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Theresa May Says Brexit Could Bring “Difficult Times” for UK

September 5, 2016

Obama told May that he still thinks Britain made the wrong choice. May had campaigned for the U.K. to remain in the EU.SAUL LOEB AFP/Getty Images

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By Mahita Gajanan @mahitagajanan

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said Britain’s departure from the European Union may bring “difficult times” to the country.

Ahead of the G20 summit with world leaders in China, May told BBC that Brexit would not be “plain sailing” for the country, despite positive economic figures in the months since the referendum.

“I think we must be prepared for the fact that there may be some difficult times ahead,” she said. “But what I am is optimistic.”

May said her administration wants to “emphasize” its role in the world, including making new deals.

“We want to be an independent Britain, forging out own way in the world,” she said.

President Barack Obama met with May ahead of the summit to discuss the new leader’s plans as it exits the European Union.

“The bottom line is that we don’t have a stronger political partner anywhere in the world than the United Kingdom,” Obama told reporters. “Despite the turbulence of political events over the last several months, we have every intention to making sure that that continues.”

May was subjected to some awkward moments at the weekend summit, with U.S. President Barack Obama repeating in a joint press conference that he thought the U.K. had made the wrong decision, and warning that it couldn’t expect a quick trade deal with the U.S.. She also met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who reportedly pressed her for a reset of relations between the two countries. May’s predecessor had been one of the more hawkish EU leaders with regard to Russia and a firm supporter of economic sanctions on the country.

Another eye-catching moment came as Japan’s government published a 15-page paper detailing what it thought would be the best solution the U.K. and EU as they negotiate their separation agreement. Japan is one of the biggest foreign investors in the U.K., and has a highly visible presence in the transportation sector, with Nissan Motor, Toyota Motor and, more recently, train-maker Hitachi all having invested in big manufacturing plants in the country.

For all the gloom, there has been a string of better-than-expected news from the economy in the short term. The pound hit its highest level in over a month against the dollar and euro Monday after a survey of service sector businesses showed a return to growth in August, after a sharp drop in the month after the U.K.’s vote to leave the EU. That followed an equally strong rebound in a survey managing manufacturing activity last week.