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Sat, 28 March 2020

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Boris Johnson vows to 'drive a hard bargain' with Donald Trump as he unveils pitch for post-Brexit US trade talks

Boris Johnson vows to 'drive a hard bargain' with Donald Trump as he unveils pitch for post-Brexit US trade talks
4 min read

Boris Johnson has promised to "drive a hard bargain" with the United States as he revealed the UK's opening bid for talks on a free-trade deal.


Unveiling the UK's negotiating mandate, the Prime Minister said a post-Brexit deal with America could "deliver lower prices and more choice for our shoppers".

And he quipped that Britain could start trading "Scottish smoked salmon for Stetson hats".

The Government is also publishing new analysis claiming that the UK economy will receive a £3.4bn boost from a deal, with transatlantic trade flows increasing by £15.3bn, according to its own figures.

Spelling out the topline objectives for the talks, ministers say they are seeking an "ambitious and comprehensive free trade agreement with the United States", building on America's status as the UK's biggest bilateral trading partner.

The talks will aim to boost the UK economy "by opening up opportunities for British businesses and investors", leading to what the Government claims will be "greater choice and lower prices for British producers and consumers".

Mr Johnson said: "We have the best negotiators in the business and of course, we’re going to drive a hard bargain to boost British industry.

"Trading Scottish smoked salmon for Stetson hats, we will deliver lower prices and more choice for our shoppers.

"Most importantly, this transatlantic trade deal will reflect the unique closeness of our two great nations."

That view was echoed by International Trade Secretary Liz Truss, who vowed: "This deal with our biggest single trading partner will cut red tape for our small businesses, cut tariffs for our great products from dairy to cars and increase growth in all four nations."

The Government is also seeking to reassure voters that a deal with the US will not see the health service opened up to American companies, a claim repeatedly made by Labour during the election campaign.

Ministers say they will "rigorously protect the UK’s freedom to provide public services, such as the National Health Service, in the national interest" as the talks progress.

"NHS is not for sale and the Government is committed to the guiding principles of the NHS – that it is universal and free at the point of use," they add.

There is also a promise to "ensure high standards and protections for British consumers and workers" - including "high domestic standards on food safety and animal welfare".

'RIGHTS ON THE LINE'

But Shadow International Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner accused ministers of making "false promises" on standards and the protection of public services.

The Labour frontbencher added: "This is a government that has sought, at every opportunity, to resist efforts to lock in our high standards and to ensure robust protections for our NHS.

"Their false promises are meaningless — they have said they won’t undercut our food standards while briefing that chlorinated chicken and hormone-fed beef are perfectly acceptable."

"That is why there must be a full and proper scrutiny process for this and all trade agreements."

The TUC, the umbrella group for Britain's unions, meanwhile urged Boris Johnson to focus on striking a trade deal with the EU rather than "cosying up to Donald Trump".

General secretary Frances O'Grady said: "President Trump doesn’t care about the UK. The only trade agreement he wants to strike is one that will line the pockets of his corporate backers.

"Boris Johnson is wrong to rush into these talks. A bad trade deal with the US will put working people’s jobs and rights on the line. And it will undermine our vital public services, environment and food standards.

"Nobody voted for chlorinated chicken or for US corporations to have more access to our personal data."

The Department for International Trade said the talks would be led by Crawford Falconer, the department's chief negotiator.

The Government is meanwhile promising to hold "one of the biggest consultations ever undertaken" as the talks progress, in a bid to reassure businesses and campaign groups that they are being listened to.

But trade expert David Henig told Sky News that the UK would face a "big choice" as it simultaneously tries to strike deals with the EU and the US.

The director of the European Centre for International Political Economy told the broadcaster: "Both the EU and US would like us to adopt their food safety rules - we can't adopt both of them as the EU doesn't allow certain US food in.

"We're going to have to make a choice there between either those two, or perhaps we'll adopt our own and go with that.

"That's a big choice. We also have to choose in various regulatory areas whether we go with an EU approach or a US approach.

"The more we go with one against the other, the more trade barriers are in place."

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