Theresa May: Brexit is not a rejection of Europe

Emma Haslett
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Theresa May said the UK will still embrace its European counterparts after Brexit (Source: Getty)

Prime Minister Theresa May has insisted the UK's vote for Brexit is "not a rejection of our friends in Europe" – but rather a decision to take control.

In a speech at the World Economic Forum at Davos, May said while "some of our European partners feel we've turned out back on them", the UK does not want to distance itself from them.

May said she will use Brexit as an opportunity to "provide responsive, responsible leadership, that will bring the benefits of free trade to all corners of the world... that will deliver security and belonging for all of our people".

She also sent out a warning to firms, saying while the UK was open for business, some large companies are playing by a "different set of rules".

"That means several things. It means businesses paying their fair share of tax, recognising their obligations and duties to their employees and supply chains, and trading in the right way; companies genuinely investing in – and becoming part of – the communities and nations in which they operate, and abiding by the responsibilities that implies; and all of us taking steps towards addressing executive pay and accountability to shareholders."

Read more: "No deal" or "Bad deal" - Six things we learned from May's Brexit speech

Brexit speech

May's appearance before an audience of politicians and business leaders in Davos came two days after she laid out her plans for Brexit in a landmark speech.

In the speech, May said the UK was preparing to leave the Single Market, and said businesses will be handed a "phased" transition period.

The speech was reasonably well received by European politicians, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying she was "not afraid".

"I think we'll stick together," she said.

Meanwhile, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the EU will "do everything to reach a balanced solution".

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