Brexit 

May takes aim at City Brexit doomsayers

May takes aim at City Brexit doomsayers

Prime minister Theresa May said the looming exit of the UK from the European Union should be treated with confidence and optimism by the City.

Speaking at the Lord Mayor's banquet in London last night, Ms May said Brexit will be a “period of great change”, which will have its challenges.

She said: “But I believe we should embrace this period with confidence and optimism.”

The prime minister said: “We are the fifth biggest economy in the world, the fifth largest exporter in the world and the top destination for inward investment in Europe. We have the second largest defence budget in NATO.”

She added: “We have the extraordinary reach of our global brands from the Premier League to the BBC World Service; the thought leadership of our outstanding universities, the global finance of this great City of London – and the best of British business in demand the world over.”

But while she moved to reassure the gathered representatives of the financial services sector - the role of the Lord Mayor is to represent, support and promote all aspects of UK-financial service industries - Ms May admitted there was growing criticism of capitalist systems which seem to benefit the few, not the many.

"[We are living in] a moment when the failure to translate the success of global trade into growth that benefits everyone is weakening support for the free markets and open economies that have driven global prosperity for generations," she said.

Ms May went on to pledge "to harness for a new generation the dynamism of open economies to deliver fair and equitable growth".

She suggested building a new consensus in support of free markets and fair societies "may be the greatest long-term defence against division, tension and conflict".

In the future she said one of Britain's biggest assets will be its soft power, which includes British business.

"You are the bearers of a certain idea of economic order upon which the last century of growth has been based – as I believe the next will be based."

David.Thorpe@ft.com

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