It’s a pleasure to be here in New Scotland Yard, the home of Counterterrorism Policing, with such a distinguished audience.
And to be introduced by our outstanding head of CT Policing.
If anyone here is watching ‘The Looming Tower’, a TV drama about siloed US security agencies not talking to each other about potential threats, you might worry that’s how it works here.
But if that was ever true there and then, it’s certainly not true here and now in the UK.
Every week Neil and I sit down with the Director General of MI5 to go through all of the top investigations together.
Making sure the top threats are prioritised and coordinated.
Since becoming Home Secretary a year ago it’s been a huge privilege to be trusted with daily decisions that directly affect the safety and security of our citizens.
Some of them can mean the difference the life and death.
So it’s a responsibility I take very seriously.
Being ultimately responsible for the security of more than 65 million people has meant me personally signing several thousand warrants, day and night.
Giving the green light to operational decisions.
All while proactively reforming many policies across the board.
It’s a good job I don’t have the hair to go grey!
And it puts a lot of Westminster issues in perspective.
Most of my previous jobs were focused on unleashing the positive parts of human nature – such as enterprise, creativity, charity.
But for those virtues to flourish, we also need to constrain the darker side of human nature – violence, exploitation, and injustice.
Tough decisions must be made to maintain our security.
Nobody in government knows that more than the Prime Minister.
Someone who has done more than anyone – both as our leader and as Home Secretary – to keep this country safe.
Someone who has remained resolute in the face of terror attacks, cyber onslaughts and the use of a nerve agent on British soil.
And I’d like to pay tribute to her today for her tireless commitment to national security.
The importance of security
“The first duty of government is the protection of its citizens.
That is why I want to talk today about how we are doing just that – protecting our citizens from individuals, organisations and even states who wish to do them harm.
Security underpins everything – our liberty, our prosperity.
That spectrum of security goes all the way from Stop and Search on our streets, to supporting soldiers on operations.
From intervening early to stop a young person from carrying a knife to intervening early to prevent the risk of radicalization.
Fundamentally, security underpins the unity of our society and our values.
And that, of course, is what motivates our enemies.
Those that challenge us – whether it’s the twisted ideology of religious and political extremism, or the cold calculation of state actors, do so because they detest our values.
They seek to sow division between us because they see our strength in unity.
They fear that strength, and that fear drives their hatred.
For some, this can be very close to home.
For Muslims, it is painful to see how the religion of our parents and grandparents is so often misunderstood or misrepresented to see how it is used by extremists on all sides to sow the seeds of division and violence.
But we are better and bigger than that.
We are, and will always remain, an open, fair, and tolerant society.
Those are our values.
And we will not allow hatred, intolerance, and violence to destroy them.
The threat from terrorism
“This country is under the protection of the finest police, security, intelligence, and armed forces in the world many of them working here in New Scotland Yard.
Your excellent work, hand-in-glove with MI5, does more to keep us safe than most of the public will ever know.
That’s how it should be.
Each and every day, our security services fight against terror – from large international terrorist groups, to radicalised individuals.
In the past two years, they have foiled 19 major terrorist plots 14 of them Islamist, and 5 of them motivated by extreme right-wing ideologies.
But those are just the headline figures.
For each attack prevented, there are dozens more that never have the chance to begin in the first place.
And despite this impressive work, the tempo of terrorist activity is increasing.
The London Bridge inquest is a chance to reflect on the 2017 attacks in the UK.
To remember the victims of terrorism, and the loved ones they leave behind.
And to examine publicly the systems we have put in place to protect the UK.
To help us do just that, I can announce I’ve appointed Jonathan Hall QC as our new Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation and I’m delighted he’s joined us here today.
It’s clear the threat from beyond our shores is also increasing.
More than 250 dead in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday.
Worshipers slaughtered in mosques in Christchurch.
A journalist shot dead by dissident republicans in Northern Ireland.
And Al-Qaeda are regathering their strength.
Old threats return as new ones emerge.
In our ever more interconnected world, these threats are not constrained by national borders.
Globalisation and the indiscriminate nature of terror means that we are all potential victims.
Although the London Bridge attacks took place in the heart of our capital, more of the victims were foreign nationals than UK citizens.
In fact, more UK citizens were killed in the recent bombings in Sri Lanka.
When it comes to security, no country is truly an island.
We have seen how quickly dangerous ideologies from Islamism to extreme populism and nationalism can sweep across countries and continents.
Daesh’s so-called Caliphate has now been defeated on the ground, but the poisonous ideology remains.
In fact, of all the terrorist plots thwarted by the UK and our Western allies last year…
80 per cent were planned by people inspired by the ideology of Daesh, but who had never actually been in contact with the so-called Caliphate.
And just as its fighters were drawn from every corner of the world, including far too many Brits we have taken an international response to this menace.
Now, many of these fighters have been captured but some may wish to return home.
It is a challenge that dozens of our allies face.
The threat from foreign fighters
“The police and security services have worked tirelessly to identify those intending to travel overseas and join Daesh.
They have seized passports at the border and prevented them from leaving the country. And – along with concerned friends, families and public-sector colleagues they have directed hundreds of at-risk individuals to support from our Prevent programmes to turn them away from terrorism.
We did not stop everyone, as the case of Shamima Begum reminded us.
But the systems we have put in place starved Daesh of many more British recruits.
Of course our action against Daesh does not stop at our border.
We have been a leading member of a coalition of nations that has taken action to strike against Daesh eroding their threat to the region, and to the wider world.
That included the targeting of Mohammed Emwazi, the figurehead of their evil execution squad.
And we are working with our international partners on efforts to prosecute fighters where they are captured.
It is only right that those nations which have suffered most under Daesh have the chance to bring them to justice.
But the difficulty in prosecuting Emwazi’s alleged collaborators – El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey – shows just how hard this can be.
And it shows how I must remain single-minded in using all the powers at my disposal to protect this country.
Deprivation of citizenship
When we assess that someone poses a real threat, we will work to stop them from returning.
Sometimes to do that I have had to deprive people of their British citizenship.
I continue to do so, to keep this country safe.
But I understand these decisions raise questions and concerns.
I first learned of the full parameters of the power in my previous role, when the then Home Secretary Amber Rudd explained it to me.
It was at that moment that I had the worrying realisation that, given my heritage, that power could in theory be applied to me.
But I want to reassure anyone with the same thought that they have nothing to fear.
Deprivation is a never a step that will be taken lightly or broadly.
Those that say otherwise are only seeking to divide our society.
Decisions are made following incredibly careful consideration of advice and intelligence from the security services, counterterrorism police and specialist security and legal officials in the Home Office.
There is a statutory right of appeal.
And the power can only be applied when depriving an individual would be conducive to the public good.
Deprivation should never be the first course of action.
But when some of the world’s most dangerous people have the right to return to these shores…
I will do everything I can to prevent them.
Of those who have returned, we have already prosecuted over 40 returnees for offences committed overseas, or as a result of counter-terrorism investigations.
And we have worked to reintegrate others safely into society.
But we do have to remember that young British children traumatised by their experiences in Daesh-held territories are victims too.
So we offer support to those who return to the UK, and are considering what more can be done to help others.
I want to make sure this challenging situation can’t be repeated.
So, under the new Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act, we introduced a power where if necessary to protect the public from terrorism I can designate a region anywhere in the world and make it an offence for British nationals to be there.
Today I can announce that I’ve asked my officials to work closely with the police and intelligence agencies to urgently review the case for exercising this power in relation to Syria with a particular focus on Idlib and the North East.
So anyone who is in these areas without a legitimate reason should be on notice.
I can also see that there may be a case in future for considering designating parts of West Africa.
But wherever this power is applied, I am determined that it will not inhibit the delivery of essential humanitarian aid.
Expanding international security partnerships
“From terrorism, to crime, to hostile state activity, we are facing international problems, and they require an international response.
My job title might be Home Secretary.
But much of the threat our home faces comes from abroad.
So since taking this job I’ve travelled to Europe, Asia, the US and beyond to discuss global security issues with my counterparts.
Wherever I have travelled, I have been welcomed with open arms and proposals of close cooperation.
It’s not just my winning personality.
We are fortunate to be citizens of a country that is an intelligence and security superpower.
After the United States, we are probably the largest contributor to the international system of defence and intelligence that keeps the world safe.
There are other nations of similar size and similar resources. But what sets us apart is teamwork.
More than any other country on Earth, the UK has a coherent, connected approach to intelligence and security.
And when threats appear, the world still turns to the UK for leadership, support, and action.
As these threats become more global we all rely on an international system of defence, policing, security and intelligence.
A safety net based upon cooperation, and unity.
These structures rely upon free, democratic nations to pool information, coordinate law enforcement action, and surrender suspected criminals across borders.
Our European partners are, of course, key to this.
They share the same values. They encounter the same challenges. They face the same enemies.
There is no doubt that Europol, the European Arrest Warrant, the Schengen Information System and other channels of cooperation have helped to keep our citizens – and those of other EU countries – safe.
We have kept track of dangerous individuals. Prevented crimes. Frozen assets. Protected our citizens.
Whatever the outcome of Brexit, we want this collaboration to continue.
To that end, we are joined today by Professor Gunter Krings, Parliamentary State Secretary at the German Interior Ministry.
Following my recent discussions with Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, we have reaffirmed our shared commitment to working together to protect citizens.
Welcome Gunter, I look forward to our talks later today.
In the event of a no deal Brexit we have agreed to intensify cooperation and swiftly conclude any necessary bilateral security arrangements.
Whatever the outcome of EU Exit, the UK will still have the capacity and capability to protect itself.
Yes, a comprehensive and legally binding partnership on security is still our preferred option.
But we have also worked hard to prepare for a no-deal scenario.
And I have directed my department to make full use of the extra time we now have until October to do even more.
Working with international partners
“Contingency plans are already in place to move police and judicial cooperation onto tried and tested non-EU mechanisms, such as Interpol.
And we are building up other international capabilities.
Last year I attended the Five Eyes summit in Australia.
And in two months’ time I am very pleased to say that we will host the summit in Manchester.
There we will take forward an agenda with our allies on emerging threats – from drones to cyber, and many of the issues I’ve talked about today.
As the only European member of the world’s foremost intelligence alliance, the UK is the hub of a truly global intelligence and security network.
Nothing will change this.
We have developed an overseas strand to our world-leading counter terrorism strategy CONTEST.
We can ban terror organisations in the UK if they pose a threat anywhere in the world, which is why I recently proscribed Hizballah in its entirety.
And with 50 UK liaison officers providing expertise around the world, CT police are a great example of what we offer other countries.
In January, they were doing crucial work in Nairobi within hours of the horrific hotel attack.
So one certainty of Brexit is that it will not change the fact that we are one of the key global players in keeping people safe.
Defending ourselves from hostile states
“But we know not all countries are as constructive in their approach.
The conclusion of the Cold War was not the end of state-on-state threats that many had predicted.
Salisbury was a sharp reminder of that.
We continue to face direct threats from a range of state actors who wish to challenge our status, undermine our democracy, and divide our society.
These range from espionage, subversion, and sabotage to disinformation, coercion and even attempted assassination.
The risks posed to the UK from hostile states have both grown and diversified.
Our country and our allies face a range of new and distinct threats, especially as foreign companies become increasingly engaged in our telecommunications infrastructure.
We’ve already seen some of our closest intelligence partners – such as the US and Australia – set out their decisions on access to their networks.
These are countries we must continue to co-ordinate closely with.
I share some of their concerns and am certainly taking them into account as the government makes a final decision.
Not all hostile activity in this space is at the cutting edge of technology.
In February we created a new power allowing police to stop people at UK ports and borders to determine if they are involved in hostile state activity.
We have also used existing immigration powers in dozens of cases to harden our defences against hostile state activity and I will not hesitate to do the same in the future.
My message is clear – the UK is open to the world, but if you seek to do us harm, you are not welcome.
But we need to go further.
Since the Salisbury attack, the Home Office has been reviewing the laws we have around hostile state activity.
I believe there are some real gaps in our current legislation.
We have to ensure we have the necessary powers to meet current and evolving threats to the UK, both domestically and overseas.
Getting the right powers and resources in place for countering hostile states must be a post-Brexit priority.
So I can announce today that we are preparing the ground for an Espionage Bill.
This will bring together new and modernised powers, giving our security services the legal authority they need to tackle this threat.
The areas this work will consider include whether we follow allies in adopting a form of foreign agent registration and how we update our Official Secrets Acts for the 21st Century.
I have also asked my officials to consider the case for updating treason laws.
Our definition of terrorism is broad enough to cover those who betray our country by supporting terror abroad.
But if updating the old offence of treason would help to counter hostile state activity, beyond potential new legislation, then there is merit in considering that too.
“The threats against us are many and varied.
But that is no reason to be fearful.
We are citizens of one of the safest countries in the world and a genuine intelligence and security superpower.
We have robust legislation.
World-class police and intelligence services.
We take what we have, and build on it – constantly improving our systems, our processes, and our capabilities.
It is one of the things that makes us exceptional.
The United Kingdom has a combination of strength and unity that sets us apart from our friends and enemies alike.
Those enemies range from entire states, to lone individuals.
They may seek to humiliate us.
To destroy our democracy and undermine our values.
To sow the seeds of division.
But they all have one thing in common.
They know, deep down, that they cannot beat us.
Because from every challenge we have emerged stronger.
And, most importantly of all, united.”