Liz Truss concedes that talks on a UK free trade deal with the US are years away


Liz Truss arrives at the United Nations in New York on Tuesday. The Prime Minister has ruled out the prospect of free trade talks between the UK and US any time soon – Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images

Liz Truss admitted a trade deal with the United States is years away, as she prepares to hold her first meeting with Joe Biden amid mounting tensions over Brexit and economic policy.

The Prime Minister will meet the US President in New York on Wednesday, with discussions about the Northern Ireland Protocol expected to feature heavily.

Later, she will address the United Nations General Assembly on her desire for more countries to cut taxes as a way to promote economic growth.

Ms Truss will tell diplomats that allowing people to keep more of their own money was vital to promote freedom throughout the world.

But in a sign that the pair have widely differing ideas about economic policy, Mr Biden derided such ideas as “trickle-down economics”, saying on Twitter that they “never work”.

It comes a day after Ms Truss tried to head off a row over the Northern Ireland Protocol by admitting she did not believe Britain will begin negotiations with the US on a trade deal for years.

She told reporters there was no prospect of talks on a free trade agreement with Washington in the “short or medium-term”.

Some US figures have suggested Washington will not countenance a trade deal with the UK if Britain tears up the Northern Ireland Protocol part of the Brexit agreement.

On Tuesday, the White House said that as well as discussing the two countries’ bilateral economic relationship, Mr Biden will bring up the Protocol at Wednesday’s meeting.

A spokesperson said the US president “will encourage the UK and the European Union to work out a practical outcome that ensures there is no threat to the fundamental principles of the Good Friday Agreement”.

The pair’s meeting will take place just two days later Mr Biden attended the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II in London.

Ms. Truss also met Emmanuel Macron, the French presidenton Tuesday, but the pair did not discuss the Protocol.

Liz Truss meeting Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday - Stefan Rousseau/Reuters

Liz Truss meeting Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday – Stefan Rousseau/Reuters

Her outspoken comments on the prospect of a trade deal will be seen as a huge disappointment for many Brexit supporters, who believed that leaving the European Union would open the door to a series of lucrative global trade deals.

Ms Truss’s comments are designed to highlight the Government’s belief that this is an idle threat, because no trade deal is in the offing anyway.

She told reporters on the plane to New York that she was concentrating on reaching trade deals with India and countries in the Pacific.

Asked about the meeting with Mr Biden, Ms Truss said: “The number one issue is global security and making sure that we are able to collectively deal with Russian aggression and ensuring that Ukraine prevails.

“That is a huge priority for European security, as well as ensuring that we are working together with other members of the G7 to make sure we are not strategically dependent on authoritarian regimes.”

Ms Truss said her priorities were to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) – a trade agreement bringing together Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand and six other countries.

She also said she wanted to reach an agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council of Arab states.

Earlier this month, Washington warned Ms Truss against dismantling the Northern Ireland Protocol, which was signed by Boris Johnson.

Discussing the Prime Minister’s first telephone conversation with Mr Biden, a spokesman for the White House said: “There’s no formal linkage on trade talks between the US and the UK and the Northern Ireland Protocol, as we have said, but efforts to undo the Northern Ireland Protocol would not create a conducive environment, and that’s basically where we are in the dialogue.”

A former senior White House official told The Telegraph that the Northern Ireland Protocol will be “high on the agenda” as Mr Biden seeks to address the “elephant in the room”.

He said it was a “good move” by Ms Truss to take the prospect of a trade deal – which has long been considered unrealistic in Washington – out of the equation before meeting Mr Biden, said the former official, who worked with Mr Biden and is in touch with members of his current team.

He said: “It’s important for the Prime Minister and her advisers to know there are issues the president sees through a pragmatic lens, and others through a deeply personal lens.

“You don’t want to get the latter wrong.

“It will be high up the agenda. It’s a priority for the president. Quite frankly, it’s the elephant in the room that has to be addressed. It goes to the confidence and closeness in the special relationship. He does not want to be the president that saw a new hard border erected.”

Ms Truss was right to “recalibrate” prospects of a trade deal, said the former official.

“It recognizes the very remote possibility that can happen,” he said. “You’ve got to diffuse the expectation you created, and the danger that causes for your government. You don’t want to go into office and come up short.

“In general, the prospect of a trade deal is pretty distant and remote.

“The US using it as leverage to stop the British from going down a perilous path is quite different than being able to realize anything close to what Liz Truss was looking for in terms of a trade deal.”

The Protocol is part of the 2019 Brexit treaty, which avoids the need for a hard border with the Republic of Ireland by creating a trade and regulatory border in the Irish Sea.

It gives a special status to Northern Ireland, as part of both the EU Single Market and the UK internal market.

But to protect the EU Single Market in the Republic, the protocol introduced checks on some goods traveling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland and gives judicial oversight to the European Court of Justice.



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