LONDON—Today, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) addressed the UK think tank Policy Exchange in London, England to discuss the critical role that the United States and Great Britain play in promoting regional and global stability, new opportunities for trade and economic partnerships, and the enduring importance of the special relationship between our two countries, particularly following the recent initiation of the Article 50 process. Below are Speaker Ryan’s full remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Thank you so much for the warm welcome. And thank you especially to Dean Godson and Policy Exchange for hosting us. For 15 years now, this organization has been injecting new thinking into this country’s battle of ideas, shaping the direction of your country and its role in the world. It’s a real privilege to be here.
“I am joined here tonight by a bipartisan delegation of my colleagues from the House of Representatives—both Republicans and Democrats.
“As you know, we just finished an interesting election, and I guess, well, you all felt a little left out.
“In seriousness, it’s quite something to be here at this moment.
“Times like these call for bold leadership, and Theresa May is certainly setting the standard. Yesterday’s news and today’s vote is indeed a historic event.
“And I know it will be a hard fought election, but hey, don’t expect too much sympathy from us . . . you see we in the House of Representatives are used to doing this every two years.
“Ultimately, it is up to the British people to decide their political future—as only they can. And honestly, as my colleagues can attest, we Americans have enough on our plate . . . so I will simply say good luck and please know that no matter the outcome, the United States will proudly stand by your new government.
“Now the way I see it, any American leader must do two things when in London: be grateful that we don’t have Prime Minister’s Questions . . . and quote Winston Churchill.
“In our Capitol, we have a great bust of Churchill. It has been there about three years now.
“The best way to find it, actually, is to ask to see the steps that the British used to burn down the place in 1814.
“They don’t call it a ‘special relationship’ for nothing.
“Etched on the bust is a quote from Churchill’s address to Congress in the weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
“And in that speech, delivered in such a perilous hour, he challenged our peoples to turn from the ‘convulsions of the moment to the broader spaces of the future.’
“We are certainly at one of those hinges of history now.
“Over the last year, our countries have voted for sweeping change. Some try to say too much change. But if anything, we are seeing a renewal of first principles . . . of people reasserting their right of self-determination against arrogant and paternalistic elites. As President Trump has said, ‘the forgotten men and women . . . will be forgotten no longer.’
“Shaking up the status quo always takes time. We will have our share of speed bumps and roadblocks.
“There may be an instinct to simply stay put, lower our sights, and just confine ourselves to taming all this change. We can cross our fingers, and maybe just aim for good stewardship.
“Or we can raise our gaze . . . and draw on the characters of our peoples, and the pillars of our societies—freedom, democracy, and enterprise.
“Because what good is a compass without a course? What good are values without vision? What good are ideas without leaders determined to advance them?
“We should measure the success of the special relationship not just by how we treat each other, but rather by how well we can leverage this moment to seize a real opportunity for our two nations.
“We should measure this relationship by how it promotes security and prosperity for the world.
“We were reminded of this obligation in the worst way not too long ago—four weeks ago today, to be exact.
“The evil in Westminster—at the epicenter of European democracy—rattled us to our core. We shared your pain. We mourned your victims.
“America knows this horror all too well. We’ve seen it in New York and Boston . . . in Orlando and San Bernardino . . . in Texas and in a field in Pennsylvania.
“Churches, schools, city streets, institutions of government—radical Islamist terrorism targets innocents in their everyday lives.
“And in doing so, they seek to divide us against one another. They want us to point fingers and cast blame. They want us to cower in fear of leaving our homes and living our lives. They want us to lose faith in our values and principles—to give up hope.
“We will not let that happen. We cannot let that happen. The way we defeat this scourge of evil is by working hand-in-hand. By strengthening military and counterterrorism cooperation. By winning the battle of ideas. By demonstrating how our ideals of freedom, compassion, and peace will always prevail over violence and hate.
“Under President Trump’s leadership, we are rebuilding our military for the 21st century and giving our troops the tools they need. And here in Great Britain, you have made great strides matching words with action by enacting critical counterterrorism measures to provide the resources necessary to keep your citizens safe.
“Tonight, I also want to thank the British government for backing our recent action in Syria.
“The strikes ordered by President Trump were appropriate and just. They demonstrate our resolve and refusal to stand on the sidelines as Assad slaughters his people—and their children—with the cruelest weapons known to man.
“You understand, as we do, that preventing the use of chemical weapons is a vital national security interest. So we must continue to work together—the United States, Great Britain, and all of our allies—to finally end this nightmare.
“And let’s be honest, this is not just about Assad. We must also hold his enablers accountable. Iran and Russia are complicit in these crimes against humanity. But that’s not all. Russia is determined to exploit weakness and opportunity wherever it may surface.
“As they seek to expand their sphere of influence in the Middle East, they continue to challenge the sovereignty of our allies in Eastern and Central Europe. Their aggression has also taken on other forms. Russia interfered in our elections, and they are interfering in elections here in Europe as we speak.
“We have learned a thing or two about their tactics. And we commit to sharing those lessons learned with our allies so you can be better prepared.
“So let’s be clear: The actions of Russia are not the actions of a friend. We cannot allow a provocateur in Moscow to threaten our allies or interests. This is a direct affront to the post-Cold War global order.
“And by ‘we,’ I do not just mean the US and Britain. To truly combat Russian aggression, we need a strong NATO alliance—and we need that now more than ever.
“Our delegation has just come from Norway, and later this week we will visit two more key NATO allies: Poland and Estonia.
“Please let there be no ambiguity here: NATO is essential. It has been and remains critical to the safety and security of the United States, Great Britain, and the world.
“And it must be strengthened. Member states should follow the lead of the US, UK, Poland, Estonia, and Greece and contribute two percent of their GDP to defense spending. And we should enhance our lines of communication to ensure NATO countries receive the most timely, actionable information possible.
“Close security cooperation must also be coupled with enduring economic ties. Today, our countries boast the world’s largest foreign direct investment partnership, and America stands as the single greatest importer of UK goods.
“But there are those who say the United States and Great Britain are today turning inward—that we’re retreating and closing ourselves off from the rest of the world. Let me put that myth to rest.
“We are more determined than ever to lead. We don’t want China to write the rules of the 21st century global economy. We want to do that. We want a level playing field for our businesses. And yes, we want free trade deals, but they have to be smart trade deals. They need to help workers and raise wages. They need to create high-paying, sustainable jobs. The good news is that these are exactly the type of jobs you get from smart free trade agreements. And we must continue to sharpen tools to combat unfair trade practices.
“Now that Article 50 has been invoked, the UK and EU will determine the best path forward over the course of negotiations. We want the parties to come together and strike a lasting agreement. A strong UK-EU relationship is in all of our best interests.
“In that same vein, the United States will continue to work closely with our EU friends, and chart a path forward on T-TIP negotiations. At the same time, we are committed to work with President Trump and your government to achieve a bilateral trade agreement between the United States and Great Britain.
“This is one of the bipartisan messages I bring with me: that the United States stands ready to forge a new trade agreement with Great Britain as soon as possible, so that we may further tap into the great potential between our people.
“Here is the last point I would make:
“At times, we will get mired in the slog of governing. But we can never lose sight of the battle of ideas. To secure freedom and free enterprise, we must believe in these things, apply them to the problems of the day, and defend them at every turn.
“So let me just close by saying thank you. Thank you for your friendship. Thank you for your hospitality. And, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for working to ensure our special relationship grows stronger far into the future. I look forward to your questions.”