She attacked his threat to rip up part of her Brexit Withdrawal Agreement in defiance of international law and the Government’s move to suspend its foreign aid spending target. But Mr Johnson’s spokesman said: “I would reject that characterisation. The UK is and will continue to be an outward-looking nation and will continue to be a leading voice on the international stage.
“I would point to the work we have undertaken on issues like climate change both home and abroad where we are the first country to commit to net zero by 2050 and we continue to provide more aid spending than almost any country.”
The spokesman pointed to the UK hosting the G7 gathering of world leaders and the climate change summit (COP26) this year, describing them as an opportunity to show international leadership.
He also highlighted the Government’s role in the international response to the pandemic and the support for global vaccination programmes.
At Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons, the SNP’s Ian Blackford continued Mrs May’s attack.
He accused the PM of “abandoning moral responsibility on the world stage by slashing international aid” and urged him to reverse the “cruel policy”.
But Mr Johnson said: “When it comes to global leadership, this country is embarking on a quite phenomenal year.
“We have the G7 and COP26 and we have led the world with the Gavi summit for global vaccination, raising $8.8billion.
“The UK is the first major country in the world to set a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 – all other countries are following.”
He promised to work with new US President Joe Biden to maintain the trans-Atlantic alliance and Nato.
In her article, Mrs May said the change in US leadership was a golden opportunity for the Government to build a partnership for positive action to make the world safer.
And in a swipe at the PM, she wrote: “To lead we must live up to our values.
“Threatening to break international law by going back on a treaty we had just signed and abandoning our position of global moral leadership as the only major economy to meet both the two per cent defence spending target and the 0.7 percent international aid target were not actions which raised our credibility.”
She added: “Other countries listen to what we say not simply because of who we are, but because of what we do. The world does not owe us a prominent place on its stage.
“Whatever the rhetoric we deploy, it is our actions which count.
“So, we should do nothing which signals a retreat from our global commitments.”
Mrs May was also scathing about outgoing US president Donald Trump, who she clashed with during her premiership.
She said: “When a British prime minister walks out for a joint press conference with the world’s media unsure if the United States president next to her will agree that Nato is a bulwark of our collective defence, you know you are living in extraordinary times.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel also rejected Mrs May’s claim that the Government had abandoned “moral leadership” in a BBC interview yesterday.
She said: “This Government has been speaking out against regimes complicit in all sorts of dreadful behaviours.
“Look at the work we are doing in Hong Kong right now to protect British nationals overseas. Actions speak louder than words.
“We are out there constantly when universal rules are being flouted openly when it comes to autocratic activities.”