Downing Street has said it rejects Theresa May’s rebuke of her successor after she accused the Prime Minister of abandoning Britain’s position of “global moral leadership”.
The ex-prime minister warned that Boris Johnson’s threat to override Britain’s treaty obligations in the Brexit divorce settlement risked signalling a “retreat” from the UK’s standing in the world.
But Number 10 said Britain would “continue to be a leading voice on the international stage” under Mr Johnson’s leadership.
“The UK is and will continue to be an outward-looking nation and will continue to be a leading voice on the international stage.”
In an article in the Daily Mail to mark the inauguration of Joe Biden as the US president, Mrs May said the new arrival at the White House represented a “golden opportunity” for Britain, with the return of a more normal style of presidency.
But the former home secretary said that, while the UK was well placed to play a decisive role in shaping a more co-operative world, she suggested it had not been helped by Mr Johnson’s actions.
“To lead we must live up to our values,” she said.
“Threatening to break international law by going back on a treaty we had just signed and abandoning our position of global moral leadership as the only major economy to meet both the 2% defence spending target and the 0.7% international aid target were not actions which, in my view, raised our credibility in the eyes of the world.
“Other countries listen to what we say not simply because of who we are, but because of what we do. The world does not owe us a prominent place on its stage.
Asked about the scathing assessment of the Government’s performance on the world stage, Home Secretary Priti Patel told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I fundamentally disagree with that, particularly as this Government has been speaking out against regimes complicit in all sorts of dreadful behaviours.
“Look at the work we are doing in Hong Kong right now to protect British nationals overseas – that absolutely speaks to actions. Actions speak louder than words.
“We are out there constantly when universal rules are being flouted openly when it comes to autocratic activities.”