in Paris and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran to reduce the threat posed by a nuclear weapon.
It includes our international health efforts, where together we helped stop the spread of Ebola and now stand on the threshold of the first generation born free from AIDS. And it includes our effort to revolutionize the way that we produce energy, crack down on corruption, create jobs, and spur growth on both sides of the Atlantic. And while last Thursday’s outcome was, as Philip said, different from what he hoped for, it was different from what both our governments looked for. It reflected, however, the will of the British people. And we respect that – all of us. That is the essence of democracy, and so too, my friends, is leadership. And we have immense confidence in the quality of leadership on both sides of the channel in order to manage the transition in a thoughtful and sensitive and strategic manner.
While there is some uncertainty in the air inevitably, leaders have the ability – individual people have the ability and the responsibility – to restore certainty by making wise choices in the days ahead. And that means choices that, to every degree possible, are not aimed at retribution, not aimed in anger, but rather thought through in a way that brings people together.
At a very different moment in UK history, Winston Churchill summed up what is still our mission today: “We shall go forward together.” Around the world, we all face grave challenges and difficulties. Believe me: The complexity of those challenges is brought home to me every single day. We live in an era of unbelievable technology and yet our instincts are in some ways stubbornly tribal. National and sectarian jealousies continue to plague us. And non-state actors have more influence than ever before – sometimes for the better, but often for the worse.
The reality is that our nations, our people, have always faced tests. And for the most part in the modern era, we have faced those tests together. That is the nature of history. Every generation is called on to surmount obstacles. And I am absolutely convinced we will overcome whatever obstacles are in our way now.
Seventy-five years ago, millions of refugees were streaming not into Europe, but out – seeking refuge from a confrontation with Nazism that would climax in unprecedented savagery and in the Holocaust.
Fifty years ago, half of Europe lived behind barbed wire.
A quarter of a century ago, Europe was witness to a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing that would rage for years.
Make no mistake: The United States, the United Kingdom, and the entire transatlantic community responded then, and we will respond now, because that community is strong not because we have somehow been exempt from tragedy and strife. We are strong because we are resilient and because we have resisted attempt after attempt to divide us and to turn us on one another.
So yes, the UK and EU relationship will now change, but what will never change is that we are strongest when we stay united as a transatlantic community and find the common ground rooted in the interests and the values of freedom, open markets, equality, and tolerance. Let me emphasize: The day before the vote last week, we were motivated in our efforts globally by similar interests and similar values. That vote does not wipe away those interests or those values. And so we need to stay organized, even as we go forward.
I want to thank Prime Minister Cameron and I thank my friend, Philip, the foreign secretary, for their partnership on so many of these challenges that we face, and I have every confidence in the world that when reasonable people apply reasonable standards in reasonable ways, we will find a way to go forward strong and confident about the possibilities of the future.
I’d be happy to answer a couple questions.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: James Robinson from BBC. Foreign Secretary, could I ask you, in the light of what you said about the – what you say of the internal contradictions within the offer made by the out campaign, particularly trade and freedom of movement, whether you think that it would be necessarily a good thing for whatever is negotiated as final settlement with the European Union, the terms of exit, to be put to the people of Britain since (inaudible) out can’t achieve everything they’ve offered to the British people, perhaps in the form of a manifesto ahead of a general election, perhaps in the form of a second referendum.
But before we answer that, Mr. Secretary, now that Britain has chosen to go to the back of the queue in future trade negotiations with the United States, to use the President’s own words, surely he might regret having used those words, because some people who voted for exit were apparently angered by what they saw as a threat by some form of foreign dictation. And you called the special relationship just as crucial as it ever was and just as strong, but surely it can’t be just as crucial and strong if you are going to lose the United Kingdom as a hinge with the European Union or a bridge to the European Union. It must be, in substance, quite different.
FOREIGN SECRETARY HAMMOND: Well, thank you. Let me first of all reiterate that I see the central challenge ahead as being balanced in that equation – how much freedom of movement against how much access to the single market. And I think that is where the debate will coalesce in the end, but that we have, as a nation, to make some decisions about what the balance between the two is, because I am certain that as we enter the negotiations with our European partners, that will be the central (inaudible) that has to be addressed.
As to – the essence of your question is how do you – given that there is that question, how do you obtain political legitimacy for the decision that is made, which will necessarily – whatever the deal is, will necessarily be a decision that doesn’t satisfy some section of the electorate. That is a question for the new prime minister to answer. And clearly, there will be a process. It may be quite a long process. And in looking at the democratic tools that we have available, obviously we’re in a fixed-term parliament world at the moment where we’ve got three and a half years to run before the next general election. But any political leader will be looking at their political legitimacy and how they ensure the political legitimacy of the decisions that they take, and that will be for him or her to decide.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, the President made the comment about the queue, and let me just be clear: The President’s concerns that he expressed are valid concerns and we are currently evaluating the impact of this decision that has been made, which is not yet implemented, on TTIP and trade in general.
Now, I am absolutely confident, because of all of the things that I just talked about – the multiplicity of engagements between the United States and the UK which bring us together on issue after issue – we will be together in Warsaw in a few days at the NATO summit. We will be together on the 19th of July right here in London with a host and a group of other countries talking about Libya, talking about Yemen, talking about Syria. We will be together in Washington I think two days later for a major ISIL, counter-violence extremism gathering in Washington. Those are the three or four meetings yet to happen just in the next weeks. And that’s sort of the average – the average rate in today’s world in our meetings and engagements.
So we’re just not going to be interrupted, certainly in terms of communication and the role that the United States and the UK play. The UK is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. The UK is critical in our implementation of the Iran nuclear agreement, critical with respect to Mideast peace, critical with respect to the counter-ISIL coalition.
So all of those things are going to remain as important as they were before this vote took place. It remains for us to see how this negotiation unfolds in order to fully understand exactly what type of trade platform we will operate off of or exactly how our – the full measure of our economic relationship is impacted.
But what I said and what – more importantly, what President Obama has said, and has said repeatedly, is that the United States and the United Kingdom have this unbreakable, special relationship, and he is going to do everything in his power to make sure that we are as helpful as we can be in whatever way is necessary – not only to sustain the relationship with Great Britain, but also to sustain a strong EU and a Europe which can continue to contribute, as it has so much, to our global security and our global prosperity.
MR KIRBY: The next question is for Brad Klapper, Associated Press.
QUESTION: Thank you. I have questions for you both as well. First, Secretary Kerry, do you agree with the foreign secretary’s assessment that British – that Britain’s role in the world hasn’t diminished? If so, that would seem to imply that its leadership role in the EU wasn’t worth all that much. And secondly, are you holding out any hope that the British voters or government might yet reassess or even still reverse the decision to leave the EU?
And Mr. Foreign Secretary, we heard Mr. Kerry speak earlier today about avoiding anger or revenge among the EU’s member-states in its exit negotiations with Britain. Do you feel such an approach emerging? And why shouldn’t some of these European states be angry with Britain for being left behind?
SECRETARY KERRY: Brad, do I agree that Britain’s role has somehow been diminished? No, I think it’s been changed. The voice that Britain will speak with will continue to be the powerful voice of an ally who has worked with us on so many issues through the years and remains aligned with us in its commitment to a nuclear deterrent, in its commitment on the UN Security Council, in its commitment to all of the things I listed, and I am confident will continue to play that role.
But that doesn’t mean that we won’t miss that voice within the context of the EU as it changed. I personally will regret that Britain is not going to be at that table when there is a U.S.-EU dialogue, but I have no doubt that Britain is going to be weighing in with us and critically involved with us on every single issue. There won’t be one reduction of effort between our two countries in the course of this, even though the structure obviously changes because of the choice that they have made with respect to the EU membership itself. But in so many other ways – I’ve just described the month of July. We’re going to be continuing and that will continue for years to come.
I have no idea what options are available to those who will negotiate this agreement as they go forward. And I will not even begin to venture an opinion at this stage of what the people of Great Britain ought to do or not do. It’s completely up to them, up to their leaders; and they first, I think, have to sort through what’s real and what isn’t, what are the available options.
And the key is that everybody does this in a spirit of looking for the best way forward so that economies are not injured, so that security interests are not set back, and so that the people – the people of our countries about whom this is really centered – come out of this as well as possible.
FOREIGN SECRETARY HAMMOND: If I could just say a word on the first question. We are very clear that we are going to redouble our effort to show Britain’s commitment to playing a global role. So you won’t see us shrinking back. If anything, you’ll see us resolving to be even more present, to be even more a force in action on the global stage to demonstrate and underscore that commitment.
And I also expect that we will continue to play a major role in relation to European security. The U.S. isn’t a member of the European Union, but it’s by far the most important security player in Europe. And Britain, as a leading member of NATO working in all sort of practical ways with European Union partners, will continue to play an important role in ensuring Europe’s security.
On the question of anger or revenge, I hope not. I hope that this will be an amicable discussion, because it’s in all our interests for it to be an amicable, sensible, calm discussion. But the wound is quite raw, and we’re only, what, 96 seconds in. And it will take some time for the wound to settle down.
But look, I understand the reaction of some of our European Union partners, because there is a genuine fear about the contagion that could arise from the result of this referendum. And I think we all know that we’re seeing a phenomenon which is about more than just the European Union, about more than just globalization, about more than just a view of the political establishment. Something is stirring. Politically, you’re seeing it in the United States; we’ve seen it in various countries across Europe in the form of surges of support for right-wing parties; and we’ve seen it here in this referendum. It’s something we all have to deal with.
But I understand the fear of my European Union partners that they don’t want to see this become something that can damage the rest of the European Union. But they also have to remember that we have a great shared economic interest in finding a way to work together in the future. We as the UK are coming to this discussion about our future relationship, including our future trading relationship, as a country that runs a massive balance of payments deficit with our European Union neighbors. We’re standing here offering them a market which is hugely operating to their surplus. And we’re saying we want to keep these arrangements, we want to keep this market open, we want to carry on trading with you as we have been doing before. And I very much hope that good economic common sense and self-interest prevails and that we find a way of being able to do that.
QUESTION: Thank you. Following on from those last questions, Mr. Secretary of State, you talked about the need for wise choices in the coming times. Is that – can you expand more on that? Any particular concerns that you have in that direction?
And foreign secretary, following on to this last point, you’ve said that you still wanted the strongest possible cooperation with Europe. But given all that you have just said now, what confidence do you have that that will actually happen?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, when I’m talking – when I talk about wise choices, I don’t want to get too deeply into this because this is a negotiation that hasn’t started and that doesn’t belong to us. This is a negotiation between Great Britain and the EU. And by all accounts, it’s a complicated, perhaps lengthy, and difficult negotiation simply because it involves a question of tradeoffs.
And what I am suggesting when I say “wise choices,” that those involved do exactly as Phillip has just described, that they don’t – they’re not driven by anger or frustration or a sense of getting even or whatever might motivate them, other than good common sense about how the people of the EU and the people of Great Britain can both benefit the most – what is best for the region, what is best for these countries, what is best for the average citizen. And I’m confident that if that’s what drives this negotiation, that the outcome can meet various parties’ needs in that effort. If, on the other hand, there’s a sort of willingness to cut off your nose to spite your face and choices are made that somehow penalize, I have a sneaking suspicion the penalty is going to be felt far and wide, and I don’t think that’s good for anybody.
So again, Philip is absolutely right; this is 96 hours old; it is still new; it is raw. And I think people are trying to work through exactly what are the options, what are the tradeoffs, and how does one thread the needle of achieving what people wanted to achieve in terms of opting out while at the same time not being constructive in the outcome. That’s a very, very difficult needle to thread, and I think we have to let the proof be in the pudding, as is said, and see where we are.
FOREIGN SECRETARY HAMMOND: Yes, I think we can deliver an effective cooperation between the EU at 27 and the United Kingdom. And it is, to use John’s phrase, it’s about ensuring that we step up from any instinct to cut off our noses to spite our faces. Because the truth is we need each other. Over 40 years our economies across Europe with integrated supply chains and complex market arrangements have become heavily interdependent. Our people have exchanged freely and many people have careers, lives, educations that span different countries in the continent. Many Europeans regularly spend time in the UK and regard it as the next thing to home. And we don’t want to change the way we are able to think of each other, the way we are able to work together, and the way we are able to trade together. And the truth is, if we step back and think about this coolly, calmly, and rationally, we will realize that the only thing – the only thing on offer to us here if we don’t cooperate is to make all of us poorer on both sides of the equation. This isn’t about – just about Britain’s interest. It’s about the European Union’s interest as well, and it does not make sense for us to give up the chance of choosing a way forward which allows both Britain and the European Union of 27 to be richer, safer, stronger, and to maintain the really very strong cultural and people-to-people ties that we’ve built up over the 40-odd years that we’ve been inside the European Union.
MR KIRBY: Last question tonight, Warren Strobel with Reuters.
QUESTION: Thank you. Mr. Secretary, you mentioned in your opening remarks tribal instincts. Foreign Secretary, you talked about contagion. I’m just wondering how much the two of you worry that this UK vote has empowered anti-EU forces elsewhere in Europe. Do you see signs of that yet? And Mr. Secretary, do you have any advice for other countries who might wish to leave the EU? Are you getting out of the advice business when it comes to this subject? Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, is there a distinction between giving advice and expressing a point of view? I believe we are living in a very multilateral and so globalized economy, which is obviously at the core of some people’s attention, but you can’t put that back into the bottle. Nobody can. What you can do is tame the worst forces. You can tame the worst instincts. You can tame and prevent in many cases the worst outcomes. But you can’t suddenly take an internet and put it back in its incubator. You’re not – that’s not going to happen. People want to have the ability to have freedom, to have more information. They want to access what a smartphone gives you or your computer – people want to (inaudible). More and more people are. More and more middle class has been created, actually, over the course of the last years. Several hundreds of millions of Chinese have come in to an urban life out of an agrarian life, a poor life, and they’re making money and they’re doing well. Millions of Indians, and I can run around the world. Fifteen years ago, Korea was an aid recipient. Today, Korea is a donor country giving to other countries to help them in the process of developing. And so if you look at what’s happened, young people – a child born today is more likely to be born healthy and more likely to live and more likely to live longer than a child born before. Women’s mortality rate and birth is way down. You look at food products and availability and so forth – there are incredible things have happened. And so even as this is happening, there is a – what we call disruption, a disruptive force at play in the lives of many people who are caught in the transition without a recourse.
I have long believed and I still believe that – and this is why I think ultimately people will come around and understand how to make a different set of choices – the problem is not trade per se. Ninety-five percent of the world’s customers live outside the United States of America. If we want to grow as a nation, we have to be able to sell and export products, and vice versa. The problem is not that we’re doing that; it’s that not enough people are gaining from doing that, not enough people are feeling their lives positively impacted and changed for the better. And in our country particularly – and I don’t want to venture into politics that I’m not involved in now – but we have seen more and more of that going to the top 1 or 2 percent at the expense of people in the middle class or below. That’s the problem. So look at the tax structure, look at the wages, or look at a bunch of other things, and ongoing education which is necessary in a world where you’re not going to have necessarily just one career. Those are the things where we have to all focus much more intently, I believe. And I’m convinced that as people focus in what may happen out of this vote and this experience is a sharpening of this debate, a clarity as to consequences, a clarity as to choices. And that could be very salutary for a lot of places that begin, hopefully, to respond in ways that I think can – would make a difference.
So I can’t prognosticate, to go back to the heart of your question about what other countries may or may not see in this. I hope they see what I just described, which is a way to address this without throwing the baby out with the bath water. And it seems to me that we’ve got – that’s what I meant by wise choices, that we look hard at cause and effect and what the options really are as we try to grow our societies, grow our – and share prosperity. Prosperity must be a shared prosperity at every level. In the 1990s when we made huge sums of money in the United States of America in the great technology boom in the ’90s, every single quintile of American income earner saw their incomes go up – every quintile. That has not been true in the last 10, 12, 15 years.
So to me, it’s a question now of making sure that we focus on real answers to real problems, define them correctly, and not allow mythology or the total absence of fact to make the choices for us. So where we go with the EU will depend in large measure on this negotiation, on the attitudes that are brought to this negotiation, on the options that are exercised and put on the table, and ultimately the choices that are made. And I think that will have a profound impact (inaudible).
FOREIGN SECRETARY HAMMOND: I think there is a demand for change within the EU – not in every member-state but in many of the member-states. But in most countries in the European Union for the most part that manifests itself as a desire for reform and change within the European Union rather than a demand for exit from the European Union. And I think the sadness for me is that I believe – I believed passionately that Britain in the European Union going with the tide of history could have helped to deliver that change which would, over time, have made the European Union a more effective, a more democratically accountable, a more legitimate body to all of its citizens. And that’s where we would have wanted to see this going had we got a remain vote last Thursday – Britain helping to lead that change from the inside of the European Union. And to be candid, the decision to vote to leave I believe is damaging for Britain, but I also believe it’s damaging for the European Union, because I believe without the reforming zeal that Britain brought to the party, it will be more difficult to get that necessary reform inside the European Union, more difficult to release the pressure of popular demand for a reform and change. And I think if we’d been able to go forward together, working together inside the European Union to do that, Britain would have been enhanced, the European Union would have been enhanced, and 500 million people across the union would have had a better future. So I’m deeply sorry that that’s not the route that we’ve chosen.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much. Thank you all.