Theresa May warns that there are 'difficult times ahead' as Britain leaves the EU

The PM warned Brexit would not be 'plain sailing'

Jon Stone
Monday 05 September 2016 09:19
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Theresa May warns that Brexit won't be plain sailing

There will be “difficult times” ahead as Britain moves to leave the European Union, the Prime Minister has said.

In her first major broadcast interview since taking office Theresa May warned that the Brexit process would not be be “plain sailing” – but that she is nevertheless optimistic about the future.

The intervention comes as Ms May makes her first trip to a major international summit as PM. On Saturday she flew to Beijing to meet G20 leaders, who she will try to reassure regarding Britain’s departure from the trading bloc.

“I’m not going to pretend that it’s all going to be plain sailing. I think we must be prepared for the fact that there may be some difficult times ahead,” she told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show in a prerecorded interview to be aired on Sunday morning.

“But what I am is optimistic, and indeed this is what – the message that came from the Cabinet when we were sitting around the table at Chequers this week and talking about these things, it’s the same message I’ve had from businesses, is of optimism about the future, about the opportunities that are now open to the United Kingdom.

“As I say, an independent Britain forging our own way in the world. And I think what we see following the referendum vote is that British spirit which says we’ve had the decision, now let’s get on with it, let’s get on with putting it into practise, and let’s make sure that we take those opportunities and make a success of it.”

What happened on the first day of the G20 summit

Ideas suggested by the PM this weekend to keep Britain afloat in a post-Brexit world include closer ties with China, the summit’s host country.

“This is a golden era for UK-China relations and one of the things I will be doing at the G20 is obviously talking to President Xi about how we can develop the strategic partnership that we have between the UK and China,” she said as she boarded her RAF Voyager plane to the summit.

“But I will also be talking to other world leaders about how we can develop free trade around the world and Britain wants to seize those opportunities. My ambition is that Britain will be a global leader in free trade.”

Controversy surround’s Britain’s close relationship with China, however – with human rights groups lambasting it for its poor human rights record and one-party rule. Ms May also faces a row with Chinese leaders over delays to the construction of the new Hinkley point C nuclear power-plant, which China is supposed to be investing in.

Despite the potential difficulties of leaving the bloc, the PM has resisted any calls to re-think the policy. She and her officials have consistently repeated the refrain that “Brexit means Brexit” – though they have yet to lay out policy specifics regarding trade and any potential changes to freedom of movement.

Even the timetable of when Britain will actually begin leaving is still uncertain. Senior Conservative has signaled that they would like Britain to have left by 2020, after having triggered article 50 in sometime early next year. Estimates for how long it takes to leave the bloc vary between two years and ten years and will depend on negotiations.

Ms May again signaled on Sunday that she would not accept a second EU referendum, after protesters took to the street in cities such as London, Birmingham, Edinburgh, and Cambridge calling for public input on whether to accept the eventual Brexit package.

“No second referendum,” she said. “We could try and say, look, this is, you know, we – we wish that hadn’t happened so we’re going to try and somehow wish it away.

“What I’m saying, what the Conservative Party is saying, it’s the only party that are saying this, is we respect the wishes of the British people. The British people want us to leave the European Union and that’s what we will do.”

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