Donald Trump and Boris Johnson talk up trade deal potential
Donald Trump promised to deliver a “magnificent” US-UK trade deal after Brexit as he met Boris Johnson in New York on Tuesday, but there were signs the rhetoric was starting to run into political difficulty. The British prime minister needs a trade deal with the US to demonstrate the supposed “opportunities” of Brexit, but is beginning to feel the heat domestically from those who claim he would sacrifice British interests. Jeremy Corbyn, Labour leader, told his party conference in Brighton that any deal would be “one-sided” and leave Britain “at the mercy of Donald Trump”. “Of course Trump is delighted to have a compliant British prime minister in his pocket,” he said. Mr Trump exuded bonhomie at his encounter with Mr Johnson, saying he thought the British prime minister was doing “very well” in spite of his humbling defeat at the Supreme Court.
Tuesday, 24 September, 2019
Speaking at the UN climate change summit in New York, the US president said: “As the United Kingdom makes preparations to exit the European Union, I have made clear that we stand ready to complete an exceptional new trade agreement with the UK that will bring tremendous benefits to both of our countries. “We are working closely with prime minister Boris Johnson on a magnificent new trade deal.” However, Mr Johnson has warned Mr Trump that many of the demands from the US in any future trade negotiation will get nowhere, given the political sensitivities in Britain. The prime minister said the National Health Service was “off the table”, in an attempt to quell fears that the NHS could gradually be opened up to US companies.
When we do a free trade deal, we must make sure that the NHS is not on the table, that we do not in any way prejudice or jeopardise our standards on animal welfare and food hygiene
At the same time Mr Johnson has suggested that certain US foodstuffs would continue to be banned in Britain, including hormone-treated beef, chlorine-dipped chicken or genetically modified food. “When we do a free trade deal, we must make sure that the NHS is not on the table, that we do not in any way prejudice or jeopardise our standards on animal welfare and food hygiene in the course of that deal, and that we open up American markets,” he said. Given that Mr Johnson also wants the US to open its markets to British lamb and beef, it suggests that any trade negotiation is likely to be more complicated than either leader is prepared to concede. While Mr Trump said he wanted to quadruple trade between the two countries, the UK Treasury has always been more downbeat about the likely benefits. In a 2018 analysis, the Treasury calculated that a trade deal with the US would boost gross domestic product by only 0.2 per cent in the long term. The US is Britain’s largest single export destination. Meanwhile, Mr Johnson also met Leo Varadkar, Irish prime minister, on the margins of the UN meeting as part of efforts to strike a Brexit deal, where the single biggest barrier is the vexed issue of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Mr Johnson is demanding the removal of the so-called Irish backstop in his predecessor Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement, which is designed to avoid the return to a hard Irish border.The British prime minister regards the backstop as undemocratic, because it could lock the UK into close ties with the EU, but the bloc regards the arrangement as necessary to protect the integrity of the single market. It has called on Mr Johnson to come up with a viable alternative.Mr Varadkar said there was still a “very wide gap” between the two sides on the Irish border question. He added they had gone into “more details” than in previous discussions, but he expressed concern Mr Johnson may row back on commitments made by Mrs May to retain an open border.“There are certain guarantees that we expect to be honoured,” he said. He added that he had a “good meeting” with Mr Johnson.Additional reporting by Arthur Beesley in Dublin