TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) - Interviewed before leaving China, at the close of her three-day trip, the Prime Minister vowed she would not be deflected even by stark forecasts of an economic price to be paid.
“It’s important, of course, that the Government looks at the analysis that is available,” she told ITV News.
“But, of course, it’s also important that the government does what the British people want us to do — the British people want us to leave the European Union and that is what we will be doing.”
The pledge comes days after the Government was rocked by a leak of a Whitehall assessment suggesting an economic hit from all three mooted withdrawal options.
May also rebuffed attempts to get her to set out her plans for the “end state” relationship with the EU, after a major speech was axed amid renewed Cabinet splits.
In a separate interview, the Prime Minister said there was no question of sacking Brexit minister Steve Baker, who has apologized for airing a conspiracy that civil servants are sabotaging EU withdrawal.
He had not broken the ministerial code because he would “amend the record that has given to Parliament and apologize to Parliament”, she argued.
The end of the visit was also marred by Downing Street having to deny claims in the Chinese media that May “sidestepped” human rights in her determination to boost trade.
This week’s leak, to Buzzfeed News, revealed an analysis authorized by the Prime Minister, but described as “preliminary and partial” by ministers.
It predicted a no-deal Brexit, leaving Britain trading with Europe on World Trade Organization terms, would reduce growth by 8 per cent over 15 years.
Leaving with a Canada-style free trade agreement would see growth cut by 5 per cent, while even staying inside the single market would reduce growth by 2 per cent.
The document also warned that the gains from free trade deals with other big countries would fail to make up for the losses - a boost of just 0.2 per cent from a deal with the US, for example.
Meanwhile, May has rejected pleas to clear up confusion about her aims for the long-term relationship with the EU – despite warnings that the dither will trigger a vote of no confidence in her leadership.
Speaking to the BBC before boarding the plane, she refused to accept a choice between maintaining close economic ties with Brussels or making a dramatic clean break.
“These are not the options that we have before us,” May said – insisting it was possible to “negotiate a good trade deal” and also “take back control” of money, borders, and laws.
Asked which was “more important”, she replied: “I don’t believe that those are alternatives,” – a comment certain to provoke renewed criticism that the UK is still trying to “have our cake and eat it”.
Asked if Baker would be sacked, the Prime Minister told Channel 5 News: “No. The ministerial code says that the minister should take the earliest opportunity to amend the record that has given to Parliament and apologize to Parliament. He will do that.”
In China, the Global Times applauded May for resisting “radical” pressure at home to raise concerns over the treatment of democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
But a senior Number 10 source insisted she had raised the issue of Hong Kong - where more than 100 activists were detained in protests over alleged encroachment by Beijing on the former colony's partial autonomy - and broader human rights in her discussions with both President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.