Boris Johnson had billed a trade with America as one of the top prizes of Brexit, but the Prime Minister has admitted US President Joe Biden has “a lot of fish to fry” other than striking deals
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Boris Johnson has been forced to give up on his post-Brexit dream of a trade deal with the United States and focus his attention on other options.
Ahead of his arrival in Washington, the Prime Minister had already admitted the US President had “a lot of fish to fry” other than striking deals.
Government insiders suggested Britain could ask permission to join the existing US-Mexico-Canada agreement instead.
A diplomatic source said: “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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A trade deal with America was billed as one of the prizes of Brexit and Mr Johnson is under pressure to prove the biggest upheaval in British foreign policy in decades was worth it.
As far back as 2016, then-President Barack Obama had cautioned Britain it would be “at the back of the queue” for an agreement.
Mr Johnson, then foreign secretary, claimed in 2017 after Donald Trump took office that the UK was “first in line” for a deal with the US.
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Donald Trump was much keener to strike a trade deal with Britain than his successor, boasting that it would be “fantastic and big” once signed.
Earlier, the PM had indicated that he did not expect to secure a free trade agreement with the US before the next election in 2024.
He said he has “plenty of reason to be optimistic” about getting the FTA which was touted by Leave supporters as a major prize of leaving the EU.
Mr Johnson, one of the architects of Vote Leave, raised the possibility that he could leave Downing Street without achieving a key ambition for the post-Brexit era.
Asked if he would get the deal by 2024, the Prime Minister 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.”
The UK currently has a deeper trading relationship with Canada and Mexico than it currently has with the US.
Other options would be for the UK to agree a series of smaller sectoral deals or trade with America through an agreement operating with countries round the Pacific rim.
Ministers hope that China’s economic might could encourage the States to push trade deals back up the agenda.