PHILADELPHIA – Joking that “opposites attract,” Prime Minister Theresa May called on President Donald Trump on Thursday to renew the “special relationship” between Britain and the United States and lead in a new, changed world.
In the United States for what will be Trump’s first meeting with a foreign leader since he took office last week, May signalled a shift in foreign policy, bringing her position more in line with that of Trump.
She urged the two countries and their leaders to stand united and confront new challenges, including the rise of economies in Asia that people fear could “eclipse the West,” the threat of Islamic extremism and a resurgent Russia.
“So we – our two countries together – have a responsibility to lead. Because when others step up as we step back, it is bad for America, for Britain and the world,” May told members of Republican Party at their retreat in a speech often punctuated by applause from an enthusiastic crowd.
“This cannot mean a return to the failed policies of the past. 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.”
Her break with the interventionism that launched wars in Iraq and Afghanistan underscores a change in global politics. It also fits with Trump’s move to put “America first” and scores well with voters in Britain whose feeling of being left behind by globalisation helped fuel Britain’s vote to leave the EU last year that propelled May to power.
Aware that Brexit will shape her legacy, May welcomed her early visit to the United States, a boost to her attempts to show that Britain can prosper outside the European Union despite criticism at home for cosying up to Trump.
On her U.S.-bound flight, May concentrated on similarities with the U.S. leader, who some reporters suggested had a style in stark contrast to her more cautious, restrained approach.
“Haven’t you ever noticed … sometimes opposites attract?” she answered with a laugh.