UK warned not to pursue US trade deal ‘if price is Northern Ireland’

Liz Truss takes ‘strong-armed’ approach to US trade deal

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A leading Brexiteer has insisted the UK does “not need” a post-Brexit trade deal with the US, warning over pursuing one “if the price is Northern Ireland”. On Tuesday, Liz Truss hinted a trade agreement between the UK and US could be years away, warning she isn’t expecting any talks to start “in the short to medium term”. Later today, she will meet US President Joe Biden at the UN General Assembly in New York, where the issue of the Northern Ireland Protocol is likely to be a hot topic of discussion.

The Biden administration has been vocal in expressing its frustration at the the UK Government’s plans to unilaterally override large parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Prior to that meeting, the White House said the US President will tell Ms Truss she must work with the European Union to find a negotiated outcome to solve post-Brexit tensions on trading arrangements in the British territory.

Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, this week flew to Ireland to meet US Ambassador Claire Cronin, and again warned the UK against taking unilateral action to resolve a row over Brexit customs checks.

But leading Brexiteer and former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib has insisted the UK does not need a trade deal with the US, as “we already have a perfectly healthy and balanced relationship”.

He insisted the UK should not pursue such an agreement “if the price is Northern Ireland”, and tweeted: “It is refreshing to hear Liz Truss speak candidly. A trade deal with the US was never going to be easy.

“We do not need one. We already have a perfectly healthy and balanced relationship. Critically, pursuing a deal would NOT be desirable if the price is Northern Ireland.”

Many others have insisted Britain doesn’t need to strike a deal with the US as the UK already enjoys a substantial trade surplus with its cross-Atlantic ally.

Britain reported a total trade surplus of £44.5billion with US in the four quarters to the end of Q1 2022, compared to a trade surplus of £52.3 billion in the four quarters to the end of Q1 2021.

Total trade in goods and services (exports plus imports) between the two countries was £223.4billion in the four quarters to the end of Q1 2022 – a jump of 11.5 percent or £23billion from the previous four quarter period.

Daily Telegraph assistant editor Jeremy Warner argued there is no certainty this would persist in the event of a free trade agreement.

He wrote in an article for the newspaper: “The UK already has a very favourable trading relationship with the US, which is one of the very few major economies where Britain enjoys a substantial trade surplus.

“It is by no means clear this would persist in the event of a free trade agreement, the terms of which would be also bound to favour the larger economy.

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“All trade is an economic positive, even if it results in a deficit, but when as much a net importer as the UK, it is as well to hang onto any surpluses that might be going. The US is one such case.

“Fortunately for the UK, the US has a different way of measuring trade in services, and therefore believes that it is the US that has the trade surplus with us. As long as both sides keep believing they have the upper hand, everyone is happy.”

Ms Truss has conceded that negotiations for a post-Brexit free trade deal with the US may not restart for years, stressed her trade priority is striking agreements with India and the Gulf states, and joining a trade pact with nations including Australia and Japan.

She said: “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.”

Mr Biden has stalled on trade deal talks and, vocally proud of his Irish heritage, has raised concerns about the impact of Brexit and the Northern Ireland Protocol on the peace process in the British territory.

When Boris Johnson last visited the US as Prime Minister, Mr Biden warned against tampering with the “Irish accords” amid a row over the protocol.

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