PM offers a Brexit vision that '˜works for all'
Addressing guests at this year’s Lord Mayor’s banquet, Theresa May made it clear she did not want to see the UK “stepping back” from the world.
She said her Government is set on pursuing an “ambitious” new trade deal with the EU, while at the same time taking on “a new global role”.
But she stressed the benefits presented by this “historic” decision must be felt by all, as she warned current economic and trade policies have “left too many people behind”.
Opening her speech at the annual Mansion House event, Mrs May told those gathered that they were meeting “in a world transformed”.
She stated that a year ago, few would have predicted June’s Brexit vote or the result of last week’s US election.
But she the public had “demanded” change and it is the job “of all those in positions of influence and power” to respond to that call.
And she suggested her Government is ready to rise to the challenge “and seize this great global opportunity of our time”.
“As we leave the European Union, I believe we can show the way forward again,” Mrs May said.
“First, for as long as we are members of the EU, we will continue to lead the way in pressing for an ambitious EU trade agenda.
“We will also use the strength and size of our economy to lead the way in getting out into the world and doing new business with old allies and new partners alike.
“Our departure from the European Union is not – as some people have wrongly argued – Britain stepping back from the world.
“[It is] an example of how a free, flexible, ambitious country can step up to a new global role.”
Addressing a room of politicians and business leaders, Mrs May stressed that her Government will be “unequivocally and unashamedly pro-business”.
She pledged she will not “duck” the big decisions on which their success depends, “whether it’s High Speed 2, Hinkley Point or Heathrow”.
However, coming off the back of last week’s shock election result, she also spoke of a growing sense of disillusionment among working class voters toward the economic status quo.
She made it clear this includes the liberal, global trade agenda so often associated with a political elite – and which she last night promised to reform.
“If we take a step back and look at the world around us, one of the most important drivers becomes clear,” she told guests.
“The forces of liberalism and globalisation which have held sway in Britain, America and across the Western world for years have left too many people behind. As anti-globalisation sentiment grows, it is incumbent on those of us in positions of leadership to respond: to make sense of the changing world around us.
“To be the true global champion of free trade in this new modern world, we also need to do something to help those families and communities who can lose out from it.”
Echoing the interventionist tone of her party conference speech, Mrs May said the state must be prepared “to act” to ensure that the benefits of globalisation are “shared by all”.
She suggested the Government’s forthcoming industrial strategy will help to achieve this, alongside efforts to encourage a more “responsible approach” to business.
However, her comments have drawn criticism from Labour, who accused the Prime Minister of making empty promises. Campaign chief Jon Trickett said Mrs May “talks about transforming the economy... but all that is on offer is more cuts, poor investment and little, if any, growth”.
Comment: Page 10.