CNBC Interview with UK Prime Minister Theresa May


SS: Prime Minister, thank you very much indeed for inviting us to Downing Street for the launch of the tech week summit as well. And how apt it is and how important it is a summit like this given of course the backdrop of events going on in U.K? Tell us a little bit more about why this is so important for you and indeed the country.

TM: Well London Tech Week is a great opportunity for us to welcome the investment that we’ve had in the UK from tech companies, recognise the huge opportunities there are here in the UK for tech companies to start up and grow and to talk with people around the table as I did this afternoon. We had venture capitalists. We had people who’ve set up tech companies, who sold tech companies, set up more tech companies, people who are really innovative in this sector and it wasn’t just people from the UK sitting around the table. We had people from Argentina, from the UAE, from America, from China, from Israel. So it was a real opportunity at this start, during London Tech Week, to talk about the ways in which the tech sector here in the UK has been so successful and can be successful in the future. And just an example of that: in 2017, last year, we doubled the investment in the tech sector here in the UK compared to the previous year.

SS: Prime Minister, one of the very key parts of the government side of this initiative, with investments also coming in from the private sector, is the Startup Visa. And that got me very interested because it’s a recognition from the UK, from the UK government, of how important this amazing international diaspora is for this country and I think it’s a very important intervention of course when migration is such a big issue broadly in the country at the moment. But tell us about the importance of attracting this international talents still regardless of what happens politically.

TM: Well we’ve always said that we’re open for business and we’re open for the brightest and best to come to the UK. And we recognise for the tech sector particularly they want to be identifying those bright minds around the world and encouraging them to come here to the UK. So what we’re doing now is we’re setting up a start-up visa. So start-ups who are sponsored by incubators, for example, can actually be able to come here, set up in the UK and we can see them taking advantage of what the UK has here, which is a tremendous ecosystem around the tech sector. So it’s a real opportunity to invest in the UK to be part of the UK tech sector to develop here. And then of course as I heard from people around the table then for those companies to grow, to export, to expand around the world.

SS: Very interesting looking at events in Westminster at the moment. I know you’re an incredibly busy woman so I do appreciate you find the time to talk to us at the moment as well. Lot of contention about what has been agreed what hasn’t been agreed. Your long conversations with people perhaps from the remain side of your party as well. The Grieve amendment was something that’s gathered a lot of headlines in the last 24 hours as well. Can we say now categorically that there is a meaningful vote on Brexit going to take place when we get the withdrawal bill coming back from the Lords when it next goes up there and comes back again?

TM: Well you’re getting into Parliament details of the parliamentary process there. The key things are that there will be an opportunity for Parliament. There are a different roles here. You know the government determines policy and the government obviously needs parliamentary support to be able to implement that policy. But there are different responsibilities for government and Parliament and Parliament can’t tie government’s hands in negotiations. And of course we’re in a negotiation with the European Union on the terms of our withdrawal and the terms of our future economic partnership with them and our future security partnership with them. And I’m very clear also that Parliament can’t overturn the vote that was taken by the British people to leave the European Union. But we’re putting this EU withdraw bill through. And the reason we’re doing this is to give businesses the certainty of knowing the basis on which they’ll be able to operate the day after we leave the of the European Union compared to the day before. So bringing EU law into UK law so that for businesses they’ll see a smooth transition they’ll be able to continue operating and they’ll know the basis on which they can do that.

SS: Sorry Prime Minister, on that point, being the same question really, have you now agreed with those 12-15 MPs who were potentially going to vote against you, have you know agreed to give a meaningful vote to parliament towards the end of this process?

TM: Well there have been various clauses put in the bill. There is always going to be what I consider to be a meaningful vote in Parliament. Obviously there’s been a lot of argument about what that means. What I what I’ve done is recognise that there were concerns about the nature of the bill itself about how this was expressed in the bill. We’re talking to those colleagues about the bill as I have said today we’ll bring a further amendment back to the House of Lords when the bill returns there. But the key point is that we as a parliament will be delivering on what the British people voted for which is to leave the European Union. We’re negotiating a deal with the EU. We’re negotiating a deal to be able continue to be able to trade on a good basis with the European Union but also to be able to develop trade relationships around the rest of the world as an independent trading country and not as part of the European Union in the future. I think that’s good for the UK. I think it’ll be good for business. I think it’ll be good for those people who want to invest here in the UK.

SS: Prime Minister, there’s been criticism not least from the Institute for Government a couple of days ago about what is creating an atmosphere where we don’t get a good Brexit as well. They have claimed that it’s political divisions, a culture of secrecy in Whitehall, splits in the cabinet on critical decisions and a lack of availability of information as well. Do you as Prime Minister take any of those criticisms on the chin and say I understand where they’re coming from as well. And I’m still the woman, the person to lead us through Brexit regardless of those criticisms. And in fact I’m going to hear those and I’m going to move on having heard those and acted upon it.

TM: Well, let’s look at what the government has done in terms of the information we’ve made available to people. Last summer we published a whole series of papers about our thoughts on various aspects of withdrawal. We’ve continued, I’ve made speeches which have set out our position, we’ve continued to publish documents. Documents on the withdrawal agreement, documents on for example we agreed a joint document with the European Union in December on the rights of EU citizens living here in the UK; our financial settlement for the future and various other issues. And on every aspect of this as we look at it we’re able to make information available as appropriate. But this is a negotiation. I said right at the very beginning of this: nobody and I don’t think anybody watching this would expect us to give a running commentary on our negotiating strategy and the negotiations we’re involved in. By definition we set out where we want to go. We set out the policy that we’re following and then of course those negotiations have to take place.

SS: Finally one of the countries that we hope to do most business with and build our alliance with which has been an historic one as well is the United States. The problem is Mr. Trump at the moment seems, dare I say, to be a bit of a loose cannon whether it becomes about the Iran deal, about G7, about cop 21, about free trade, about tariffs as well. He has had some success of course it appears in Singapore with Kim Jong Un and we’re all very grateful of that. But do you feel that Mr. Trump is a reliable partner for the United Kingdom going forward?

TM: Well look first of all can I say that I welcome what has taken place in Singapore. I think what President Trump has been doing with North Korea is important not just for that region but for the rest of the world as well. The United Kingdom has had a longstanding and long enduring special relationship with the United States. This cuts across a whole range of areas. So yes obviously it’s been a defence and security partnership. We saw the United States and their support that they showed through the way they reacted after we had the Russian use of a nerve agent on the streets of Salisbury, a city here in the UK. The United States like us expelled a number of Russian diplomats. We worked with the United States and France on the response that we gave to the use by the Syrian regime of chemical weapons in Douma just a matter of weeks ago and we continue to work with the U.S. on security and defence. We’ve got a good trading investment relationship with the U.S. already. Every day, every working day a million people wake up here in the United Kingdom and go to work for an American company and every working day a million people in the United States wake up and go to work for a British company. So we’ve got that good relationship. But yes we want to build on that for the future. And at the G7 President Trump and I had the opportunity briefly to talk about how we continue to want to be able to develop a U.S. – U.K. trade deal after we leave the European Union. Yes there are some issues on which we disagree. We disagree on the steel and aluminium tariffs that are being imposed on the European Union and the U.K. within that and we disagree on the nuclear deal in Iran. The point about the relationship is that we’re able to have those disagreements and talk those through but that special relationship between the U.S. and U.K. continues and I think will endure long into the future.

SS: Prime Minister thank you very much indeed.

TM: Thank you.

ENDS

For more information contact Jonathan Millman, EMEA Communications Executive: Jonathan.Millman@cnbc.com / +44 7788 307 996



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