No 10 says UK will ‘continue to lead on world stage’ after May criticisms

PA

Downing Street has said it rejects Theresa May’s rebuke of her successor after she accused the Prime Minister of abandoning Britain’s position of “global moral leadership”.

The ex-prime minister warned that Boris Johnson’s threat to override Britain’s treaty obligations in the Brexit divorce settlement risked signalling a “retreat” from the UK’s standing in the world.

But Number 10 said Britain would “continue to be a leading voice on the international stage” under Mr Johnson’s leadership.

Asked about his predecessor’s remarks, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “I would reject that characterisation.

“The UK is and will continue to be an outward-looking nation and will continue to be a leading voice on the international stage.”

In an article in the Daily Mail to mark the inauguration of Joe Biden as the US president, Mrs May said the new arrival at the White House represented a “golden opportunity” for Britain, with the return of a more normal style of presidency.

But the former home secretary said that, while the UK was well placed to play a decisive role in shaping a more co-operative world, she suggested it had not been helped by Mr Johnson’s actions.

Theresa May has continued to play an active part in UK politics as a senior backbencher since leaving Downing Street
Theresa May has continued to play an active part in UK politics as a senior backbencher since leaving Downing Street

She again strongly criticised his threat – later withdrawn – to override elements relating to Northern Ireland in the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and his decision to drop the commitment to spend 0.7% of national income on international aid.

“To lead we must live up to our values,” she said.

“Threatening to break international law by going back on a treaty we had just signed and abandoning our position of global moral leadership as the only major economy to meet both the 2% defence spending target and the 0.7% international aid target were not actions which, in my view, raised our credibility in the eyes of the world.

“Other countries listen to what we say not simply because of who we are, but because of what we do. The world does not owe us a prominent place on its stage.

Home Secretary Priti Patel defended the Prime Minister against Theresa May's criticisms
Home Secretary Priti Patel defended the Prime Minister against Theresa May's criticisms

“Whatever the rhetoric we deploy, it is our actions which count. So, we should do nothing which signals a retreat from our global commitments.”

Asked about the scathing assessment of the Government’s performance on the world stage, Home Secretary Priti Patel told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I fundamentally disagree with that, particularly as this Government has been speaking out against regimes complicit in all sorts of dreadful behaviours.

“Look at the work we are doing in Hong Kong right now to protect British nationals overseas – that absolutely speaks to actions. Actions speak louder than words.

“We are out there constantly when universal rules are being flouted openly when it comes to autocratic activities.”

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