May to meet Merkel, Hollande in her first overseas trip as PM

Germany's Merkel says it's understandable that the British government must weigh interests before proceeding with Brexit.
Mrs May was in Wales yesterday to reassert her commitment to involve all nations of the United Kingdom in negotiations for leaving the EU after making the same pledge in Scotland last Friday.
Mrs May was in Wales yesterday to reassert her commitment to involve all nations of the United Kingdom in negotiations for leaving the EU after making the same pledge in Scotland last Friday.PHOTO: REUTERS

She is to make the case for Britain remaining a powerful global player while pushing to renew its submarine fleet

LONDON • British Prime Minister Theresa May will visit German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande this week as she makes the case for her country remaining a powerful player in the world after it voted to leave the EU.

Mrs May travelled to Wales yesterday to reassert her commitment to involve all nations of the United Kingdom in negotiations for leaving the European Union after making the same pledge in Scotland last Friday.

But she will not get into detailed Brexit discussions with Dr Merkel and Mr Hollande when she meets them tomorrow and on Thursday respectively on her first foreign trip as Prime Minister, her spokesman said yesterday.

After a weekend in which the team overseeing the divorce from the EU began to set out their plans, Mrs May was yesterday expected to use her first appearance in Parliament since succeeding Mr David Cameron to argue for renewing the Trident nuclear weapons system.

In what would be her first parliamentary test, lawmakers will be voting on replacing the ageing submarines that carry Britain's nuclear weapons.

MPs are almost certain to approve the construction of four new submarines to carry the existing Trident missile system and its nuclear warheads, at a cost of £41 billion (S$73 billion).

"We cannot compromise on our national security, we cannot outsource the grave responsibility we shoulder for keeping our people safe," Mrs May would say, according to extracts of her speech released by her office.

"We cannot abandon our ultimate safeguard out of misplaced idealism; that would be a reckless gamble, a gamble that would enfeeble our allies and embolden our enemies."

Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, a veteran socialist and anti-war campaigner, would lead the vote against the motion but many of his MPs are expected to back the Conservative government.

"It is impossible to say for certain that no extreme threats will emerge in the next 30 or 40 years to threaten our security and way of life," Mrs May said ahead of the debate.

"And it would be a gross irresponsibility to lose the ability to meet such threats by discarding the ultimate insurance against those risks in the future."

Britain is one of only three nuclear-armed Nato nations, along with the United States and France, and has had a continuous at-sea deterrent since 1969 - meaning one of its submarines is always deployed somewhere in the world.

Each submarine carries a sealed letter from the prime minister containing instructions on how to proceed if a nuclear strike on Britain has incapacitated the government.

Critics argue that Britain's possession of nuclear weapons is immoral, expensive and outdated, a product of the Cold War that has no use in the fight against modern threats such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The government says it remains committed to reducing its nuclear arsenal in line with its international obligations, but Mrs May would also argue that the nuclear threat "has not gone away - if anything, it has increased".

Mr Corbyn has said that he would not deploy Trident if he were prime minister, but has allowed his MPs a free vote, and many are expected to back the deterrent.

The new Successor submarines will cost £31 billion over two decades, with a further £10 billion set aside for contingencies, and the first craft set to enter service in the early 2030s.

BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 19, 2016, with the headline 'May to meet Merkel, Hollande in her first overseas trip as PM'. Print Edition | Subscribe