President Donald Trump said the US and the UK are working on a potentially “big and exciting” trade deal and the relationship between the two countries is going to be “even better” after Brexit.
Trump’s comments, made in tweets late on Monday and yesterday, came as UK Trade Secretary Liam Fox was in Washington to pave the way for a trade deal after Britain leaves the European Union.
Trump said Fox’s meetings on Monday with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Vice President Mike Pence begin “a new chapter for stronger trade.”
Trump attacked the European Union’s attitude to trans-Atlantic trade and called for it to drop barriers to commerce. Once Britain leaves the bloc it will be free to negotiate its own trade deals with countries around the world, and Fox said 700,000 US jobs are supported by trade with Britain.
“Working on major Trade Deal with the United Kingdom,” Trump wrote in a Tweet yesterday. “Could be very big & exciting. JOBS! The EU is very protectionist with the US STOP!”
Fox said on Monday that the UK and the US “have a strong foundation on which to build,” but economists and trade specialists have warned any deal will be difficult to deliver because US negotiators have more experience and could bulldoze the UK on issues such as agricultural and financial regulation.
A report by the upper chamber of the UK Parliament, the House of Lords, published yesterday, said British farmers risk losing out to cheaper, imported food after leaving the EU if ministers don’t retain strict standards for animal welfare. UK farms have some of the world’s highest welfare standards, but also higher production costs.
There is already a split in May’s cabinet about allowing imports of chlorine-washed chicken from the US, according to the Daily Telegraph newspaper.
Questioned in Washington on Monday about whether he would eat such chicken, Fox said the media is “obsessed” by a “detail of the very end stage of one sector of the potential agreement.” Back in London, May’s spokesman, James Slack, said the Telegraph report was premature and that any trade deal must work for farmers, consumers and businesses.
Removing commercial barriers with the US could generate an additional £40bn ($50bn) in trade with the UK by 2030, according to the UK government.
Fox also acknowledged on Monday it will be a stretch for Britain to negotiate a new trading relationship with the EU by the time of their 2019 divorce, in another sign that the UK government will seek a post-Brexit transitional period.
Businesses are urging the UK to focus on setting out its new relationship with the European Union before forging alliances elsewhere. Speaking in Brussels, Confederation of British Industry Director General Carolyn Fairbairn said a trade deal between the UK and the EU should be the priority rather than a trans-Atlantic accord.
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