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Theresa May has told Republicans in Philadelphia that relations between the UK and the US have “defined the world,”delivering a speech greeted by frequent loud applause.
“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 Prime Minister said on Thursday.
“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.
“I know that it is these principles that you have put at the heart of your plan for government.”
Mrs May, the first foreign leader ever to address the annual Republican gathering, was also set to meet Donald Trump for the first time on Friday in the White House – telling reporters that “opposites attract”, as she set out to forge the future of the special relationship.
But she also told the new president not to trust Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader.
“When it comes to Russia, as so often it is wise to turn to the example of President Reagan who – during negotiations with his opposite number Mikhail Gorbachev – used to abide by the adage ‘trust but verify’,” she said.
“With President Putin, my advice is to ‘engage but beware’.”
Despite the positive relationship between Mr Trump and Mr Putin, Mrs May used her speech to heap on criticism of Russia.
She said: “There is nothing inevitable about conflict between Russia and the West. And nothing unavoidable about retreating to the days of the Cold War.
“But we should engage with Russia from a position of strength. And we should build the relationships, systems and processes that make cooperation more likely than conflict – and that, particularly after the illegal annexation of Crimea, give assurance to Russia’s neighbouring states that their security is not in question.
“We should not jeopardise the freedoms that President Reagan and Mrs Thatcher brought to Eastern Europe by accepting President Putin’s claim that it is now in his sphere of influence.”
But as she was arriving the Trump administration was already engaged in its first diplomatic spat: a row with Mexico, long predicted, which saw a planned meeting for both countries’ presidents called off.
Sean Spicer, Mr Trump’s press secretary, also gave the first indication of how Mr Trump plans to make Mexico pay for the wall, saying on Thursday afternoon that the president planned to make Mexico pay for the wall by imposing a 20pc tax on all Mexican imports.
Mr Trump spoke earlier on Thursday to spell out his achievements in the first three days as president, and discuss the cancellation of his meeting with Enrique Pena Nieto, the Mexican president – which had been scheduled for Tuesday.
“The president of Mexico and myself have agreed to cancel our planned meeting scheduled for next week,” he told the Philadelphia crowd.
“Unless Mexico is going to treat the United States fairly with respect, such a meeting would be fruitless and I want to go in different route.
“We have no choice.”
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister is to use her visit to the United States to tell Mr Trump that Britain and America can lead the world together with a “renewed” bond after Brexit.
In quotes | Donald Trump on Mexico
- “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best… They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people”
- Mexico is “ripping off the US more than almost any other nation”
- “Mexico continues to make billions on not only our bad trade deals but also relies heavily on the billions of dollars in remittances sent from illegal immigrants in the United States”
- “I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words”
- “Under my administration anyone who illegally crosses the border will be detained until they are removed out of our country and back to the country from which they came”