Theresa May to set out UK free trade vision after Trump victory

Theresa May has pledged to set out a vision for global trade to fit with the new world order. Picture: PA
Theresa May has pledged to set out a vision for global trade to fit with the new world order. Picture: PA
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Theresa May will seek to respond to a tumultuous week in global politics today by promising a new vision of global free trade for a world changed by Donald Trump’s US election victory.

Nigel Farage became the first UK political leader to meet the president-elect yesterday, positioning himself as the bridge between post-Brexit Britain and an incoming administration that shares his scepticism on globalisation and European co-operation. Downing Street insisted the former Ukip leader had no formal role as a go-between, but the meeting will be seen as a challenge to Mrs May’s authority.

Our departure from the European Union is not – as some people have wrongly argued – Britain stepping back from the world

Theresa May

According to spokespeople for Mr Trump and Ukip, Mr Farage and the president-elect had a “very productive” meeting at Trump Tower in New York lasting over an hour, and discussed “winning and freedom” as well as global politics and Brexit.

Mr Trump said in a television interview last night he would deport or jail between two and three million undocumented migrants after he enters the White House. However, he said the wall he proposed building on the border with Mexico could include “some fencing”.

In another sign of world leaders coming to terms with Mr Trump’s shock victory, it was confirmed yesterday that Nicola Sturgeon will write to the president-elect to congratulate him days after saying she was not prepared to maintain a “diplomatic silence” over racist and misogynistic rhetoric.

A spokesman for the First Minister said she would also write to the defeated Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton “to acknowledge her contribution to politics and to greatly advancing the cause of gender equality”.

In a speech at the Mansion House in London this evening, the Prime Minister is expected to promise that in response to the wave of political upheaval and anti-globalisation sentiment sweeping the West, the UK will “not be standing inflexibly, refusing to change and still fighting the battles of the past, but adapting to the moment”.

Mrs May will say her government will “show the world we can be the strongest global advocate for free markets and free trade” while doing more to see that prosperity is shared equally.

During the presidential election campaign, Mr Trump vowed to tear up free trade agreements that saw US jobs transferred overseas and flooded domestic markets with overseas goods.

The US free trade deal with Canada and Mexico could be the first to be renegotiated after the Canadian government said it was willing to hear Mr Trump’s demands, while another agreement between Canada and the EU nearly collapsed after opposition from the Belgian region of Wallonia.

The Prime Minister will argue that asking big business to “play its part” in society “is fundamental to retaining faith in capitalism and free markets”.

She will say that “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 actually lose out from it”.

Mrs May is expected to say: “To show that our departure from the European Union is not – as some people have wrongly argued – Britain stepping back from the world, but an example of how a free, flexible, ambitious country can step up to a new global role in which alongside the traditional trading blocs, agile nation states like Britain can trade freely with others according to what’s in their own best interests and those of their people.

“This is a new direction – a new approach to managing the forces of globalisation so that they work for all – and it is the course on which the government I lead has embarked.”

European leaders yesterday held an emergency gathering to discuss the implications of Mr Trump’s shock victory last week.

However, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson did not attend.

Mr Johnson is reported to have made contact with several key advisers to Mr Trump, including the two leading contenders to take senior foreign policy positions in the incoming president’s cabinet, transition chairman Newt Gingrich and Senator Jeff Sessions.

Despite denials from Downing Street, Mr Farage hinted that ministers have sounded him out about dealing with Donald Trump, and revealed the US president-elect’s close advisers have “reservations” about Theresa May’s government.

Mr Farage disclosed that members of the president-elect’s inner circle were concerned about unflattering comments made by British Cabinet ministers, though Mr Trump told him he had a “nice” phone call with Mrs May.