The European Union (EU) and Russia are set to open talks on the future of trade relations in May, with a key objective to ensure that Britain remains a member of the bloc.
The EU will press ahead with trade talks with Britain until May 2019, following the Brexit vote and a new trade deal between the two countries that both sides have been negotiating for months.
The UK has said it will not sign the deal unless it is included in a trade deal with the EU, a decision that is expected to have a knock-on effect for the bloc, which has been the biggest investor in the UK.
The two sides also have differing views on how best to handle migration, with the UK having said it wants to control the number of migrants coming into the country, while Russia wants to make sure that migrants are allowed to settle in the country.
In a speech to the Council of the European Union on Friday, the British prime minister said that his country would “seek to strengthen and build on the British relationship with the European single market, while at the same time strengthening our relations with Russia”.
In her speech, Theresa May also outlined the government’s economic strategy, saying the government was committed to maintaining “strong and stable trade relations with Europe, ensuring that Britain’s economic interests are protected”.
She added that “as we move towards the second phase of Brexit negotiations, we will be building on the progress we have made on the economic agenda.”
The UK’s trade with Russia was a major source of friction between the EU and the United Kingdom during the Brexit referendum.
It was a key plank in the Leave campaign, with Boris Johnson arguing that Britain was “being run out of the EU” after the referendum, as the EU refused to guarantee access to the single market and the customs union.