British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US President Donald Trump
With Boris Johnson due to hold talks today with Donald Trump at the G7 summit in Biarritz, allies of the US President have made it clear that the two countries are on the verge of a major deal. The prospect of a UK-US deal also appears to be putting huge pressure on the EU to compromise and yesterday there were signs that Brussels’ hard stance against renegotiating a deal was wavering. European Council President Donald Tusk made a volte face on his uncompromising position early in the week where he refused to discuss removing the Northern Ireland backstop.
He said: “The EU is ready to listen to operational, realistic ideas acceptable to all member states including Ireland, if and when the UK government is ready to put them on the table.”
But he and the Prime Minister also engaged in a war of words saying that each other would go down in history as “Mr No-Deal” if a compromise cannot be found.
Speaking to journalists in Biarritz, Mr Johnson said: “I’ve made it absolutely clear I don’t want a no-deal Brexit. But I say to our friends in the EU, that if they don’t want a no-deal Brexit we’ve got to get rid of the backstop from the treaty.
“If Donald Tusk doesn’t want to go down as Mr No-Deal Brexit then I hope that point will be borne in mind.”
The UK-US trade agreement is expected to be signed when the Prime Minister and President Trump meet at the UN General Assembly in New York in September.
It will be a precursor for a full trade deal which is expected to be completed within nine to 12 months.
Professor Ted Malloch, a close adviser and friend of President Trump, said: “A US-UK Free Trade Agreement has been agreed in principle as (international trade secretary) Liz Truss and Ambassador Robert Lighthizer have been meeting behind the scenes.
“The formal kick-off and signing will take place at the UN General Assembly meetings in late September – and then we are off and running.”
EU Council President Donald Tusk
He added: “A full agreement is positioned for 9-12 months from now with sectorial agreements to commence much more quickly.” Writing for the Sunday Express, senior Republican Congressman George Holding, a friend of the Prime Minister, also confirmed that preparation talks are taking place.
He said: “A bilateral working group has been meeting for over a year to lay the groundwork for an agreement.
“And President Trump and Prime Minister Johnson have spoken over the phone about a deal several times.”
Meanwhile, he has dismissed the “naysayers” who claim the US Congress will veto a deal over the Northern Ireland backstop.
He said: “The mutual understanding and close ties between MPs and Members of Congress will allow us to overcome these obstacles and negotiate in good faith, with respect for our counterpart’s political priorities and appreciation for their political limitations.”
A Downing Street source said: “The US-UK trade deal will be a priority directly after Brexit and there is a huge opportunity for both countries.”
On the flight over to the G7, Mr Johnson took the opportunity to outline his vision for a trade deal and how it can open up huge markets for British producers.
(Left to right) Boris Johnson, Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, Giuseppe Conte and Donald Tusk
The Prime Minister highlighted barriers to a range of British goods from Melton Mowbray pork pies, to micro brewery beer, cabotage (right to operate transport), insurance products, wallpaper, pillows and shower trays.
He said: “Of course, I think there is a massive opportunity for Britain but we must understand that it is not all going to be plain sailing.
“There remain very considerable barriers in the US to British businesses which are not widely understood.
“[On Friday night] I had my first opportunity to mention some of these to the President.
“And I will mention them again because it is very important if we are going to do a fantastic free trade deal that is a free trade that works in the interests of British business.”
He went on: “The point I am making is that there are massive opportunities for UK companies to open up, to prise open the American market.
“We intend to seize those opportunities but they are going to require our American friends to compromise and to open up their approach because currently there are too many restrictions.”
Asked about how President Trump responded to his remarks on US restrictions on UK goods, Mr Johnson said: “The President remained of a firm persuasion that we would do a fantastic deal. I was heartened by that.”
But he insisted that the NHS would remain “off limits”.
Mr Johnson also underlined his strong relationship with the US President and suggested that he was more popular in Britain than many believe.
He said: “That’s very likely. President Trump has pioneered a quite remarkable way of communicating directly with the electorate. My impression is that is also popular with large numbers of people in our country.”
He added: “I was born in the United States. I think the most important thing for any prime minister of the UK is to have a very close friendly relationship with our most important ally and that’s what I intend to promote.”
Referring to the Prime Minister’s breakfast meeting with President Trump at the G7 today, a senior Government official said: “They are both looking forward to having a meeting tomorrow and discussing the issue of a future trade deal in more detail.
Economist Roger Bootle
“Absolutely we want a deal and want to conclude it as quickly as we can, but it has to be a deal that works for the UK.
“You’ve seen clear enthusiasm from both sides for doing a deal but as part of a trade negotiation it’s important that both sides set out the things that they are looking for. It’s a trade deal – the Prime Minister is focused on making sure it works for people in the UK and businesses in the UK.”
Last night economist Roger Bootle said: “A trade deal with the US would put huge competitive pressure on our other trade partners, including the EU.
“This would impel them towards signing trade deals with us.
“So getting the US trade deal done is the key to securing global free trade for the UK across most of the world.”