British Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to say Monday that the U.K. is leading the way in making sure communities aren’t left behind because of globalization, seeking to position Britain as a pioneer in responding to the backlash against international trade.
Less than a week after Donald Trump was elected president on the back of attacks against political insiders and with pledges to renegotiate free-trade deals that he blamed for economic ills, Mrs. May will say the U.K. has the opportunity to be a leader for other countries as it exits the European Union. She will say the U.K. must be the champion of free trade while supporting families and communities that can lose out to it, according to her office.
Mrs. May’s planned speech underscores the differences between her view of free trade and that of Mr. Trump. While Mrs. May has repeatedly said the U.K. will continue to be one of the strongest advocates for international trade as it leaves the EU, Mr. Trump has blamed free-trade agreements for rising inequality and job losses in the U.S.
“As we leave the European Union, we will also use the strength and size of our economy to lead the way in getting out into the world and doing new business with old allies and new partners alike,” she’ll say, according to excerpts of her speech from her office. She will say the government will be “unashamedly pro-business” and promote free markets, but that it would rebalance the economy to reduce inequalities across the country.
In both the EU referendum in June and the U.S. election, voters in the U.K. and the U.S. appeared to have rejected free trade and open markets, in a sign that they think economic integration has gone too far.
Mrs. May, who came to office in July, will have to strike a difficult balance in sending governments and companies around the world the message that the U.K. is open for business while responding to concerns at home about rising immigration and the effects of globalization.
Mrs. May has suggested that in upcoming negotiations with the 27 other EU member states she’ll prioritize controlling immigration over retaining membership in the EU’s single trading market. But she has said that she wants maximum access to trade with EU states, which other leaders have said the U.K. can’t have if it doesn’t keep its borders open to migrants from the bloc.