In maiden UN speech, May says UK not turning away from the world

Theresa May at the UN. [United Nations]

British Prime Minister Theresa May told leaders yesterday (20 September) that her country will not turn away from the world after the shock vote to leave the European Union, seeking to allay fears over the future unity of the West.

In her maiden speech to the United Nations General Assembly, May sketched her views on how to deal with terrorism, mass migration and modern slavery while also calling for modernisation of the 71-year-old organisation.

“When the British people voted to leave the EU, they did not vote to turn inwards or walk away from any of our partners in the world,” May told the General Assembly.

“The United Kingdom has always been an outward-facing, global partner at the heart of international efforts to secure peace and prosperity for all our people. And that is how we will remain.”

The 23 June vote took many investors and chief executives by surprise, triggering the deepest political and financial turmoil in Britain since World War Two and the biggest ever one-day fall in sterling against the dollar.

Brexit shockwaves hit UK consumers, wages and construction

Shockwaves from Britain’s vote to leave the European Union are reverberating through the economy with surveys published on Thursday (28 July) showing a sharp dive in consumer confidence and a slowdown in the construction sector.

Britain’s allies fear that its exit from the EU could mark a turning point in post-Cold War international affairs that will weaken the West in relation to China and Russia, undermine efforts towards European integration and hurt global free trade.

Will Brexit make the EU more pro-Russian?

Asked if Brexit will make the EU more pro-Russian, international experts with different backgrounds approached by EURACTIV were not unanimous in their assessment. However all said that without the UK, the EU will be weaker internationally.

Britain retains its role in the NATO military alliance as the EU’s biggest defence spender, its permanent veto-wielding seat on the UN Security Council and four submarines armed with nuclear ballistic missiles.

But some diplomats and CEOs are worried that Brexit could torpedo Britain’s economic interests and clout, a suggestion that riles British ministers.

‘Please invest’

US, Japanese and European banks have raised concern about the impact on London, currently the only global financial centre to rival New York, while investors say the shape and timing of Brexit remain unclear.

May has said she will not trigger the formal EU divorce this year and will get a good deal for Britain, though elections next year in France and Germany could complicate negotiations on an exit deal.

While recent economic data suggests the economic impact of Britain’s vote to leave the EU has not been as severe as some predicted, the hit to the world’s fifth-largest economy is also unclear and there are some signs of a slowdown in investment.

British economy escapes Brexit 'bomb', for now

Britain’s high streets are heaving with shoppers despite June’s shock vote to leave the European Union, big companies have reported few signs of distress and some tabloid newspapers are even talking about a post-Brexit economic boom.

May, who says she will implement Brexit even though she argued against it before the vote, met Wall Street bankers and the heads of some of North America’s biggest companies on Monday night in an attempt to reassure them on Brexit.

“We will be getting the right deal for the United Kingdom and that is the right deal in terms of trade in goods,” May told the investors and chief executives.

“The UK is going to be out there. We will be looking for business. And ladies and gentlemen, please feel free to invest in the UK,” she said.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told May he wanted May to ensure that Japanese companies in Britain could continue to operate after Brexit, according to a Japanese government spokesman.

Japan woos Russia with deeper economic ties

Japan is hoping the lure of deeper economic ties with Russia will strengthen strategic relations in the face of a rising China, but sceptics question whether the approach will generate a breakthrough in a decades-old territorial dispute.

US President Barack Obama has called for an orderly Brexit while affirming strong ties with London. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has said that the Brexit vote was a “great thing” and that Britain would remain a great ally.

Obama downplays Brexit impact at NATO summit

US President Barack Obama insisted on Friday that (8 July) Brexit would not harm transatlantic unity, but warned against a bitter divorce undermining security in the face of a resurgent Russia.

May, who did not meet either Trump or Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton on her trip, avoided public mention of Britain’s close alliance with the United States in her speech.

But she said Britain would strengthen partnerships with NATO, the Commonwealth and the United Nations. She announced Britain would send more military teams to help Somalia fight Al Shabaab militants. A British official said 30 training teams will be deployed with up to 70 troops at a time.

May, who argued before she won Britain’s top job that the UN was flawed but necessary, said the 193-member organisation should ensure its relevance by serving the millions of people who feel left behind by globalisation.

“We must recognise that for too many of those men and women the increasing pace of globalisation has left them feeling left behind,” May, 59, told the UN.

“So this is not the time to turn away from our United Nations. It is the time to turn towards it.”

Live: EU begins to talk life after UK

The negotiations haven’t even started yet, with the now infamous Article 50 yet to be triggered by Theresa May’s government. Things are starting to take shape and the news will come thick and fast. Follow EURACTIV’s live feed for all the latest developments and talking points.

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