Hopes of the UK striking a post-Brexit deal with Joe Biden’s White House are fading as Britain is understood to be considering whether to join a trade pact with the US, Mexico and Canada.
It came as Biden downplayed the prospects of brokering a deal with Boris Johnson as they met at the White House on Tuesday.
Asked if Britain was still “back of the queue” for a deal as threatened by Barack Obama in 2016, the US president said: “We’re going to talk a little bit about trade today and we’re going to have to work that through.”
It was the prime minister’s first White House meeting with Biden since he succeeded Donald Trump.
Biden’s comments are in contrast to Trump’s apparent enthusiasm for a trade agreement with Britain – which he variously promised would be “tremendous”, “phenomenal” and “massive”. The former president also spoke approvingly of Johnson as “Britain Trump”.
A comprehensive free trade agreement with the US was touted as one of the prizes of Brexit during the 2016 referendum.
New foreign secretary Liz Truss raised the stalled negotiations with US secretary of state Antony Blinken when they met in New York during the UN General Assembly on Monday.
Various media reported Truss questioning whether that position is tenable in the long term and has considered other routes to improving trading ties with the States.
But, after a return to New York for further talks relating to the UN General Assembly, she will head to Mexico City to open a new British embassy.
She was understood to be considering the possibility of the UK joining the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
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.”
Johnson has expressed doubts that he will be able to get such a deal in place ahead of the next general election, saying Biden has “a lot of fish to fry”.
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.”