May launches post-Brexit charm offensive at UN, while wining & dining big business

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during a high-level meeting on addressing large movements of refugees and migrants at the United Nations General Assembly in Manhattan, New York, U.S., September 19, 2016. © Lucas Jackson
Theresa May is struggling to persuade United Nations dignitaries that Britain is not turning its back on the world after the Brexit vote raised misgivings among the international community.

In her maiden speech at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, the prime minister will urge world politicians to listen more to anti-globalization movements and yet to work more closely to meet the modern world’s challenges.

“The biggest threats to our prosperity and security do not recognize or respect international borders. If we only focus on what we do at home, the job is barely half done,” May is expected to tell the New York assembly of world leaders.

“We must recognize that for too many of those men and women the increasing pace of globalization has left them feeling left behind.

“The challenge for those of us in this room is to ensure our governments and our global institutions, such as this United Nations, remain responsive to the people that we serve.”

Yet despite her globalization-skeptic message, May was happy to host a glitzy reception at the consul-general’s New York residence for US companies including Amazon, Goldman Sachs, IBM and Morgan Stanley, in the hopes they would continue doing business with Britain after Brexit.

Yet banking giants Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley were found last year paying no tax. Morgan Stanley was particularly criticized for its zero tax bill despite its UK unit making $670 million profit. According to a Reuters investigation, the bank was able to get away with no corporate tax after reporting losses that financial year. The millions the bank made in Britain had been eliminated through inter-group transfers. Amazon’s British branch was also criticized in 2015 for only paying £11.9 million (US$15.4 million) in taxes despite its £34.4 million recorded profits.

May, who will use her New York visit to also meet with US President Barack Obama, her Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe and the Egyptian and Turkish presidents, Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

She will also rebut claims that Britain’s exit from the European Union signifies a lack of willingness to cooperate by saying: “[Britons] did not vote to turn inwards and walk away from any of our partners in the world.”