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British PM May praises 'special relationship' with US before meeting Trump

During a speech at a Republican Party meeting, British Prime Minister Theresa May focused on the US-UK relationship and global security. May is due to meet with US President Donald Trump Friday.

During a speech to senior Republican Party members in Philadelphia, British Prime Minister Theresa May committed to keeping strong ties with the United States and offered to stand side-by-side in foreign affairs.

"As we rediscover our confidence together…we have the opportunity, indeed the responsibility, to renew the special relationship for this new age," said May.

May won several standing ovations during her speech. May will meet with US President Donald Trump on Friday in what will be Trump's first meeting with a foreign leader since entering office last week.

Mostly in line with Trump

During May's speech, she earned praise for saying other US allies should "step up" their role in global security, and the US and UK should back away from interventionist policies.

"The days of Britain and America intervening in sovereign countries in an attempt to remake the world in our own image are over. But nor can we afford to stand idly by when the threat is real and when it is in our own interests to intervene. We must be strong, smart and hard-headed," said May.

This puts May more in line with Trump's "America first" policies. May added the US would not pay for world security, saying allies "should not undermine the alliances that keep us strong by failing to step up and play their part."

With relationships between the US and China turning testy, May told Republicans to stay with the UK.

"We - our two countries together - have a joint responsibility to lead. Because when others step up as we step back, it is bad for America, for Britain and the world," said May, adding that the US should "engage but beware" of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

After the meeting with May, US media reported that Trump will have his first phone conversation as president with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

May said there was room for reform with NATO and other international institutions, including the United Nations, but she also stated they were necessary for cooperation in dealing with terrorism and climate change. 

Trade between US, UK

With May's legacy riding heavily on her handling of the Brexit, May is eager to start working on a free-trade deal with the US. But under EU rules the UK must wait to leave the bloc before it signs deals with other states.

"There is much we can do in the interim, in terms of looking at how we can remove some of the barriers to trade in a number of areas," May told reporters during the plane trip to the US.

Trump previously called the Brexit "smart," saying it was in line with his anti-establishment rise to the White House. May will have to toe the line between being too close to Trump, who is unpopular in the UK, and too critical of a trading partner during Friday's meeting with Trump.

However, May noted that her and Trump's different personalities may work in the future.

"Haven't you ever noticed…sometimes opposites attract?" said May during the plane trip to the US.

kbd/bw (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

 

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