Boris Johnson has been warned by an American senator that he will face a “tough time” securing a quick post-Brexit trade deal with the United States.
The caution comes after the frontrunner in the Tory leadership contest said on Monday evening that Donald Trump was “very clear” he wanted to strike a UK-US free trade agreement.
Johnson said he hoped to persuade the US to “lift” its standards on animal welfare and hygiene standards, rather than lowering the UK’s in order to help reach an agreement.
The Times newspaper also reported on Monday that Johnson hopes to secure a limited trade agreement in “one area” of goods by October 31.
But Senator Chris Murphy, the Democrat from Connecticut who sits on the foreign relations committee, warned Johnson it was not just up to Trump to agree any trade deal.
“President Trump is going to have a tough time getting a UK trade deal through Congress,” he told HuffPost UK.
“The United States has interests that we want to protect throughout the Brexit process, and there is bipartisan consensus against blowing up the Good Friday agreement which has maintained stability in Northern Ireland for over 20 years.
“I know the president wants to encourage Britain to leave the EU, but any trade agreement with the UK is going to have to come after we reinforce our trans-Atlantic relationship.”
Nancy Pelosi, the powerful Democratic Speaker of the US House of Representatives, has previously warned there is “no chance whatsoever” of a UK-US trade deal getting through Congress if Brexit could damage the Good Friday Agreement.
Speaking during last night’s head-to-head leadership debate hosted by The Sun, Johnson conceded the US would be “ruthless” in its trade talks. “They will be very very tough with us,” he said.
But he added: “I am not in favour of importing anything from the United States that involves lower animal welfare standards or lower hygiene.
“Donald Trump is very clear he wants to do a free trade deal. But we should use that an incentive to get them to lift their standards to march ours if they want to do a free trade agreement.”
Jeremy Hunt, Johnson’s rival for No.10, also claimed Trump administration was “enthusiastic” about agreeing a trade deal with Britain.
The foreign secretary said it was “something we should go for as quickly we can” once the UK has left the EU.
A senior cabinet minister told HuffPost UK last week that a trade deal “will never happen” because the US will insist on unfettered access for their farming industry.
It comes as the chances of a no-deal Brexit appeared to increase after Johnson and Hunt both said they would not even accept a five time limit to the backstop if the EU was willing to grant it.
“No to time limits or universal escape hatches,” Johnson told the debate.
Dominic Grieve, the leading backbench Tory opposed to no-deal, warned Johnson this morning that his government would collapse if they try to take the UK out of the EU without an agreement on October 31.
Ursula von der Leyen, the incoming president of the European Commission, this morning said she would be willing to see a further delay to Brexit.