The Prime Minister began her third Lord Mayor’s Banquet speech by paying tribute to “the sacrifice of a generation” that “touched almost every family and every community“. As we mark a hundred years since Armistice Day, “we should reflect with pride on the progress we have made in the last one hundred years, working together with our partners across the international community, to make the world a safer, better, place to live”.
At last year’s banquet, the Prime Minister warned about the threats we faced from Russia following their meddling in elections across the globe, a warning that has since been proven correct by the use of a chemical weapon on the streets of Britain. What followed the Salisbury attack was the largest collective expulsion of Russian intelligence officers. When faced with threats to our national security such as this, “we have shown that while the challenge is real, so is the collective resolve of likeminded partners to defend our values, our democracies, and our people“.
In a change of tone, the Prime Minister made it clear that “this is not the relationship” that she wanted the United Kingdom to have with Russia, and that “we remain open to a different relationship“. There’s a clear desire for a new relationship where Russia “acts together with us to fulfill the common responsibilities we share as permanent members of the UN security Council” and that if Russia is able to go down this path, then the United Kingdom will “respond in kind“.
The Prime Minister used her speech to repeat calls for a “transparent and credible investigation” into the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and that those responsible must be held to account for their crimes.
We will continue to show our willingness to act, as a community of nations, to stand up for the rules around the world.
On the international trade front, Theresa May said that the World Trade Organisation needs “an ambitious and urgent process for reform”, including increasing transparency and updating dispute settlement processes to ensure they operate fairly and efficiently. Such reforms are needed to ensure these rules are relevant in the modern economy, as the WTO has struggled to remove barriers to e-commerce trade over the last twenty years. She also the speech to make clear that “a damaging trade war with spiraling tariffs is in no-one’s interests”.
The attention was once again on the potential of Artificial Intelligence which could almost double the value of the global digital economy to $23 trillion by 2025, and increase global GDP by 14% by 2030.
Being an open democracy means standing up for our values and freedoms whilst protecting intellectual property and safeguarding against those who would abuse or misuse the access to information that technology brings.
As we leave the European Union, the Prime Minister remarked that “both our security and prosperity will depend on the strength of the relationships we build right across the world…including the transatlantic alliance that is the bedrock of our security and prosperity“.
The Brexit negotiations are “in the endgame“, and Theresa May once again made clear that the reality is that these negotiations are difficult, but also that “the Brexit talks are not about me or my personal fortunes, they are about the national interests….making the right choices, not the easy ones“. There will be no compromise on what the British people voted for in the referendum and the Withdrawal Agreement will not be an agreement “at any cost“. For the Prime Minister, such a deal must be one that “protects jobs, our security and our precious union“.
She spoke extensively about the trading potential with Africa, following her visit there this summer as “such a partnership will not just be in Africa’s interests but also in our own national self-interest“. When we leave the European Union, we will be looking beyond Europe for ambitious new trade deals. The Prime Minister announced that her first destination on her trade mission post-Brexit will be to Asia Pacific in the Spring, “given the scale of opportunity” and the fact our trade with China is at record levels.
The Prime Minister finished her speech on a high, speaking about the confidence with which the country will move forward so that “together, we can secure our future prosperity, now and for generations to come“.