Wednesday, 16/10/2019 | 9:34 UTC+0
Libyan Newswire

Theresa May to urge European leaders to 'share burden' on defence

Theresa May was holding talks with European leaders including German chancellor Angela Merkel as she attempts to build alliances ahead of divorce negotiations with Brussels.

The Prime Minister arrived in Maltese capital Valletta with a message that Europe must increase its defence spending following her talks about the future of Nato with US President Donald Trump.

Mrs May, who was also meeting the leaders of Spain, Austria and Malta in the margins of the European Council summit, will also promise the UK will remain involved in efforts to tackle the migrant crisis after Brexit.

The Prime Minister will promise the UK will remain a “reliable partner” and will use one-to-one talks with fellow leaders to insist she wants a “new, positive and constructive” relationship with the EU after Brexit, Downing Street said.

Mrs May’s meeting with Mrs Merkel this afternoon will follow talks with Spain’s Mariano Rajoy and Austrian chancellor Christian Kern this morning.

The Prime Minister is also expected to have an informal “brush by” with Maltese counterpart Joseph Muscat, who has warned the UK will be a “junior partner” in any future trade deal with the EU or the United States.

Mrs May was the first foreign leader to visit the Trump White House and she will use the summit to tell Nato members they need to increase their spending on defence.

Mr Tr ump’s criticism of the alliance in the past has alarmed Europe, and some on the continent also have deep concerns about the controversial tycoon’s policies including the travel ban on seven mainly-Muslim countries.

But Mrs May will say Mr Trump’s comments to her about Nato underline the importance of defence and security cooperation.

The UK and US are among a handful of Nato members to meet the pledge of spending 2% of GDP on defence and Downing Street said the Prime Minister will use the gathering to tell her counterparts they need to deliver on their commitments so the “burden is more fairly shared”.

The Prime Minister did not speak to the press as she arrived at the Grandmaster’s Palace in Valletta.

She is only attending the first part of the summit in Malta, with leaders of the other 27 EU nations continuing their talks on Friday afternoon without her as they consider the future of the bloc after Brexit.

In a sign of the EU’s unease about the new US administration, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said while he did not feel “threatened” by Mr Trump “there is room for explanations because of the impression that the new administration does not know the EU in detail but in the European Union details matter”.

Mr Kern said: “Today we have pretty mixed feelings, to be honest, because the tangible aspects of Mr Trump’s policies are raising some concerns.

“It’s not a threat, it could be a catalyst for a strong, more united Europe.

“It is an alarm call to see if we are the right track.”

The summit in Malta, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Council, is expected to focus on tackling the flow of migrants across the Mediterranean and follows the deal signed between Libya and Italy on Thursday.

Mrs May will pledge her commitment to the “long-term” challenge both before Brexit and afterwards.

Her aims involve trying to prevent migrants heading to Europe in the first place by supporting refugees close to the homes they have been forced to flee and deterring economic migrants from attempting the dangerous crossing.

Mrs May’s approach also involves returning those who arrive in Europe with no right to remain.

Swedish deputy prime minister and foreign minister Margot Wallstrom said her country was unlikely to commit to spending 2% of GDP on defence any time soon.

Sweden is not a member of Nato but remains a close ally and has contributed to operations in the Balkans and Afghanistan.

Asked whether Sweden would listen to Mrs May and Mr Trump’s call to increase defence spending, Ms Wallstrom told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “No I don’t think that that is in the making at the moment.”

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