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Statsminister Lars Løkke Rasmussen: Welcome to this press briefing. I am pleased to once again welcome the Prime Minister – my good colleague, Theresa May, to Denmark. The UK and Denmark are and will remain, let me emphasize that, will remain close friends and allies. Brexit was of course a topic today. It is positive that the UK and the EU commission have reached an agreement in principle about large parts of the withdrawal agreement, including a transitional period. That doesn’t change the fact that there are still a number of outstanding issues that must be overcome, and time is running and time is running out fast. But we hope for the closest possible future relations. Of course we will have to balance rights and obligations, but the UK are leaving the European Union, but not Europe, and from a Danish point of view we want as close a relation to the UK as possible.
We also touched upon the Salisbury incident. We stand united with the UK following the attack with the Russian military grade nerve agent. This was a clear violation of international law and order and we are extremely concerned about the incident. I am very pleased to learn that Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, are no longer in a critical situation and that their health is improving. Following the attack, I am pleased that the international community sent a strong signal to Russia that incidents like this cannot be tolerated. The EU, NATO and many member countries managed to react swiftly and coordinated, and in Denmark we have expelled two Russian diplomats. We will continue to have discussions in the EU on the situation and our relations to Russia. It is time for Russia to show responsibility and engage positively in the world community. The coming NATO summit should also send a strong signal of unity.
We are really proud to contribute significantly to the NATO enhanced presence operation in Estonia, led by the UK. It is just another example of our close cooperation and partnership in security. And I think that our meeting today confirms, even though our relations will change in the future, next spring, we will stay engaged and we will still be close allies in the future. So, you are most welcome in Denmark, Theresa.
Prime Minister Theresa May: Thank you. Well, thank you Prime Minister for your warm welcome today. I am delighted to be back in Denmark and your country is a natural partner for the UK, and as we discussed today, we are friends and allies on a broad range of issues. And this afternoon, we have, as you just heard, talked about the attack in Salisbury, the international response to Russia’s aggression, why do Europe englobe security issues, bilateral relations, and Brexit.
First, let me say a word on the reports this weekend on the barbaric chemical attack in Duma, Syria, targeting innocent civilians, many of them children. The UK utterly condemns the use of chemical weapons in any circumstances and we must urgently establish what happened on Saturday. If confirmed, this is yet another example of the Assad regime’s brutality and disregard for its own people and its legal obligations not to use these weapons. If they are found to be responsible, the regime and its backers, including Russia, must be held to account. The events in Duma fit in to a troubling, wider pattern of acts of aggression and abuse of long-standing international norms of possession and use of chemical weapons. In recent years Russia has repeated vetoes in the UN and has enabled these rules to be broken and removed mechanisms that allow us to investigate and hold to account chemical weapons attacks in Syria. This must stop. And we will work closely with our allies, including the UN Security Council later today, to ensure the international community strengthens its resolve to deal with those responsible for carrying out these barbaric attacks and to allow norms to be breeched on such an appalling way. We saw similar recklessness last month with the use of chemical weapons on the streets of Salisbury. I want to extend Britain’s gratitude for your swift and decisive action in response to this wicked attack and in support of our shared national security. The UK’s case for holding Russia responsible for this attempted murder of Sergei and Yulia Skripal is clear. Based on our world-leading expert, Porton Down, positively identifying the chemical agent as a novichok, our knowledge that Russia has previously produced this agent and retained the capability to do so, Russia’s record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations are assessments that they view some ... legitimate targets for assassination, and our information indicating that they have investigated way of delivering nerve agents, probably for assassination and part of this programme has produced and stocked ... small quantities of novichoks. The government has concluded, there is no plausible explanation other than that Russia was responsible. No other country has a combination of the capability, the intent and the motive to carry out such an act. And Denmark’s solidarity, along with many countries across the international community has been invaluable in sending a strong signal to Russia that its illegal and destabilizing activity will not be tolerated. And the response from Denmark and our allies in recent weeks have shown a clear acknowledgement of the shared threat that Russia poses to our security on a range of fronts. This increasing, hostile behaviour involved a sustained campaign of cyber espionage and disruption including against Denmark, and we will continue to stand up for the fundamental values, on which depends our way of life. And we agreed today on the need to do more alongside our allies toward the challenge from Russia on international security. And I welcome Denmark’s leadership of co-hosting the next Ukraine reform conference in June. This is an important moment in consolidating international support for reform efforts and in helping Ukraine build its ability and resilience to Russian interference. And UK and Denmark continue to cooperate closely on security and defence as we work to tackle our shared challenges on our continent and beyond the borders of Europe. And nowhere is our shared commitment to Europe’s collective security more evident than in the hundreds of British and Danish troops standing shoulder to shoulder in Estonia as part of the UK-led NATO battle group. Our armed forces are also taking on Daesh in Iraq and Syria, working to bring long-term stability to Afghanistan and collaborating through the joint expedition force to respond to crises around the world. Our economic cooperation and shared commitment to free trade is vital to our countries’ prosperity with our growing trading relationship worth 11 billion pounds a year.
And on Brexit we talked today about the progress made on the European Councillor negotiations and about the key questions that remain to be resolved. We have also taken the opportunity to discuss what we want our future economic and security partnership to look like, once Britain has left the European Union. As I have said before, I am ambitious for the scale and scope of this relationship. And I want to ensure that we maintain the closest possible links for our European allies. I understand that future arrangements for Denmark’s fishing industry of course are of particular interest to you, and as an independent coastal state, we want to ensure a fair and reciprocal access to waters. The reliance between Britain and Denmark is rooted deeply in our shared values and a mutual desire to work together for the security and prosperity of our people, and so I look forward to working with you to make sure that our close and productive ties endure long after Britain has left the European Union. Thank you.
Statsministeren: Thank you. And then we are ready to accept a few questions. Yes, please.
Spørger: Divya Das, Danish TV 2. First of all, Prime Minister, on Brexit. Whenever I am down in my local supermarket in London, I cannot helping but notice the Danish butter and the Danish bacon on the shelves. Obviously, Demark wants to continue to sell our products to the UK. In order to secure the best possible deal for Denmark, where would you be willing to cut the UK some slack or where would you be willing to compromise, and Madame Prime Minister, if I may, almost two years ago you had a referendum on Brexit in the UK. You were a remainer. Have you changed your mind?
Statsministeren: Well, whenever I visit a Danish supermarket, I also find nice, British products and I am quite sure that Britain will be eager to export these items in the future as well and as a customer I would like to buy them, and therefore we should avoid too many changes in our relations, and I am totally in favour of an enhanced trade agreement between the EU and the UK. It is way too early to talk about compromise and this is not about being tough or soft, it is about being realistic and fair. And right now UK has drawn some red lines and we have to accept them, and if we should accept them, and we are willing to do so, it is a matter of fact that what we are discussing is a trade agreement. And I think we should leave it to our negotiators, and Denmark is a part of the EU 27 coalition, the negotiation is led by Barnier and he is doing an excellent job and I hope that if there is willingness on both sides of the table, we will close a deal which will be as close to what we know now as possible. But we have to be realistic and we have to realize that there will be changes; I mean, leaving the Single Market comes with a price tag and unfortunately, it is not only a British price tag, but also a Danish price tag. That is a reality of life. There is a reason why we have established the Single Market and we have to respect the integrity of the Single Market, so there will be more bureaucracy in the future, unfortunately.
Prime Minister Theresa May: Well, thank you very much. May I just echo what Prime Minister Rasmussen just said, the work that has been done between the EU and the UK, as we now move into the phase where we are looking at the negotiations on a new security, on a new economic partnership. As I said in my remarks, I want that economic partnership, I am ambitious for what economic partnership can cover, because there will be companies in Denmark, in Britain and in countries of the EU 27 that want to continue to trade with the UK and the UK continue to want to trade with those countries. And I believe that if we approach this in the way we have done so far by recognizing the importance of our relationship, then actually we can come to an agreement that will be in the interest of the UK but also in the interest of Denmark and other member states within the European Union. And you asked about the referendum, and yes, I did campaign to remain, but the British Parliament gave the British people the choice whether to stay in the European Union or not, and the British people gave their verdict: they wanted to leave the European Union. And I believe that it is now for us all to pull together and ensure that we deliver a Brexit deal that is good for the UK, but as I said, a deal that is good for the UK will also be a deal that is good for the remaining EU 27.
Statsministeren: BBC, please.
Spørger: A question for Mrs May. Prime Minister, are you contemplating direct, military British action in answer to the apparently chemical attack in Syria? Do you feel constrained by the need for parliamentary consent to that, and, if I may, what is your direct message to Vladimir Putin today?
Prime Minister Theresa May: Well, first of all, what we are currently doing, what we are urgently doing with our allies is assessing what is taking place. Obviously, if it is a chemical weapon attack of the sort that reports suggest that it is, this is, as I said in my remarks, another example of the Assad regime’s brutality and the gruesome way in which they have ignored the interest of their people, and I think this is a reprehensible attack that is taking place. We have seen that not only adults are being affected, but children are affected by this attack as well. We assess what has taken place and we will also be discussing with our allies what action is necessary. I think we are very clear; that if this is a chemical weapon attack of the sort that it appears to be, from the regime, then we want to ensure that those responsible are held to account. And I think it is a very clear message that we have been giving consistently in relation to actions in Syria – yes this is about the actions, the brutal actions of Assad and his regime, but it is also about the backers of that regime, and of course Russia is one of those backers and I think that the message that we have consistently given, is that those who are backing the regime need to look very carefully at the position they have taken. This is a brutal regime that is attacking its own people and we are very clear that it must be held to account and its backers must be held to account, too.
Statsministeren: The Sun, please.
Spørger: Prime Minister May, how did you feel when you saw the pictures of children foamed at their mouth and choking to death after the latest gas attack in Syria. Has this moved you to reconsider a military action against the Assad regime? Or at least taking a much firmer approach to Assad and Putin, and to you both: Do you want the final Brexit trade deal with the EU to include preferential to EU migrants, and Prime Minister May, will the 100.000 migrant target still apply after Brexit? Thank you.
Prime Minister Theresa May: I think there was more than one question in that. First of all, on the issue of the attack, which has taken place, and it is horrific, pictures of what has happened there, absolutely an appalling attack. And if the responsibility is in the hands of the Assad regime, it is yet another example of the brutality of that regime, of the way in which they have treated their own people, and as I said, we are working with our allies, urgently working with our allies, to assess what is taking place and to discuss with them about what actions will be necessary and we want to ensure that those responsible are held to account. In relation to the trade deal for the future, as I said, we want – certainly from my point of view – we want that to be a trade deal, which is ambitious. I have talked about a comprehensive trade and economic partnership that will be broader and deeper than any other trade agreement that the European Union has in existence with other countries. We obviously as part of that will be looking at the issue of movement, but we will recognize that there will be EU citizens who will still want to come to work and study in the UK and UK citizens who still want to work and study in the EU 27 countries as well. But of course, crucially, we will be out of the Single Market, we will be out of the free movement rules and we will be setting our own rules for migration into the UK and we recognize the concern people in the UK have about this issue of migration into the UK, which is why we set ourself a target in relation to that migration and want to continue to work to ensure that we address that particular target. But as I said, I recognize that UK citizens still want to come and study and work in countries in the EU 27 like Denmark, and EU citizens, like Danish citizens, will still want to come and work and study in the UK.
Statsministeren: Well, I totally agree, I mean it is one of the, I would say, biggest achievements in the European Union that we have allowed our youngsters to go abroad to study. And it is good, not only for those Danish youngsters, who study in the UK, but also, I think, for British people in Denmark and it created added value at our educational institutions as well. So I would love, if we could, as a part of this comprehensive agreement between Europe and Britain, if we could include this. But then again, I realize that the UK has decided to leave the Single Market and I want a future which is as close to what we have in the Single Market as possible, respecting the UK red lines and emphasizing that we need to strike a balance between obligations and rights. If I could add just a single word about Syria and the use of chemical weapons, because we have seen this horrible attack in Salisbury and now we have seen the use of chemical weapons in Syria as well. And we discussed this today and I have informed the Prime Minister, on her request, that Denmark will be ready to join the international partnership around impunity initiatives against chemical weapons use, announced by President Macron, because it is important that we show a united front and keep the perpetrators accountable. Ok, the last question will go to the Danish broadcasting.
Spørger: Regarding Russia, as you have mentioned, Denmark has expelled two Russian diplomats as a reaction to the attack in Salisbury, but what evidence, what specific evidence do you have that Russia is responsible?
Prime Minister Theresa May: As I set out in my remarks, the Porton Down, which is a world renown laboratory, has identified this as a military grade nerve agent, the family Novichoks, which were developed by the Russians. We also know that Russia regards and defends it as its legitimate target and has been involved in state-sponsored assassination previously. We believe that Russia has the capability, the intent and the motive to conduct such an attack, and that has been accepted by the European Council when we met in March and the communiqué is clear, all members of the European Union Council identified that there was no plausible, alternative explanation in relation to this attack.
Statsministeren: Thank you.
Prime Minister Theresa May: Thank you.