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May set for ‘frank’ discussions with Trump

Britain’s security co-operation with EU countries will be on the table as part of the Brexit negotiations, Theresa May has said as she prepares to become the first world leader to meet new US president Donald Trump.

The prime minister plans to discuss British-US co-operation on terrorism and Nato at the meeting in Washington on Friday, the prime minister said on Sunday — and sent a signal to EU countries about their security relationships with Britain.

In an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Mrs May singled out the European border control system, Interpol and other justice and home affairs matters as subjects which “will have to be part of the negotiation” with other EU countries.

Mrs May will also lobby Mr Trump for a post-Brexit trade deal between Britain and the US, seek to reinforce the two countries’ longstanding relationship, and urge Mr Trump not to undermine European unity.

Mr Trump has called Brexit “a great thing” and said last week the US could strike a trade deal with Britain “very quickly”. He has also expressed scepticism about the EU’s future, saying Britain will not be the only country to leave.

But in an interview with the Financial Times on Friday Mrs May said it was in Britain’s interests for the bloc to remain strong. “I want to continue to have a close and strategic partnership with the EU. It is important for security issues,” she said. “With the threats we face it’s not the time for less co-operation.”

Her discussion with Mr Trump will be “very frank”, she added.

The meeting will come after Mrs May delivers the next advance in her domestic agenda: on Monday she will set out the government’s new industrial strategy during a visit to north-west England. 

The prime minister has promised to deliver a blueprint to “get the whole economy firing”, and cover themes such as training, research and development, “place”, and infrastructure. 

The strategy aims to tackle a “long tail” of underperformance in industries, places and individuals in a bid to reduce inequalities, Mrs May will announce. 

It will include a £170m boost for technical education. The prime minister will say she wants to “extend the same opportunity and respect we give university graduates to those people who pursue technical routes”. 

The cash will be used to set up Institutes of Technology across the country to deliver high-level training in STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering and mathematics. 

There will also be an expansion of maths education in secondary schools, a review of regional inequality in STEM graduates, and more centralised information about technical training courses for potential applicants.

However, Mrs May has stepped back from a previous pledge to impose tougher oversight on foreign investment in the UK.

Last summer, shortly before she became prime minister, Mrs May hit out at corporate takeovers such as the Pfizer-AstraZeneca takeover, saying: “A proper industrial strategy wouldn’t automatically stop the sale of British firms to foreign ones, but it should be capable of stepping in to defend a sector that is as important as pharmaceuticals is to Britain.”

But on Friday Mrs May said her focus would be on protecting groups that constitute “critical national infrastructure”. Britain’s takeover rules currently cover defence, media plurality and financial stability.

Mrs May is also facing the possibility of rushing legislation through Parliament in the coming days if the Supreme Court rules against the government in a flagship legal case.

The court is on Tuesday due to deliver its judgment on whether MPs and peers need to vote before Mrs May can trigger Article 50 — the formal legal process which notifies the EU of Britain’s intention to leave.

Many politicians expect the government to lose the case, in which case Mrs May will seek to rush a brief bill through both Houses of Parliament in a short space of time, in a bid to avoid delaying the Article 50 negotiation which she has planned for late March.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would not block any Article 50 bill but would seek to amend it “to make demands on rights, protections and market access”.

Via FT