Theresa May promises to deliver tough messages for fellow G20 leaders

Theresa May speaks to journalists on her plane
Theresa May speaks to journalists on her plane
By Vincent McAviney
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British prime minister doesn't want domestic troubles to undermine her position as a global leader.


Flying to the G20 in Buenos Aires British Prime Minister Theresa May issued a series of warnings to fellow world leaders. 

Saudi Arabia

When asked by Euronews whether she will be following President Trump who said he’d still shake the hand of the Saudi Crown Prince in spite of the alleged murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, May responded: 

“Well I’m intending to speak with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, the message that I give will be very clear. It’s the message that we have consistently given on this issue of Jamal Khashoggi but also on the issue of Yemen.”

She added: “In relation to Khashoggi we want to see a full and transparent investigation in relation to what happened and obviously those responsible being held to account. On the issue of the Yemen we continue to be deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation, we want the long-term solution to the Yemen to be a political situation and we’ll be encouraging all parties to look for that and work for that political situation.”

Like the US, the UK has a substantial trade, intelligence and security relationship with the Kingdom, May will have to both distance herself from the Crown Prince publicly and tread lightly privately to preserve those ties for after Brexit.


Asked what she will be saying to Russian President Vladimir Putin May said: 

“Our message to Russia is very clear, they should release the ships and sailors, de-escalate the situation. If you look at what we have seen just over the last year or so this is part of a pattern of Russian behaviour.”

On whether further sanctions are required May renewed calls, “We have always been at the forefront in the EU of calling for sanctions on Russia in relation to its behaviour. We will continue for what we consider to be appropriate sanctions on Russia.”

The Prime Minister made no mention of the Salisbury poisonings. Britain blames the Russian GRU intelligence agency for but rebuked recent Kremlin policy stating: 

“Russia could take a different road, Russia could support the rules-based international system and if it did that its position would be a different one. It is choosing to continue with this pattern of behaviour.”


Theresa May is the first British Prime Minister to have visited Buenos Aires and only the second British Prime Minister to have visited Argentina. The countries have a fractured relationship following the Falklands War in 1982 in which the then military dictatorship was defeated but at a cost of 649 Argentinians and 255 British servicemen.

Over 35 years later many Argentinians are still unhappy with British sovereignty of the islands, which they call Las Malvinas, despite the islanders themselves voting 99.8% to stay a British territory in a 2013 referendum. 

They still though accuse Britain of colonialism and former President Kercher tried to confront former Prime Minister David Cameron on the issue at the 2012 G20 in Mexico. Prior to the 2012 London Olympics there was an outcry in Britain when an advert for the Argentinian team secretly filmed on the islands was released showing an athlete training with the message “to compete on British soil we train on Argentinian soil”.

Asked whether she too like her predecessor Margaret Thatcher would send a task force to defend the islands if threatened May said “I’m clear that our position on the sovereignty of the Falklands as not changed. But what has changed in recent months is that we have seen better relations with Argentina.”

Singling a desire for better relations post Brexit she added, “I think the announcement we saw earlier this week of the extra flight for the Falklands through to South America is important. It’s important for the Falklands. It’s important in showing a different relationship developing. I’ll be talking to President Macri about issues around trade, about the opportunities for trade. But our position on the sovereignty of the Falklands has not changed and will not change.”

Pushed on sending in the military she simply reiterated, “Our position has not changed on the sovereignty of the Falklands.”


The Prime Minister also had her sights on reforming the WTO with Britain taking up its independent seat at the WTO post-Brexit, “We do see the need for reform. Just to mention a couple of areas, there’s a lot of concern that dispute resolution takes too long in the WTO so we’ll be pressing on that.”

Like most countries, the UK is struggling to regulate the likes of internet giants like Facebook, Google and Amazon. The Prime Minister believes the WTO is one forum to build consensus on this: ”the need to deliver on the issue of digital matters because the WTO has been looking at this for some time and we want to see it actually coming to a resolution in a good way that can be of benefit to the UK and others.”

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