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.
US SECRETARY OF STATE 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.