BEIJING: Prime Minister Theresa May forecast a “golden era” in Sino-British relations with deeper trade ties after Britain leaves the European Union, but her visit to China was dogged by Brexit rows at home.
As she embarked on the three-day visit, May batted away critics of her leadership on Brexit and domestic issues, including within her Conservative party.
“First and foremost, I’m serving my country and my party. I’m not a quitter and there’s a long-term job to be done,” she told reporters travelling with her.
The House of Lords is scrutinising a key piece of legislation on quitting the EU, as a leaked government report shows only economic downsides to leaving the bloc.
May discussed Brexit with Premier Li Keqiang when they met at the imposing Great Hall of the People, where both leaders boasted about their “golden era” of relations and the potential for better trade ties.
“We are determined to deepen our trading relationship even further and we are ambitious for what our future trade relationship will be,” May said.
The British leader said more than nine billion pounds ($12.7 billion) in business deals would be signed during her visit.
The two countries also launched a joint trade and investment review to “identify priorities” on goods, services and investment, she said.
They also agreed new measures to improve access to the Chinese market and remove trade barriers, including lifting a ban on British beef exports to China within six months.
In a nod to her hosts, May said “we welcome the opportunities” provided by China’s cherished Belt and Road initiative, a massive infrastructure project aimed at reviving ancient Silk Road trade routes between East and West and creating greater market access for Chinese companies.
But she threw in a caveat, saying the two countries would continue to work together to ensure that the endeavour “meets international standards”.