Paul Ryan backs US-UK trade deal 'as soon as possible'
The US and UK should agree a bilateral trade deal “as soon as possible” after Brexit is completed, House Speaker Paul Ryan has said.
Mr Ryan, the top Republican in Congress, also heaped praise on Theresa May for “setting the standard for bold leadership” after she called a snap general election for 8 June.
His comments on an early trade agreement mark a boost to Mrs May and her top team as they prepare to begin Brexit negotiations straight after the election, if they remain in power.
The Republican is on a trip to Europe as part of a bipartisan delegation to underline US support for the Nato alliance.
Mr Ryan said that strong security cooperation needed to be “coupled with enduring economic ties”.
He said: “Now that Article 50 has been announced, the UK and EU will determine the best path forward over the course of these negotiations. We want the parties to come together and strike a lasting agreement. A strong UK-EU relationship is in all of our best interests.
“In that same vein, the United States will work closely with our EU friends and chart a path forward for TTIP negotiations… At the same time we are committed to working with President Trump and your government to achieve a bilateral trade agreement between the United States and Great Britain.
“This is one of the bipartisan messages I bring with me: I bring Democrats and Republicans here to this room, to this country today to say that the United States stands ready to forge a new trade agreement with Great Britain as soon as possible so that we may further tap into the potential between our two countries.”
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox was one of a large number of Conservative MPs in the audience at the Policy Exchange event in London.
Speaker Ryan’s speech came almost exactly a year after Barack Obama came to London during the referendum campaign to warn that Britain would be “back of the queue” for a trade deal with the US if it voted for Brexit.
Since then, Donald Trump, who supported Brexit, has become president and has repeatedly attacked the impact of many trade agreements that the US is currently party to.
Mr Ryan said any future agreements would have to improve employment prospects in the US.
He added: “Yes, we want free trade deals but we want smart trade deals. They need to help workers, they need to raise wages, they need to create high-tech and sustainable jobs. And the good news in all of this is that these are exactly the kind of jobs that you get from smart free trade agreements.”
Justice Secretary Liz Truss, John Redwood, Richard Benyon and Oliver Dowden were among the other Tory MPs at the event.
They heard Mr Ryan joke that the UK “felt left out” by the US presidential contest and had decided to run its own election.
“The one thought that came to my mind as soon as I watched what transpired yesterday and today is that this is a time for bold leadership and Theresa May is certainly setting the standard,” he said.
“I will simply say good luck and please know that, no matter the outcome of this election, the United States will probably stand by your new government.”
Elsewhere, Mr Redwood urged Mr Ryan to press ahead with cutting corporation tax with such enthusiasm that the Congressman quipped: “Can I bring you home with me?” – at which point one audience member piped up: “Yes.”