UK turns from EU to US in 'new age'
Theresa May, the first foreign leader to visit the US after Donald Trump’s election, will tell a Republican Party event in Philadelphia on Thursday (26 January) that his presidency and Brexit mark the dawn of a “new age”.
“As we end our membership of the European Union … we have the opportunity to reassert our belief in a confident, sovereign and global Britain, ready to build relationships with old friends and new allies alike”, she will say, according to The Times, a British newspaper.
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“As we rediscover our confidence together, as you renew your nation just as we renew ours, we have the opportunity … to renew the special relationship for this new age. We have the opportunity to lead, together, again."
Amid doubt in Europe over Trump’s respect for international norms, she will also call on the US to keep working with the UN and with international partners to “defeat evil” and to protect “freedom, liberty and the rights of man”.
Trump is to make a brief appearance in Philadelphia before holding what a May spokesperson called “substantive talks” with May in Washington on Friday about trade, Nato, Syria, and terrorism.
The EU has warned that it would be illegal for the UK to enter into trade negotiations with other countries before it left the bloc, a process set to start in March and to take at least two years.
But Liam Fox, May’s trade chief, has already submitted a document to the US that outlines which sectors, such as financial services and public procurement, should be part of a future UK-US deal, The Times reported.
The US administration is also willing to start talks immediately, according to Ted Malloch, an American academic who is tipped to be Trump’s ambassador to the EU.
Malloch told the BBC on Wednesday: “There won't be a deal signed in the White House on Friday, but there could be an agreement for a framework going forward where people are empowered to have that kind of conversation behind closed doors”.
"That … sends a signal that the United States is behind Great Britain in its hour of need,” he said.
Malloch, who teaches at the Henley Business School in the UK, said a US-UK deal could be made ready in “90 days” and called the EU warnings “absurd … legalism”.
“When your wife is having an affair with someone else, you tell her to stop it, but oftentimes that doesn't stop the relationship,” he said.
Trump, who earlier predicted that other member states will follow the UK out of the EU, continued to bash Europe on Wednesday.
"Europe has made a tremendous mistake in allowing all those people in," he told the ABC News broadcaster, referring to Arab and African asylum seekers.
Malloch told the BBC that he would bet against the survival of the EU’s single currency if he was an investor.
“I personally am not certain that there will be a European Union with which to have [free-trade] negotiations [in future]”, he said, adding: “The one thing I would do in 2017 is short the euro.”
EU politicians have also begun to outline their positions ahead of the Brexit negotiations.
Alfonso Dastis, the Spanish foreign minister, told the Financial Times newspaper on Wednesday that the EU should not take a “procedural” or “punitive” approach.
“We don’t see this as a battle in which one side has to come out as the victor and the other as the vanquished,” he said.
Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister who chairs the club of eurozone states, said London firms would not be able to operate in the single market unless they abide by EU law.
“Given the promise of full sovereignty, this will be a hard truth to accept in Britain,” he said in a speech in Brussels on Wednesday.
International relations aside, the Brexit vote has already had an impact on average people’s lives.
Sophie in ‘t Veld, a liberal Dutch MEP, told The Guardian, a British newspaper, on Wednesday that she would create a cross-party “task force” in the European Parliament to monitor the rights of EU nationals in the UK.
She said people who applied for UK residency in the wake of Brexit had faced a “bureaucratic wall” and “feel they are being harassed”.
“Brexit will be partly a technical negotiation, but ultimately it is about people”, she said.
A House of Commons committee looking into Brexit was told on Wednesday that the number of EU students seeking places at British universities has fallen by 7 percent and that European academics were less interested in UK posts.
Sally Hunt, the head of the University and College Union, told MPs that May’s “rhetoric” had made people feel “unwelcome”.
“We are not alone in raising concerns about the damage being caused by Brexit and the type of rhetoric being used by politicians on immigration,” she said.
The number of nurses from EU states seeking jobs in the UK has fallen by 90 percent, the UK’s Nursing and Midwifery Council said also on Wednesday.
“We’re already facing a crisis in nurse staffing numbers … The NHS [the British health service] could not cope without the contribution from EU nurses,” Janet Davies, the chief of the Royal College of Nursing, said.