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May wants 'special relationship' with US

Press Association logoPress Association 25/01/2017

Theresa May is to call for a "renewed" special relationship between Britain and America as she becomes the first world leader to meet Donald Trump since his inauguration as president last week.

Arriving in America on Thursday ahead of Friday's meeting in the White House, the Prime Minister will say that both the UK and US are undergoing a renewal which will allow them to "rediscover our confidence together" and "lead together again" in the world.

Downing Street hopes that the Oval Office meeting will allow May to establish the basis for a "strong and productive working relationship" with Trump and agree a shared ambition to sign a UK-US free trade deal once Britain has left the EU.

But the PM has been urged to show caution in her dealings with the new President over issues ranging from trade and the environment to his campaign promises to sanction the use of waterboarding on terror suspects.

As a draft executive order suggested that Trump was preparing to order a review of interrogation methods for terror suspects and the possible reopening of "black site" prisons outside the US as well as the continued incarceration of "enemy combatants" in Guantanamo Bay, May assured the House of Commons that "we do not sanction torture, we do not get involved with that and that will continue to be our position".

The PM's official spokeswoman said that May recognised there would be "issues where we differ in approach and view with President Trump" and believed a close relationship would allow her to "raise these frankly and directly with the President".

But she declined to say whether the use of torture would be on the agenda on Friday.

Firmly on the agenda will be May's desire to renew the special relationship, which she will say has played a vital role in creating the institutions and liberties of the modern world.

Speaking to Republican congressmen at their annual retreat in Philadelphia on Thursday, the PM will say: "The leadership provided by our two countries through the special relationship has done more than win wars and overcome adversity. It made the modern world.

"The institutions upon which that world relies were so often conceived or inspired by our two nations working together.

"It is through our actions over many years, working together to defeat evil or to open up the world, that we have been able to fulfil the promise of those who first spoke of the special nature of the relationship between us. The promise of freedom, liberty and the rights of man."

And she will tell the congressmen that withdrawal from the EU will give the UK "the opportunity to reassert our belief in a confident, sovereign and Global Britain, ready to build relationships with old friends and new allies alike".

As well as trade, the PM is expected to set out her belief in the need for US-UK co-operation on issues ranging from Nato and counter-terrorism to creating the conditions for peace in Syria.

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