British Foreign Secretary's Statement on the Iran Nuclear Deal

Transcript of the Foreign Secretary's statement to the House on 9th May
May 9, 2018

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

The Government regrets the decision of the US Administration to withdraw from the deal and to re-impose American sanctions on Iran.

We did our utmost to prevent this outcome; from the moment that President Trump’s Administration took office, we made the case for keeping the JCPOA at every level.

Last Sunday I travelled to Washington and repeated this country’s support for the nuclear agreement in meetings with Secretary Pompeo, Vice-President Pence, National Security Adviser Bolton and others and my Right Honourable Friend the Prime Minister spoke to President Trump last Saturday.

The US decision makes no difference to the British assessment that the constraints imposed on Iran’s nuclear ambitions by the JCPOA remain vital for our national security and the stability of the Middle East.

Under the agreement, Iran has relinquished 95 per cent of its low-enriched uranium, placed two thirds of its centrifuges in storage, removed the core of its heavy water reactor - thus closing off the plutonium route to a bomb, and allowed the International Atomic Energy Agency to mount the most intrusive and rigorous inspection regime ever devised, an obligation on Iran that lasts until 2040.

The House should not underestimate the impact of these measures.

The interval needed for Iran to make enough weapons-grade uranium for one nuclear bomb is known as the “breakout” time.

Under the deal, Iran’s “breakout” time has trebled or even quadrupled from a few months to at least a year,and the plutonium pathway to a weapon has been blocked completely.

For as long as Iran abides by the agreement – and the IAEA has publicly reported its compliance, Iran’s compliance, nine times so far – then Britain will remain a party to the JCPOA.

I remind the House that the JCPOA is an international agreement, painstakingly negotiated over 13 years – under both Republican and Democratic Administrations – and enshrined in UN Resolution 2231.

Britain has no intention of walking away; instead we will cooperate with the other parties to ensure that while Iran continues to restrict its nuclear programme, then its people will benefit from sanctions relief in accordance with the central bargain of the deal.

I cannot yet go into detail on the steps we propose to take, but I hope to make them available as soon as possible and I spoke yesterday to my French and German counterparts. In his statement on January 12, President Trump highlighted important limitations of the JCPOA, including the fact that some constraints on Iran’s nuclear capacity expire in 2025.

Britain worked alongside France and Germany to find a way forward that would have addressed the President’s concerns and allowed the US to stay in the JCPOA, but without reopening the terms of the agreement.

I still believe that would have been the better course and now that our efforts on this side of the Atlantic have not succeeded, it falls to the US Administration to spell out their view of the way ahead.

In the meantime, I urge the US to avoid taking any action that would hinder other parties from continuing to make the agreement work in the interests of our collective national security.

I urge Iran to respond to the US decision with restraint and continue to observe its commitments under the JCPOA.

We have always been at one with the United States in our profound concern over Iran’s missile tests and Iran’s disruptive role in the Middle East, particularly in Yemen and Syria.

The UK has acted to counter Iran’s destabilising behaviour in the region – and we will continue to do so.

We remain adamant that a nuclear-armed Iran would never be acceptable to the United Kingdom; indeed Iran’s obligation not to “seek, develop or acquire” nuclear weapons appears – without any time limit – on the first page of the preamble to the JCPOA.

Yesterday President Trump promised to “work with our allies to find a real, comprehensive and lasting solution to the Iranian nuclear threat”.

I have no difficulty whatever with that goal: the question is how the US proposes to achieve it?

Now that the Trump Administration has left the JCPOA, the responsibility falls on them to describe how they in Washington will build a new negotiated solution to our shared concerns, a settlement that must necessarily include Iran, China and Russia as well as countries in the region.

Britain stands ready to support that task, but in the meantime, we will strive to preserve the gains made by the JCPOA.

And I commend this statement to the House.