Britain’s May tries to dispel Brexit worries at Davos forum

Davos, Jan 19 (IANS) Two days after announcing a “hard Brexit” objective, British Prime Minister Theresa May was on Thursday trying to assuage global concerns about Brexit in a special address at the World Economic Forum here.

“We are going to be a confident country that is in control of its own destiny,” May, was quoted by Xinhua as saying, at the assembly of leaders in business and politics.

“A country in control of its destiny is more, not less, able to play a full role in underpinning and strengthening the multilateral, rules-based system” of global trade, she said.

She said that a new, more global Britain would fight for free markets, free trade and globalisation.

“The United Kingdom — a country that has so often been at the forefront of economic and social change — will step up to a new leadership role as the strongest and most forceful advocate for business, free markets and free trade anywhere in the world,” she asserted.

In a decisive speech on Tuesday that sets a course for a clean break with the EU, May promised to quit the European single market and seek a free trade agreement with the EU.

She also pledged to restrict access to Britain by EU citizens and end the jurisdiction in Britain of the European Court of Justice. The 12-point blueprint was dubbed a “hard Brexit”.

May repeated the message that Britain was not turning its back on Europe.

“We are a European country and proud of our European heritage, but we are also a country that has always looked beyond Europe,” she said.

Referring to an ambitious free trade deal with the EU at the heart of the plan being set out, she also held up the need to strike new trade deals elsewhere around the world.

Uncertainty has hung over Brexit ever since British citizens voted in a referendum last June to leave the EU.

Since the vote, questions have loomed over what strategies Downing Street would adopt in the divorce proceedings.

For their part, leaders of European institutions have cautiously welcomed Britain’s newly clarified stance.

There will be no place for pick and choose tactics in future Brexit negotiations, European Council President Donald Tusk warned on Wednesday.

Tuesday’s speech by Prime Minister Theresa May proves that the unified position of 27-member states on the indivisibility of the single market was finally understood and accepted by London, Tusk said.

The market has also been cautious, with the British pound rallying to $1.23 following the speech, after reaching a nearly 31-year low of $1.20 on Monday.

With 44 per cent of Britain’s total exports in goods and services for 2015 tied up in the EU single market, Brexit has cast a shadow over the British economy.

Commenting on May’s speech at Davos, Nariman Behravesh, chief economist for IHS Markit, said the British Prime Minister repeated and reinforced the basic themes of her keynote Brexit speech delivered on Tuesday.

She “promised certainty and clarity about the Brexit process and laid out plans for a stronger, fairer, and more global United Kingdom,” Behravesh said.

–IANS

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