Liz Truss Admits UK Trade Deal With US 'Years Away' Despite Brexit Promises

Prime minister concedes negotiations will not begin in the "short to medium term" as she flies to New York.
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Liz Truss has admitted that negotiations for a post-Brexit free trade deal with the US will not restart for years as she flew to New York ahead of a meeting with Joe Biden.

The prime minister stressed her trade priority is striking agreements with India and the Gulf states, and joining a trade pact with nations including Australia and Japan.

But she heavily downplayed the chances of talks even resuming to get the comprehensive deal with the States that was billed by Brexit backers as a major benefit of leaving the EU during the referendum.

Truss said the deals with Delhi and other allies are “our trade priorities” ahead of talks with the US president at a United Nations summit on Wednesday.

“There aren’t currently any negotiations taking place with the US and I don’t have an expectation that those are going to start in the short to medium term,” she told reporters flying with her to New York.

Officials did not deny that Truss was effectively conceding it will be years before talks with the White House resume.

Labour said the admission from the government was an “embarrassment”.

Biden has stalled on trade negotiations and has raised concerns about the impact of Brexit and the Northern Ireland Protocol on the peace process.

When Boris Johnson last visited the US as prime minister, Biden downplayed the chances of a deal with the UK as he warned against tampering with the “Irish accords” amid a row over the post-Brexit protocol.

Truss named among her priorities the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), one of the world’s largest trading blocs which includes Australia, Canada and Japan.

The other she cited is the Gulf Co-operation Council, which includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and is the EU’s sixth largest export market.

Johnson and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi set deadline for striking a deal by Diwali, the Hindu celebration being held on October 23.

So far the UK and the US have been striking smaller state-by-state agreements, with Britain signing deals with Indiana and North Carolina.

But these are far less ambitious than the comprehensive free trade deal touted by Brexit supporters during the 2016 referendum.

One of the issues facing future talks is Truss’s threat to override parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which the EU says would break international law.

Senior figures in the Democratic party have warned a trade deal could be jeopardised by the UK single-handedly tearing up the agreement, which was part of the Brexit divorce deal.

While in New York, Truss is also set to have talks with French President Emmanuel Macron and the EU’s Ursula von der Leyen, which are bound to prominently feature Brexit.

Truss will meet Macron on Tuesday, before seeing Biden and von der Leyen on Wednesday. She had been set to talk to the US President in Britain over the weekend as he visited for the Queen’s funeral, but the meeting was postponed.

Nick Thomas Symonds, Labour’s shadow trade secretary, said the admission that there is no prospect of a trade deal with the US was “terrible news for the UK economy”.

“There is no doubt that the blame for this mess lies at the door of the Prime Minister, who tarnished the UK’s international reputation as foreign and international trade secretary. This is an embarrassment for Liz Truss.

“The Conservative manifesto promised a trade deal with the United States by the end of this year, now this has no chance of being delivered.”


What's Hot