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- Prime Minister Theresa May defends free market economics, calling it the "greatest agent of collective human progress ever created."
- May's comments come after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said capitalism was facing a "crisis of legitimacy."
- The prime minister said capitalism "led societies out of darkness."
LONDON — Theresa May defended the free markets after Jeremy Corbyn's criticism of capitalism by saying today that it is the "greatest agent of collective human progress ever created."
The prime minister rebuked the Labour leader after he told his party's conference on Wednesday that capitalism was facing a "crisis of legitimacy" and that it was "time we developed a new model to replace the failed dogmas of neo-liberalism."
Speaking on Thursday, May told the Bank of England's 20th anniversary of independence conference that capitalism "is unquestionably the best, and indeed the only sustainable, means of increasing the living standards of everyone in a country. And we should never forget that raising the living standards, and protecting the jobs of ordinary working people is the central aim of all economic policy."
The prime minister said it was free-market economics that "led societies out of darkness and stagnation and into the light of the modern age."
Corbyn in his speech to Labour conference in Brighton set out proposals that he claimed were the "new mainstream" in British politics, which included rent controls and widespread nationalisation.
He also claimed that the Grenfell Tower disaster was a symbol "for a failed and broken system, which Labour must and will replace."
The prime minister retorted that the government needed to continue reducing the deficit but also invest in public services, saying: "To abandon that balanced approach with unfunded borrowing and significantly higher levels of taxation would damage our economy, threaten jobs, and hurt working people.
"Ultimately, that would mean less money for the public services we all rely on."
Ed Balls, the former Labour shadow chancellor tweeted: "I'm surprised by today's Theresa May speech. I'm all for open markets. But championing 'The Free Market' feels bad economics & bad politics."
Brexit and the implementation period
Following Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson's call for a short transition period after Brexit, May said the implementation period "will definitely be time-limited."
The prime minister added that it might be less than the two years she set out in her Florence speech, saying: "Some aspects of the implementation might be brought forward."
May also made it clear that the UK would continue to have a close relationship with the EU following the UK's withdrawal.
She said: "We want to continue to play our part in Europe."
- Jeremy Corbyn tells May to step down and let him rescue Brexit
- Jeremy Corbyn says Labour is 'ready for government'
- European Council President Donald Tusk says there has not been 'sufficient progress' in Brexit talks