Theresa May has told leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos that the UK will be a “world leader” on trade.
But the prime minister also warned that inequality blamed on globalisation was aiding the “politics of division”. Her speech to business leaders and politicians in Switzerland comes after EU leaders said a post-Brexit trade deal with the UK would be “difficult”. The European Commissioner for Economic Affairs, Pierre Moscovici, said Brexit would be bad for the UK and the EU. In her speech, Mrs May said the world was enjoying an “unprecedented level of wealth”, but many people felt this was “not working for them”.
Global elites needed to tackle the backlash against globalisation, liberalism, and free trade because leaders who “embrace the politics of division and despair” were working to exploit the situation. The prime minister promised the UK, after Brexit, would take on a “leadership role as the strongest and most forceful advocate for free markets and free trade anywhere in the world”. She argued for reforms so the global economy created wealth for all, rather than a “privileged few”. Ahead of the speech European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, France’s Mr Moscovici, told the BBC that Brexit was not a positive move. “You cannot have all the advantages of being the member of the club when you’re out of the club,” he said. “I think that our British friends, who invented clubs, can understand that.”
Meanwhile, Chancellor Philip Hammond warned the EU that the UK would have to find ways to stay competitive if there was no “comprehensive trading relationship” post-Brexit. He said: “Our first obligation of government is to make sure that our people are able to maintain their standard of living.”