Thursday 19 October 2017

No more foreign wars, May tells US Republicans

British Prime Minister Theresa May attends the Congress of Tomorrow Republican Member Retreat on January 26, 2017 at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
British Prime Minister Theresa May attends the Congress of Tomorrow Republican Member Retreat on January 26, 2017 at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Peter Dominiczak in Philadelphia

BRITAIN and America will never again invade foreign countries "in an attempt to make the world in their own image", Theresa May said last night in the biggest shift in UK foreign policy for more than 20 years.

Addressing Republican politicians in Philadelphia, the British prime minister pledged not to repeat the "failed policies of the past" in a clear reference to the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan by Tony Blair and George W Bush.

Her comments are a repudiation of the doctrine of "liberal intervention" set out by Mr Blair in Chicago in 1999.

Mrs May, who received a standing ovation, made the speech as she prepared to meet Donald Trump in the White House today - the first foreign leader to do so - and begin talks on a trade deal to be announced after Britain leaves the European Union.

She made clear Britain and America will forge a new special relationship to ensure the rise of Asian economies such as China and India does not lead to an "eclipse of the West".

She also promised to face up to the aggression of Russia and the "malign" influence of Iran in the Middle East.

Travelling to America yesterday, Mrs May insisted she would bond with Mr Trump in spite of their personality differences, saying "opposites attract". However, there were signs of policy differences between the two leaders.

Mrs May said that she "condemned" torture and suggested that Britain could limit its intelligence sharing with the US because of Mr Trump's support for waterboarding.

In her speech last night Mrs May said that Brexit and Mr Trump's election were an opportunity to "renew" the special relationship, which she described as "one of the greatest forces for good the world has ever known".

She hailed Mr Trump's election as "dawn breaking on a new era of American renewal".

"I speak to you not just as prime minister of the United Kingdom, but as a fellow Conservative who believes in the same principles that underpin the agenda of your party. The value of liberty. The dignity of work. The principles of nationhood, family, economic prudence, patriotism - and putting power in the hands of the people," she said.

"Principles instilled in me from a young age. Principles that my parents taught me in the vicarage in southern England in which I was raised.

"I know that it is these principles that you have put at the heart of your plan for government."

In her first significant foreign policy intervention since becoming prime minister, Mrs May said: "It is in our interests - those of Britain and America together - to stand strong together to defend our values, our interests and the very ideas in which we believe.

"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 when the threat is real and when it is in our own interests to intervene. We must be strong, smart and hard-headed. We must demonstrate the resolve necessary to stand up for our interests."

Her comments suggest that Britain intends to continue attacks on jihadists using drone strikes but that "boots on the ground" invasions are now a thing of the past.

They echo those of Mr Trump, who said during his inauguration ceremony last week that "we do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example".

Mrs May made clear that a stronger alliance could ensure the two countries are able to compete with Asian economies. She said that the rise of these economies at the same time as the financial crisis and a series of terror attacks "have led many to fear that, in this century, we will experience the eclipse of the West".

"But there is nothing inevitable about that. Other countries may grow stronger. Big, populous countries may grow richer. As they do so, they may start to embrace more fully our values of democracy and liberty," she said.

Despite the positive relationship between Mr Trump and Vladimir Putin, Mrs May used her speech to criticise Russia. She also sounded a warning over the negative influence of Iran in the Middle East.

"There is nothing inevitable about conflict between Russia and the West. Nothing unavoidable about retreating to the days of the Cold War. But we should engage with Russia from a position of strength," she said.

"We should not jeopardise the freedoms president Reagan and Mrs Thatcher brought to Eastern Europe by accepting President Putin's claim that it is now in his sphere of influence." (© Daily Telegraph London)

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