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UK economy faces difficult times warns Theresa May

British Prime Minister Theresa May, left, poses with Chinese President Xi Jinping before a group photo session for the G20 Summit in Hangzhou in eastern China's Zhejiang province. Picture by Ng Han Guan, Associated Press  
David Hughes, Press Association

THERESA May has warned the UK economy faces "difficult times ahead" despite better than expected figures following the Brexit vote.

The British prime minister said it would not be "plain sailing" even though economic data has not been as bad as was feared before the European Union referendum in June.

Speaking as she travelled to the G20 summit in China, Mrs May said the UK would be a "global leader" for free trade – but leaders had to acknowledge the anti-globalisation sentiments around the world.

With the UK seeking to forge new trading relationships as it exits the EU, Mrs May said: "We have seen figures giving some different messages in relation to the economy at the moment. I think the reaction of the economy has been better than some had predicted, post the referendum.

"But I won't pretend it is all going to be plain sailing, there will be some difficult times ahead."

The build-up to the G20 summit has been overshadowed by the delay in the decision over the Hinkley Point power station, which the Chinese state-owned nuclear firm is investing in.

Mrs May said the delay was down to "the way I operate" – because she wanted a fresh look at the evidence for the £18 billion plant.

Speaking to reporters on the plane heading to Hangzhou, she said: "I don't just come in and say 'I'm going to take a decision', I actually look at the evidence, weigh up the evidence, take the advice and then consider that and come to my decision.

"That's exactly the process I'm going through. I have said a decision will be taken in September and it will."

Mrs May will hold face-to-face talks with Chinese president Xi Jinping at the conclusion of the summit on Monday, when the issue is likely to be raised.

Concerns have been raised about the cost of energy from the proposed Somerset plant and the security implications of allowing a Chinese firm to invest in critical infrastructure.

Asked if she would specifically raise security concerns she said "I am going to be talking to President Xi about a whole range of issues. I'm not going to be taking the Hinkley decision – it's not going to be taken now, it's going to be taken later this month, but it will be taken this month.

"But I have been clear that what I am doing is looking at the evidence, looking at the issues around Hinkley and we will take a decision."

It is understood the National Security Council has not examined Chinese investment since Mrs May replaced David Cameron in Number 10.

Both Mr Cameron and his chancellor Mr Osborne were enthusiastic supporters of a new "golden era" in relations with Beijing.

Mrs May insisted she wanted that strategic partnership to continue.

Asked if she trusted the Chinese she said: "Of course we have a relationship with them, we are working with them and we have seen significant Chinese investment into the UK.

"What I want to do is build on that relationship, but I also want, here at the G20, to be able to build on relationships with other countries.

"As I say, I want us to be as a country unashamedly proponents of free trade and out there, a global leader on free trade."

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