Theresa May and Donald Trump talk 'big, ambitious' post-Brexit trade deal as PM attacks Russia at UN

But prime minister appears to reject US president's isolationist rhetoric in favour of ‘global co-operation’

Chris Stevenson
New York
Thursday 27 September 2018 08:16 BST
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Donald Trump calls Theresa May 'hard working' in New York meeting

Theresa May has declared that the Brexit vote does not mean the UK is rejecting global cooperation as she discussed a desire for a “big and ambitious” post-EU trade deal with Donald Trump.

Despite the talk of deals with the US president in an afternoon meeting, Ms May used two speeches at the UN to place herself at odds with Mr Trump’s isolationist world view and also attacked Russia’s “desperate fabrications” over the Salisbury poisonings and their refusal to play by international rules.

Speaking to both a meeting of the UN Security Council and the body’s General Assembly, Ms May pointed towards the need for countries to work together.

“Only global cooperation based on a set of agreed rules can ensure competition is fair and does not succumb to protectionism, with its certain path to lost jobs and international confrontation,” Ms May said.

“And it is only global cooperation which can harness legitimate self-interest towards common goals, producing agreements on global challenges such as climate change, proliferation and increasing inclusive economic growth.”

She said that the Brexit vote was a call for “accountability” and was not “a rejection of multilateralism”.

While Downing Street insisted Ms May’s remarks on globalism were not a criticism of Mr Trump, who a day earlier had espoused a “doctrine of patriotism”, it was clear the same could not be said about her remarks directed towards Moscow.

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She called on Russia to rejoin the global consensus against the use of chemical weapons, but said there should be no doubt that action would be taken if that did not happen.

“We have taken appropriate action, with our allies, and we will continue to take the necessary steps to ensure our collective security,” she said. “Russia has only sought to obfuscate through desperate fabrication.”

She spoke of the need to protect against the rise of both extreme right and left ideologies to protect the “peace of nations”.

“We have seen what happens when the natural patriotism which is a cornerstone of a healthy society is warped into aggressive nationalism, exploiting fear and uncertainty to promote identity politics at home and belligerent confrontation abroad,” she said.

”And we see this when states like Russia flagrantly breach international norms, from the seizing of sovereign territory to the reckless use of chemical weapons on the streets of Britain by agents of the Russian GRU.”

There was a more direct, if polite, dig at Mr Trump over his withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal signed with a number of nations including the UK. Ms May called it “the best means of preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon”.

But both Mr Trump and Ms May were all smiles at their later meeting, with both agreeing Brexit marked a “wonderful opportunity” for a far-reaching UK-US trade deal.

That warmth was a stark contrast to an awkward moment for Ms May early in the day when she was asked at a global business forum hosted by Bloomberg “how bad things could get” in the event of an unacceptable deal with the EU. Acknowledging uncertainty, Ms May insisted she was confident a deal could be reached.

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