Speech: PM statement after meeting Slovakian Prime Minister Fico in Bratislava: 28 July 2016


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Thank you, Prime Minister, for welcoming me to Bratislava today. This is my first visit to your country.

As a close partner and current holder of the Presidency of the European Union, I wanted to come to Slovakia early on so that we could discuss how we make a success of Brexit and ensure an orderly departure.

It’s important to underline that while the UK is leaving the EU, we are not leaving Europe or withdrawing from the world. Britain will remain an outward-looking nation – a strong voice for liberal, free market principles and democratic values.

While we remain in the EU, we will continue to fully respect the rights and obligations of membership. And we will continue to be an active player, particularly on your Presidency’s priorities to advance the single market, and on security and foreign policy issues.

Once we have left the EU, we will continue to work with our partners across Europe – indeed Brexit is an opportunity to intensify those relations.

And just as we want Britain to succeed outside the EU, we want the EU to be strong and successful after we depart.

Today, we have talked about the bilateral relationship – our economic and security co-operation – and a range of international issues.

The trade and investment between our 2 countries is flourishing. UK exports to Slovakia rose 37% last year and companies like Jaguar Land Rover and Tesco are all investing here.

So, it matters to both of us that we maintain the closest possible economic relationship once the UK has left the European Union.

Of course, it will take time to define the nature of that relationship, which is why I have said that we will not trigger Article 50 before the end of the year.

We need to find a solution that addresses the concerns of the British people about free movement, while getting the best possible deal on trade in goods and services. We should be driven by what is in the best interests of the UK and what is going to work for the European Union, not by the models that already exist.

We also want to strengthen our security and defence co-operation.

Our armed forces have served alongside one another in Cyprus and Afghanistan and we will remain strong partners in NATO.

And the UK will continue to stand up for our eastern allies. Earlier this month, we agreed to deploy UK troops as part of an increase in the number of NATO troops present along our eastern flank.

And we will continue to send thousands of troops to train with Slovakia and our other NATO partners on a regular basis.

We’ve also discussed how we can work together with our European partners to respond to the migration crisis.

The EU’s collective approach in the Eastern Mediterranean has delivered a significant reduction in the numbers arriving on that route. It shows that returning illegal economic migrants to where they come from does have a deterrent effect and helps to break the business model of the people smugglers and traffickers.

But we both believe that the long term answer to this problem means doing more to tackle the root causes of migration, by working upstream in source and transit countries.

As part of the EU’s response, we’ve worked closely with Turkey. Their co-operation has been crucial, as indeed it is on counter-terrorism. And it is vital that this practical work continues.

Today, we have discussed the recent events there. The UK has condemned the attempted coup and called on everyone to respect and uphold Turkey’s democratic institutions. We continue to call for calm, for due process to be followed and for human rights to be respected.

In conclusion, this has been a valuable meeting.

It has underlined the importance of the UK’s relationships with member states from across the EU – whether large or small, new or old, east and west.

Our common interests and shared values will outlive the UK’s membership of the European Union. And together we must work to advance them, across Europe and around the world.

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