US President Donald Trump has said the White House is planning a “big and exciting” trade deal with the UK after Brexit because “you don’t hear the word Britain anymore.” However, his desire to “Make Britain Great Again” is unlikely to be welcomed by great swathes of the UK population.
In a mainstream media interview, Trump said he had a “very good relationship with the prime minister” and was “absolutely looking to do a major trade deal” once the country leaves the European Union.
He expressed excitement at the prospect of being “very involved” with the UK — and woe that Britain appears to have disappeared from mainstream discourse.
Working on major Trade Deal with the United Kingdom. Could be very big & exciting. JOBS! The E.U. is very protectionist with the U.S. STOP!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 25 июля 2017 г.
The US president also made clear he wasn’t a fan of the bloc, on the basis it is “very, very protectionist” — he claimed US farmers have difficulty selling their products to the continent due to EU regulations, while no such barriers to European products existed Stateside.
Specifics on the deal were scant, although Trump said it would “include everything,” take effect as soon as it was appropriate, and produce “much, much more business” between the US and UK than at present.
The news will likely offer much relief to Theresa May, who since her drubbing in June’s general election has careened from scandal to crisis, and faces a potential vote of no confidence when parliament reconvenes in September.
There were even suggestions the election result could strain ties with the US — although if the government’s disastrous performance did precipitate a stern reappraisal of the “special relationship” in Washington, there was no sign of it in Trump’s interview.
Trump’s enthusiasm is perhaps understandable — with German Chancellor Angela Merkel downgrading the US in her party’s election literature, and speaking of the creation of a “G19” that omits the US from bilateral discussions moving forward, the UK represents perhaps his last remaining friend in Western Europe.
However, the president’s avowed eagerness may be misplaced — both the May government and Robert Lighthizer, Trump’s own US trade representative, have strived to reduce expectations of an imminent trade deal between the two countries.
The UK is precluded from holding formal trade negotiations with any other country until it leaves the EU.
Moreover, any reprieve at the reassurance of US support on the part of May (the UK is similarly friendless in Europe post-Brexit) could well be premature.
A post-Brexit trade deal with the US may not be entirely favorable to the UK — and whatever its shape, it’s likely to meet stiff opposition.
For instance, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has repeatedly faced questions over whether the UK will accept imports of chlorine-washed chicken from the US, which are currently banned by the EU.
Anti-globalization campaigners and consumer groups in Europe have for years used such US agricultural practices as an example of how the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership — also known as TTIP — and other international trade deals would undermine European food safety and other standards.
The US government and US farming lobbies claim such European restrictions are but a trade barrier, and George W. Bush’s administration took the bloc to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2009 in an attempt to overturn key food import regulations — a case that has never been resolved.
Outside the 28-country EU, the UK will by definition be the junior partner in any deal with the US in economic and political terms, leaving the latter largely free to dictate terms, and the former almost powerless to resist.
Critics are likely to perceive any deal as a reheating of the controversial and potentially dead-in-the-water TTIP, which they claim is an effective declaration of war by the US on environmental protection, workers’ rights and public services, and allows major US businesses to sue governments in secret tribunals for taking unfavorable policy decisions.
Moreover, there have been suggestions a US-UK deal could see the UK join the North American Free Trade Agreement, in itself a highly controversial structure that has allowed US businesses to sue the government of Canada on dozens of occasions in secret courts for daring to enact environmental or health protections.
Even the prospect of the president visiting the UK promises much rioting — the UK inking a deal with a Trump-led US promises even more incendiary responses from the public.