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LONDON – Prime Minister Theresa May says Britain will be a "global champion of free trade," in a speech acknowledging that the election of Donald Trump and the U.K. vote to leave the European Union mark an era of profound world change.
May is making her first major foreign policy speech Monday at the annual Lord Mayor's Banquet in London. Extracts were released in advance.
Mays say Britain must not be "standing inflexibly, refusing to change and still fighting the battles of the past, but adapting to the moment, evolving our thinking and seizing the opportunities ahead."
She says "free markets and tree trade" are the best way to lift people out of poverty. But — in a nod to the anti-establishment feeling that fueled Trump's victory and the Brexit vote — she adds that governments must help manage "the forces of globalization so that they work for all" and don't leave some communities behind.
"To be the true global champion of free trade in this new modern world, we also need to do something to help those families and communities who can actually lose out from it," May says.
It's unclear whether May's commitment to free trade will be shared by president-elect Trump, who campaigned on promises to bolster U.S. industry and restore U.S. jobs lost to globalization.
The British government has signaled it wants to build a strong relationship with Trump, whose election has alarmed many European politicians.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Monday that it is "very important not to prejudge the president-elect or his administration." And May's spokeswoman, Helen Bower, said Downing St. wants "an effective, strong working relationship" with the incoming U.S. president.
May and Trump spoke by phone on Thursday. But the call has been overshadowed by Trump's meeting Saturday with U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, a key player in Britain's decision to leave the European Union.
UKIP issued a gleeful press release accompanied by a picture of the two men, beaming side-by-side in front of a golden elevator at Trump Tower in New York.
May firmly rejected suggestions she should use Farage — a political foe of her Conservative party — as a go-between with Trump's team.
Bower said that Trump told May "he looked forward to enjoying the same close relationship that (Ronald) Reagan and (Margaret) Thatcher did."
"I don't remember there being a third person in that relationship," Bower said.