Theresa May is set to heap praise on Donald Trump by declaring a renewed America and a post-Brexit UK will “rediscover our confidence together” on the world stage.
Set to become the first world leader to meet the new President since his inauguration, the Prime Minister will start her two-day trip to the US with a vow to reforge the “special relationship” between the two countries.
Ahead of her visit to the White House on Friday, May will use a speech to the Republican party’s Congressional ’Retreat’ conference in Philadelphia to underline historic links as well as future opportunities for cooperation on trade and security.
While accepting Trump’s pledge to put “America First”, she will on Thursday urge him not to abandon the international stage, underlining the US and Britain’s global “responsibilities” and her hope that they can “lead, together, again”.
“As we rediscover our confidence together – as you renew your nation just as we renew ours – we have the opportunity – indeed the responsibility – to renew the Special Relationship for this new age. We have the opportunity to lead, together, again,” May will say.
“The United Kingdom is by instinct and history a great, global nation that recognises its responsibilities to the world.
“And as we end our membership of the European Union – as the British people voted with determination and quiet resolve to do last year – we have the opportunity to reassert our belief in a confident, sovereign and Global Britain, ready to build relationships with old friends and new allies alike.”
But as Trump declared in a TV interview that torture of prisoners “absolutely works”, opposition and Tory MPs lined up to criticise May’s attempt to work closely with his administration.
The first ever non-American head of government to address the Republican Retreat, May will be speaking as leader of the Conservative party as well as Prime Minister.
The move is a clear bid to persuade both Congress and the White House to work with her on foreign and economic policy.
With Trump due to speak at the same event, it is possible that the two leaders may even meet for the first time in a “brush-by” informal chat, the day before their White House talks.
No.10 was furious when President Obama ended his term in office by visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel and praising her as his “closest international partner” throughout his eight years in power.
Japan’s Shinzo Abe was the first foreign leader to meet Trump after his election victory in November, and UKIP leader Nigel Farage and former Cabinet minister Michael Gove have both seen him since.
But May has scored a coup in ensuring a trip to the Trump White House before any other leader and aides say they it is an “exciting” chance for Brexit Britain to build fresh links.
With the UK set to quit the EU by 2019, May is determined to exploit its new-found freedom to renew bilateral ties with other states, and Washington is top of the list.
Opponents of Brexit feared that Britain would have even less influence in the world, as big players like the US, India and China preferred to deal with the European Union and its huge market of 300 million people.
However, the UK’s status as a nuclear power and one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, as well as its crucial intelligence and military expertise, are all being used by ministers to push for a strong global role.
Downing Street revealed that on Friday morning May will visit Arlington Cemetery in Virginia to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Arlington is the burial place of a number of members of the British military who died fighting alongside US forces in the First and Second World Wars.
The Prime Minister will then meet President Trump at the White House for “substantive discussions”, focusing on a new UK-US trade deal, the Nato alliance, the fight against so-called Islamic State terrorists and the search for a peace deal for Syria.
She will also have the opportunity to see the Winston Churchill bust, which was loaned by Tony Blair to George W Bush but removed by Obama, back in place in the Oval Office.
It was Churchill, a close friend and wartime ally of US President Franklin D Roosevelt, who in 1944 first came up with the phrase “special relationship” to describe Anglo-American ties.
The PM will present the President with the gift of an engraved silver Quaich, an ancient Scottish drinking cup that is a deliberate nod to Trump’s mother and her Hebridean roots.
In Philadelphia, May will say that the bonds between the UK and US are important not only to each other gut also the rest of the globe.
“The leadership provided by our two countries through the Special Relationship has done more than win wars and overcome adversity. It made the modern world,” she will say.
“The institutions upon which that world relies were so often conceived or inspired by our two nations working together.
“It is through our actions over many years, working together to defeat evil or to open up the world, that we have been able to fulfil the promise of those who first spoke of the special nature of the relationship between us. The promise of freedom, liberty and the rights of man.”
But May also made clear on Wednesday that she differed from Trump on issues such as climate change and torture of detainees. She has described his lewd remarks about women as “unacceptable” and said recently that she was “unafraid” of raising her concerns.
“When I sit down I think the biggest statement that will be made about the role of women is the fact that I will be there as a female Prime Minister, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, directly talking to him about the interests that we share,” she told the BBC.
Her trip to the biannual Republican event is not without controversy and some Democrats complained that it would be a “partisan visit” and a “breach of standard protocol” not to meet their party leaders too.
“Given the special relationship, this is a very big mistake for the prime minister,” a senior Democratic aide told Foreign Policy website on Tuesday. It is unclear if May has pencilled in a late meeting with the Democrats.