Are you OK, Aunty May? China warms to UK Prime Minister


British Prime Minister Theresa May's China visit can be deemed a success, having boosted bilateral ties and laid the groundwork for further cooperation in trade and investment, analysts said.

Speaking on the final leg of her trip to China, the PM did not rule out striking a deal for frictionless trade with the bloc.

Another round of Brexit talks gets under way next week and the European Union is eager to hear from London what kind of trade deal it wants.

The cross-party amendment was added to the government's Taxation (Cross-Border Trade) Bill, and says: "It shall be a negotiating objective of Her Majesty's Government in negotiations on the matters specified in subsection (2) to maintain the United Kingdom's participation in the EU Customs Union".

The Prime Minister did not rule out staying in a customs union with the EU, saying simply that she wanted the best possible "trade arrangements" with other countries after Brexit.

"It is very hard to see how being in a customs union is compatible with having an independent trade policy because we would therefore be dependent on what the EU negotiated in terms of its trading policies and we'd be following behind that", he said. We are now starting to negotiate that free trade agreement with the EU.

By Friday, the 61-year old leader was basking in a warm reception from the leaders of world's second-largest economy, while concerned Chinese citizens affectionately nicknamed her "Aunty May" and anxious if her legs were warm enough in the Beijing cold.

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The European Commission said there would also be negotiations between British and EU officials in Brussels from Tuesday to Friday next week and these would include a "UK update on the future relationship".

And the PM said very clearly for the first time that she would be seeking a full free trade agreement with China - a controversial issue.

But leading Tory Brexiteers such as Jacob Rees-Mogg have demanded a slashing of tariffs on Chinese imports of clothes, shoes and food, which would deliver a price cut dividend for voters.

The Trade Secretary went on: "We have to be outside of that to take advantage of those growing markets".

"China really respects Britain", said the influential Global Times tabloid - the same newspaper which in 2013 dismissed Britain as "just an old European country apt for travel and study" in a scathing editorial during a visit by May's predecessor David Cameron, who had infuriated China by meeting the Dalai Lama.

The British official said: "If we can find a way of keeping goods in the customs union and retaining some independence on trade - particularly on services - we should look at it".