U.S. ambassador to the UK Woody Johnson has said that Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President Donald Trump are going to have a “sensational” relationship, adding that the UK was at the “front of the line” for bilateral free trade talks.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday, Ambassador Johnson said: “I think the President is going to try and move the ball forward. The UK is our most important ally both in security and also in prosperity, you are very important and he knows that.
“He’s made some comments regarding a free trade agreement and putting the UK at the front of the line and he’s made these comments many, many times.
“In fact, when he was over here a month ago, he talked about the free trade agreement and how it would lift both countries and I think that is what he’s focusing on” in terms of UK-U.S. relations, the diplomat added.
Mr Johnson appeared perplexed when BBC radio host Mishal Husain asked whether the UK leaving without a deal with the EU on October 31st could pose a problem to U.S.-UK negotiations, as if the U.S. needed to know what kind of deal the EU had with the UK before starting its own negotiations.
Saying that the settled status of an EU-UK deal was “not imperative”, the ambassador reminded listeners that a EU-UK withdrawal treaty — with its near-two-year transition period — prevented the UK from negotiating its own trade deals with third-countries, saying rather that: “If you have a no-deal Brexit, you can still negotiate a trade deal with other countries.”
Asked whether a no-deal exit in 97 days would help U.S.-UK negotiations, Mr Johnson said: “I would think when you’re allowed to start negotiating, you start negotiating and you’re going to have a lot of bilateral trade agreements here and even maybe multilateral [trade deals].”
“If we look forward optimistically into the future between our two great countries we’re going to come out and we’re going to lift the boats of all the people in this country to a higher level of independence and all the things that you voted for in your referendum. I think that’s what the President wants, and I know that’s what your new prime minister wants, as well,” he added.
Mr Trump, a supporter of Brexit, has long maintained that as soon as the UK is out of the EU, he is keen to strike a “big” trade deal.
The American diplomat also said of the future relationship between the two leaders that it was going to be “sensational”.
“You can get a taste of it yesterday during questions [after the prime minister’s statement]. I watched part of it and the new prime minister, Boris Johnson, handled the questions and, I thought, very effectively and optimistically.
“Everybody in the gallery was talking about his optimism… He shows a lot of leadership… so I think it is very positive.”
He added: “I think, [in terms of] leadership, [Trump and Boris Johnson] have a lot in common. I think these leaders have their own style, but they have similarities, and I think they have clear vision of what they want to accomplish and you can see that when Boris was out on the hustings and speaking to the people. He knows what he wants to do.”