UK-US trade deal: Meyer says ‘we don’t need this agreement’
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A UK-US trade deal has been hailed as a primary goal for post-Brexit Britain by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. But with the US President Joe Biden focused on his domestic spending plan and still facing criticism following the Afghanistan withdrawal, British Government insiders have spoken about using other deals as a means to strengthening British ties with America.
The UK Prime Minister has refused to commit to securing a UK-US free trade deal before the next general election scheduled to take place in 2024.
He said Britain is going “as fast as we can” with arrangements to reach a trade pact and that it “remains a priority”.
Mr Johnson told Sky News: “We will keep going with free trade deals around the world, including in the United States.
“I have plenty of reason to be optimistic about that. But the Americans do negotiate very hard.”
He added: “What I want for our country is a great free-trade deal. I won’t settle for anything less.”
The comments appear to be at odds with earlier comments Mr Johnson made before meeting with the US leader.
During conversations with reporters, Mr Johnson said President Biden had “a lot of fish to fry” and therefore he did not expect much movement on FTA negotiations.
Mr Johnson said: “He’s got a huge infrastructure package, he’s got a build back better package. We want to do it, but what we want is a good FTA, a great FTA.
“I would much rather get a deal that really works for the UK than get a quick deal.”
Mr Biden issued a warning to the UK leader on Tuesday night regarding the ongoing tension over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
He stressed how he believes “very strongly” in protections for peace in the region.
Mr Biden said: “We’re going to talk about trade a little bit today and we’re gonna have to work that through.”
His hesitancy seems to have forced Mr Johnson into changing tack – and it seems there are two key options the UK could consider if trying to force the US’s hand.
A Government insider told the Telegraph: “There are a variety of different ways to do this. The question is whether the US administration is ready.
“The ball is in the US’s court. It takes two to tango.”
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The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “We’re still keen to agree a US-UK trade deal, that remains a priority.
“What we’re focused on is a US deal and there are no plans to go beyond that.”
One such measure could be to join the US-Mexico-Canada trade deal (USMCA), an agreement signed by Donald Trump last year.
The agreement included tightened environmental and labour standards, a new digital chapter and strict rules of original requirements for the automotive industry.
For Britain, joining this trade pact would see scores of tariffs dropped.
The nation already has trade agreements with Canada and Mexico and therefore the main gains of the deal would be the US element.
The Biden administration may also look to join the 11-nation Indo-Pacific trade pact.
Although there is likely to be little movement on the UK-US FTA, Mr Johnson did indicate there has been progress in some areas already.
Mr Johnson said in particular “British beef back in the USA, no more tariffs on whiskey, the Airbus/Boeing issue solved”.
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