Theresa May will embark on a charm offensive at the G20 in China this weekend to convince world leaders the UK remains a dependable partner in spite of Brexit, starting with US President Barack Obama.
In her first international summit as Prime Minister, Mrs May will hold a series of one-on-one talks with presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia, Narendra Modi of India, and Xi Jinping of China, as well as the US leader.
The Prime Minister will also issue a call for world leaders to support countries in sub-Saharan Africa threatened with an influx of IS fighters fleeing US air strikes in Libya.
Mrs May will send a clear message to the world’s largest economies that Britain will continue play a role on the world stage as it leaves the EU, a UK Government official indicated.
Four months after Mr Obama said the UK would be “at the back of the queue” in trade negotiations with the US after any Brexit, Mrs May will meet the US president for the first time since taking office
The pair will hold “lengthy” talks ahead of the start of the G20 summit touching on the conflicts in Syria and the Ukraine, as well as the UK’s relationship with the US following Brexit.
Meanwhile, Mrs May will take a “hard-headed” approach with Mr Putin and will not shy away from areas of disagreement including violence in eastern Ukraine where casualty rates are higher than at any point in the past year, the official said.
The Prime Minister will meet Mr Xi following the conclusion of the summit, with attention focused on the reaction of her hosts to the decision to delay final approval for a major nuclear energy deal with China. The country’s ambassador to the UK urged the government to be “wise” and “pragmatic” in state media this week.
There are no plans for formal talks with Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, whose country’s free trade deal with the EU is increasingly seen as the starting point for Brexit negotiations, or EU leaders who will soon be locked in talks with the UK, including EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council president Donald Tusk.
However, world leaders will mingle during an evening boat tour of Hangzhou’s West Lake tomorrow.
The summit will discuss counter-terrorism measures, with the UK expected to call for support for sub-Saharan Africa to deal with the aftermath of an IS retreat.
The terrorist organisation has crumbled in the face of US air strikes launched at the start of August, with 100 missions in the space of a month.
IS had controlled roughly 200 kilometres of the country’s Mediterranean coastline, but the bombardments have helped Libyan forces push it back into its stronghold of Sirte.
UK officials are concerned that fighters have now begun fleeing south, and could destabilise Libya’s neighbours by gaining a foothold in sub-Saharan Africa.
Developing a strategy to stop an exodus of fanatical fighters is seen as crucial ahead of an assault to liberate IS’s Iraqi stronghold of Mosul, expected imminently.