Theresa May is not a “natural” at dealing with world leaders and Brexit risks leaving the United Kingdom “adrift”, the former head of Mi6 has warned.
Sir John Sawers, who led the Secret Intelligence Service from 2009 until 2014, said the country had to work out whether to align itself with Europe or with the United States.
“I think the country’s become less confident. And less outward-looking itself. And now of course we are saddled with the Brexit negotiation,” he in a podcast interview with Prospect magazine. “We are distracted as a nation by the requirements of Brexit.”
“We have made less impact in the world in the last ten years than we did in the 30 years before that. In the “period 1980 to 2010 Britain was quite an influential player in the world,” he said.
Speaking about the prime minister, he said: “I don’t think she’s a natural at engaging on these big political issues with foreign leaders.”
Sir John added: “I don’t think since 2010 we’ve really had a big influence in global affairs. One thing I don’t think we can accept is Britain adrift. A Britain without a major strategic anchor in the Western World.
“Right now, we have ended up turning our back on Europe and not having a real welcome mat laid out for us in Washington and we’ve got to work out which way we want to turn and be prepared to pay a price one way or the other.”
Sir John Sawers criticism of May comes ahead of a major intervention by the prime minister in the Brexit talks.
She will use a speech in Munich Security Conference on Saturday to try and reassure EU leaders that the UK wants to retain close security and defence cooperation with Brussels after Brexit.
On Thursday the British government publicly blamed the Russian government for a cyber attack which targeted Ukraine and spread across Europe last year.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “We have entered a new era of warfare, witnessing a destructive and deadly mix of conventional military might and malicious cyber attacks.
“Russia is ripping up the rule book by undermining democracy, wrecking livelihoods by targeting critical infrastructure, and weaponising information.
“We must be primed and ready to tackle these stark and intensifying threats.”