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Theresa May: PM’s foreign aid cut damaged UK’s moral leadership, says predecessor

Theresa May has accused her successor Boris Johnson of «abandoning» the UK’s moral leadership on the world stage.

The ex-prime minister said Mr Johnson’s decision to cut the overseas aid budget below 0.7% of national income had reduced the UK’s global «credibility».

She told the Daily Mail the UK had to «live up to its values» and would be judged by its actions not its rhetoric.

The PM, meanwhile, has said he is looking forward to working «hand in hand» with new US President Joe Biden.

Mr Biden will be inaugurated as the country’s 46th president on Wednesday, succeeding Donald Trump.

In advance of the historic day, Mr Johnson said he hoped the UK and US would join forces to address the most pressing challenges facing the world, which could only be tackled by «international co-operation».

But the prime minister’s own record has come in for criticism from Mrs May.

In an interview with the Daily Mail, she suggested Mr Johnson had squandered international goodwill by choosing not to meet the longstanding UN target of spending 0.7% of income on international development.

The government says it cannot meet the figure this year because of the strain placed on the public finances by the pandemic.

But Mrs May said the UK’s support for the 0.7% target, which is enshrined into UK law, and the commitment to spend a minimum of 2% of income on defence, set it apart from other nations.

‘What we do’

She also criticised Mr Johnson’s support for legislation which would have called into question the UK’s commitment to uphold its legally binding Withdrawal Agreement with the EU, had it been passed.

While controversial clauses were ultimately removed from the Internal Market Bill in December, after the UK and EU reached an agreement, Mr Johnson’s threat to break international law caused considerable disquiet on the continent and in the US – where it led to warnings from Mr Biden against imperilling peace in Northern Ireland.

Theresa May and Angela Merkel at a meeting in 2019IMAGE COPYRIGHTPA MEDIA

image captionMrs May said more compromise was needed in the UK’s post-Brexit relationships

Theresa May and Donald TrumpIMAGE COPYRIGHTREUTERS

image captionMrs May suggested the end of the Trump presidency could be a catalyst for a change in world politics

Mrs May said the UK was «well placed to play a decisive role in shaping this more co-operative world but to lead we must live up to our values».

«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,» she added.

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

Absolutism warning

Mrs May, who had a sometimes strained relationship with Mr Trump, said Mr Biden’s election presented the UK with a «golden opportunity» for Western democracies to reverse the trend towards «absolutism» in global affairs.

If the world was to bounce back from the pandemic, she said a spirit of compromise was needed and the era of a «few strongmen facing off against each other» had to come to an end.

2021 is seen as a pivotal year for the UK as it seeks to build its post-Brexit identity and deliver on the government’s ambition of a «Global Britain» leading the world.

Mr Johnson, who will be centre stage as the UK holds the presidency of the G7 and hosts the Cop-26 UN climate summit in Glasgow, said he looked forward to welcoming Mr Biden to the UK at least twice this year.

«In our fight against Covid and across climate change, defence, security, and in promoting and defending democracy, our goals are the same and our nations will work hand in hand to achieve them,» he added.

«Only through international co-operation can we truly overcome the shared challenges we face.»

No 10 has declined to comment on Mrs May’s comments.

BBC – Homepage

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