Cameron rejects French claims of 'phoney' defence row

David Cameron: "Was this some sort of false debate? Absolutely not"

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Prime Minister David Cameron has rejected French claims he triggered a "fake" row over plans for defence co-operation among EU members.

French president Francois Hollande said the UK had been "a little phoney" over claims that the EU wanted to procure its own military assets such as drones.

But Mr Cameron said the idea had been "floated" at a summit in Brussels and he was clear that it would not happen.

Nato would remain the "bedrock" of UK security, Mr Cameron added.

Downing Street has long feared that moves to extend the EU's common defence and security policy risked undermining Nato and insists that defence remains primarily a matter for member states.

Nato is keen for European countries to contribute more to their own defence but it says the EU itself should not possess its own military assets.

Speaking at the end of the two-day summit, the first to discuss defence for five years, Mr Cameron said he supported co-operation between EU member states in areas of joint concern, such as tackling piracy and cyber terrorism.

'Black and white'

However, he said he had been "very careful" to set parameters for how far such co-operation could stretch to ensure they was no room for any future misinterpretation.

Start Quote

It is important to lay these things down in back and white and that is what I have done”

End Quote David Cameron

"We should not be looking at EU-owned drones, tanker fleets and we need to be very careful to write this down in language people can see that this is not being contemplated," he said.

"Let's be clear, EU assets, EU drones, planes and the rest of it - some of which were being floated - I think it is very important to make clear is not on the agenda."

Nato's prime role in European defence was not specifically mentioned in the final communique - a situation Mr Cameron said was partially explained by the fact that not all EU members were part of the 28 country alliance.

But Mr Cameron said Nato featured prominently in the document "like the words on a stick of rock" and this had not been the case before he had "started to change" its conclusions.

David Cameron meets British troops in Afghanistan David Cameron visited British troops in Afghanistan earlier this week

Mr Hollande claimed British attempts to prevent the EU being given a say over military equipment were "un peu simule", meaning a bit phoney.

But Mr Cameron firmly rejected the French president's claims.

"Was this some sort of false debate?..absolutely not," he said. "It is important to lay these things down in back and white and that is exactly what I have done."

He added: "These things matter If you take your eye of the ball and let through a sentence...it becomes part of the text of this organisation."

'No drones'

However, Mr Cameron stressed the importance of Anglo-French bilateral co-operation on defence, saying the two countries had similar interests and military capacity and was "excited" about building on recent joint working in Libya and Mali.

The European Commission has insisted it has "no intention to own or procure its own drones".

Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who attended the talks at Mr Cameron's request, said recent military operations had shown a need for more European observation drones, air-to-air refuelling planes and heavy transport planes.

But while nation states must "do more to acquire much-needed military capabilities", he said "we're not talking about the EU possessing capabilities".

BBC Europe editor Gavin Hewitt said European officials privately questioned why the UK had insisted on these changes at the last moment when they have had the conclusions for two weeks.

Mr Cameron also used the summit to repeat his warnings about opening borders to immigrants from Romania and Bulgaria, which will happen from 1 January.

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  2.  
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  3.  
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  5.  
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  8.  
    11:20: Ukraine

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  9.  
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  10.  
    11:18: Iraq action

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  11.  
    @afneil 11:17: Andrew Neil, BBC

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  12.  
    11:15: Hague quip

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  13.  
    11:14: Philip Hammond, the foreign secretary, is addressing the conference
    Philip Hammond addressing the conference
     
  14.  
    11:13: Hammond time

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  15.  
    11:12: Safety promise

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    Michael Fallon
     
  16.  
    11:10: Trident

    Labour left a terrible defence legacy, Michael Fallon tells conference, including a "£38bn black hole" in the budget - but this has been fixed by the Conservatives in government, he adds. He also launches an attack on the Lib Dems - noting that there are none in the defence ministry. He says the party is only interested in "downgrading" Trident, which is "in a dangerous world is truly dangerous thinking".

     
  17.  
    11:09: David and Samantha Cameron arrive at the conference centre
    David Cameron arriving with his wife Samantha
     
  18.  
    11:07: Jobs

    The defence secretary says it is because the Conservatives have "sorted out" the budget that the government is able to spend £164bn on defence over the next decade. He reiterates this morning's announcement of a £3,5bn investment in UK naval bases, securing 7,500 jobs.

     
  19.  
    11:03: IS 'barbarity'

    Michael Fallon says the UK now faces "new threats to our security" - as he talks about the "chilling barbarity" of Islamic State militants, which if left unchecked would result in "a terrorist state on Europe's doorstep".

     
  20.  
    11:01: Services tribute

    Michael Fallon pays tribute to the 453 British servicemen and women who died during combat operations in Afghanistan, and all those who were injured. A round of applause ensues.

     
  21.  
    10:59: Defence budget

    Over to Defence Secretary Michael Fallon now. He says the UK has the biggest defence budget in Europe and the second largest in Nato. He pays tribute to his predecessor Philip Hammond - now foreign secretary - who he says put the defence budget on a stable footing.

     
  22.  
    10:59: 'Long nights, strange men' Tom Moseley, political reporter

    What would David Cameron have made of Ed Sheeran's dedication of a number to him at a recent gig? The singer said the only tune he had left to play was The A Team. Will it join Radiohead and REM on the PM's playlist?

    The opening lyrics:

    White lips, pale face

    Breathing in snowflakes

    Burnt lungs, sour taste

    Light's gone, day's end

    Struggling to pay rent

    Long nights, strange men

     
  23.  
    10:57: Summit

    Justine Greening welcomes the global Girl Summit - hosted in London over the summer - to end female genital mutilation and forced child marriage, and thanks all those who took part.

     
  24.  
    10:55: Pride

    Britain's response to humanitarian emergencies "sets us apart" from many other countries, Justine Greening says. The international development secretary praises British aid workers and adds that "we should be proud of our country, because we don't walk on by".

     
  25.  
    @tnewtondunn 10:55: Tom Newton Dunn, Political Editor of The Sun

    tweets: David Cameron does indeed have a jumbo rabbit in his #CPC14 speech today. A big new tax move to help C2 voters especially, I hear.

     
  26.  
    10:53: Ebola threat

    Justine Greening describes Ebola as "one of the most serious threats facing the world today", with estimates that 1.4 million people will be infected by January 2015 "if we don't act". She says an international coalition is working to contain and defeat the virus - and adds that the UK is overseeing the construction of treatment centres, and will treble the number of Ebola treatment beds.

    Justine Greening addressing the Conservative conference
     
  27.  
    10:50:

    Justine Greening says international aid - including the government's commitment to spending 0.7% of national income on it - is a vital component alongside the defence and diplomacy.

     
  28.  
    10:48: Greening

    International Development Secretary Justine Greening is introduced to the hall. She opens by saying she is "proud" of what the Conservatives have achieved in government. Ms Greening says her department's international development programme has been improved since 2010, with a much greater focus on jobs and economic growth.

     
  29.  
    10:47: 'We'll deliver'

    London Conservative MEP Syed Kamall is addressing the hall now - and stresses that "only the Conservatives can and will deliver" a referendum on the UK's relationship with the European Union. He criticises the previous Labour government which "gave away" British taxpayers' money and powers to Brussels. Now is the time for the Conservatives to "roll up our sleeves" and make the case for reform, he says - and adds that this must be done by working with Britain's allies across Europe. Mr Kamall leads the European Parliament's European Conservatives and Reformists group.

     
  30.  
    The Times 10:46: Newspaper round-up

    Theresa May, says (£) Ann Treneman, gave "the best speech of her life" yesterday. Her "unflinchingly serious" performance was followed by "clown-man" Boris Johnson, whom the Tory audience adored.

    The paper claims David Cameron will today attempt to move the discussion from being about the party's "long-term economic plan" to talking about "individual benefits offered by a recovering economy". A YouGov poll commissioned for the paper shows 41% of those questioned saying they trust the Conservatives more to clear the deficit, compared to 13% for Labour, but when asked which party is most likely to improve living standards "for people like you" 31% chose Labour against only 25% for the Conservatives.

     
  31.  
    10:44: Ed inspired by Dave

    Here's Ed Sheeran, who apparently dedicated a song, called the A Team (not the A-list), to the PM at a recent gig he attended. His music was not in evidence in the conference hall this morning before speeches got under way. Instead the Starship song Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now was blasted out of on the PA system. The year of its release - 1987 - was when Mrs Thatcher won her third term in office. Some misty eyes in Birmingham?

    Ed Sheeran
     
  32.  
    10:37: Jess Denham, for the Independent

    writes: Ed Sheeran dedicates song to David Cameron. Ed Sheeran has admitted dedicating a song to the prime minister at a private house party this summer. Read more

     
  33.  
    10:33: Out of the blocks

    The conference is officially under way. Steve Bell, vice-president of the National Conservative Convention, is opening proceedings.

     
  34.  
    10:32: Sell off the banks?

    Conservative MP and former Welsh Secretary John Redwood proposes a way to tackle the deficit on his blog: "Total borrowing in the next Parliament could be reduced substantially by selling all the remaining shares in banks. This would be a good idea for a variety of reasons and would be the single biggest way of reducing the loan mountain."

     
  35.  
    10:28: Newspaper round-up The Daily Telegraph

    Peter Oborne, chief political commentator, says (video) that David Cameron must navigate three major points of controversy: projecting himself as a "war leader" after the recent Commons authorisation of action against Islamic State; scrapping the Human Rights Act; and, the "most dangerous" potential pitfall, drawing a line under the recent defections to UKIP.

    Michael Deacon, in his sketch of yesterday's conference activity, describes Boris Johnson as "the politician who reduces the sketch writer's role to mere transcription", but says that despite the theatrics Boris's great strength is that he makes the party "believe they can win, and deserve to win".

     
  36.  
    10:22: Story

    David Cameron appears at 11:15 BST. In the meantime, here's our main story about his speech.

     
  37.  
    10:19: Line-up

    Just over 10 minutes until we get going again. The first of the big-name speakers will be International Development Secretary Justine Greening.

     
  38.  
    @TheGreenParty 10:17: The Green Party

    tweets: #Cameron=austerity forever; #Miliband=austerity-lite. If you're fed up with their policies join us. Please RT #CPC14

    The Green Party slogan
     
  39.  
    10:11: Newspaper round-up The Guardian

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    Looking forward to David Cameron's speech today, Denis Campbell, the paper's health correspondent, notes that Labour has been outflanked by the Conservative leader on NHS spending, and says that unless Ed Miliband "outbids the Tories yet again he risks being accused of not matching his fine words about saving the NHS with the cash needed".

     
  40.  
    Email: haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk 10:08: Get involved

    Adam Rees: Labour keep banging on about the Tories privatising the NHS. I've been hearing it for as long as I remember. It's still free at the point of use. There are some NHS services provided by private companies for sure but who introduced it for the very first time? Labour!

     
  41.  
    @Andrew_ComRes 10:07: Andrew Hawkins, ComRes Chairman

    tweets: ComRes/ITV News poll helps explain Tory struggles - immigration & NHS are 2 of top 3 voter concerns but rate as worst policies

     
  42.  
    @iainmartin1 10:06: Iain Martin, Journalist

    tweets: And so far all the defections to UKIP have been men. Serious diversity problem. May require quotas.

     
  43.  
    10:00: Air strikes

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  44.  
    09:59: Newspaper round-up The Daily Mail

    Quentin Letts, at the Daily Mail, sketches yesterday's "duel of two would-be leaders". Theresa May, "fervid and Thatcherish", gave the "speech that deserves to be remembered". The home secretary attacked Islamist extremism from a "defiantly centrist position", quoting the Koran and opening with a condemnation of racial bias in the exercise of police stop-and-search powers, perhaps seeing that "there are votes in centrism", he adds. Boris Johnson, meanwhile, was "full of jokes", entertaining the Tory faithful but "the closing passages of the speech - the serious bits - sagged".

     
  45.  
    09:58: Carswell not bitter

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    Douglas Carswell
     
  46.  
    @Freeman_George 09:50: George Freeman, Conservative MP

    tweets: As JeremyHunt said ystdy: unlocking potential of #NHS R+D in Genetics+DiseaseData is DNA of NHS: pooling our resources to prevent disease.

     
  47.  
    09:45: BBC website reader responds to MP's tweet

    Richard Heath responds to Andy Burnham, Labour MP's tweet at 09:16: Is he honestly trying to accuse the TORIES of making promises without saying where the money is going to come from? Did he not see any of the speeches by Balls and Miliband?

     
  48.  
    Email: haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk 09:45: Get involved

    Bob, Cambridge: It never ceases to amaze me when the general election is close by how the Tories send out sweeteners to get voters to stay. No chance Mr Cameron we all know what your party is about and always has been and that is to persecute the poor for the mistakes of the rich.

     
  49.  
    Email: haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk 09:41: Get involved

    Henry Francis Naudi in London: Whatever the main political parties may say about the NHS and their determination to improve it, the fact of the matter is that the main reasons for a 'distressed' NHS are (1) massive wastage in bureaucracy and admin; and (2) leeching of the NHS by people who are either not entitled to it for free or who manage to get round it by not paying their dues.

     
  50.  
    09:36: Joe Shute, for The Telegraph

    writes: David Cameron: Can he draw a line under his month to forget? Ahead of his Conservative Party conference curtain call, the prime minister has endured the most painful of Septembers. Read more

     
  51.  
    09:30: What channel? Dave, maybe?

    A bizarre scene as David Cameron prepares his speech apparently watched by... himself.

    David Cameron
     
  52.  
    @_James_Lyons_ 09:26: James Lyons, Daily Mirror Deputy Political Editor

    tweets: All sorts of rumours about another defection at #CPC14

     
  53.  
    Email: haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk 09:25: Get involved

    Colin in Gloucestershire: If we really want to keep the health service as it is people MUST take responsibility for themselves. Smoking and use of other drugs maybe your 'god given' right but it should not be the responsibility of the rest of the community to pay for the consequences. Even if Cameron can deliver on this promise, which will only come about by painful cuts elsewhere, that will only delay the day that society will no longer be willing to support people unwilling to take responsibility for themselves.

     
  54.  
    @BBCNormanS 09:23: Norman Smith, BBC

    tweets: Tory sources accuse @ukip of trying to make a somebody out of a nobody over Arron Banks defection #cpc14

     
  55.  
    09:18: Coming up at conference

    So, what else is happening at conference today? Business kicks off at the usual start of 10:30 BST - and will focus on international development, defence and foreign affairs. There'll be speeches from the secretaries of states for each respective government department - Justine Greening, Michael Fallon and Philip Hammond.

     
  56.  
    Tweet: @BBCPolitics 09:17: Get involved

    @thisisamy_ tweets: So ukip, 'the anti-establishment, people's party' attracts another millionaire donor. Yup, they're definitely on your side.

     
  57.  
    @andyburnhammp 09:16: Andy Burnham, Labour MP

    tweets: NHS facing huge funding pressures in 2015-20 Parliament. It is just not credible for Tories to make new promises without finding new money.

     
  58.  
    @matthancockmp 09:16: Matt Hancock, Conservative MP

    tweets: Delighted to see the £600m MoD contract for maintaining the Royal Navy go to Portsmouth - supporting 2000 local jobs #Portsmouth #jobs

     
  59.  
    09:15: Defence announcements

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  60.  
    @Nigel_Farage 09:14: Nigel Farage, @UKIP Leader

    tweets: Arron Banks recognises that it is the European Union that is holding Britain and her businesses back. See blog post

     
  61.  
    09:13: Prop developer

    During his speech on Tuesday, London Mayor Boris Johnson wielded a brick to demonstrate his determination to get more homes built. Will David Cameron do something similar?

    Boris Johnson
     
  62.  
    09:12: Tory donor joins UKIP

    UKIP continues to cast a shadow over Conservative conference this week. One of the Tories' long-time donors is to announce later that he is joining Nigel Farage's party. Insurance entrepreneur Arron Banks has given the Conservatives more than £250,000 since David Cameron became leader - but will today present rivals UKIP with a £100,000 check. Mr Bank has also indicated he would like to stand as a candidate. The move comes after two Conservative MPs defected to UKIP - one as recently as Saturday, on the eve of Tory conference.

     
  63.  
    @Mike_Fabricant 09:10: Michael Fabricant, Conservative MP

    tweets: Another sunny day in Brum for #CPC14. An omen? See photo

     
  64.  
    09:08: Happy talk?

    David Cameron is expected to use his speech to show voters his party has more to offer them than austerity, and that with five more years the Conservatives, under his leadership, can improve people's lives.

     
  65.  
    09:06: Where is he?

    Samantha Cameron is in Birmingham to offer her husband support as he speaks later. Before that there's the obligatory walkabout.

    Samantha Cameron
     
  66.  
    09:05: More on the NHS

    The promise to protect NHS funding from departmental spending cuts is a repeat of the policy on which David Cameron fought the 2010 general election. Mr Cameron will say that a strong NHS is only made possible by a strong economy.

     
  67.  
    09:03: Midnight oil

    David Cameron has been working overnight on his speech. We are told he will deliver it using a script, rather than performing an attempted elephantine memory trick. This follows ridicule of Ed Miliband when he forgot a couple of passages of his address to the Labour conference last week.

    David Cameron
     
  68.  
    09:02: NHS spending pledge

    It is being reported that David Cameron will use his speech to pledge a yearly real-terms increase in NHS spending over the course of the next five-year Parliament, if his party secures victory at the election.

     
  69.  
    09:00: Good morning

    Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the final day of the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham. The day will culminate in the highlight of any party conference: the leader's speech. David Cameron will address party activists at 11.15 BST, in what will be his final conference speech before the general election.

     

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