Liam Fox, secretary of state for international trade, is in Washington D.C. to lay the groundwork for an Anglo-American trade pact after Brexit.
Being a customs union, the EU does not allow its member-states to conclude their own bilateral trade agreements. But Dr. Fox is confident that Britain will be able to conclude a number of lucrative agreements with allies such as Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. once outside the bloc.
“This visit will help lay the groundwork for a potential future UK-US free trade agreement and the practical steps we can take now in order to enable companies in both countries to trade and do business with one another more easily,” he declared.
— Department for International Trade (@tradegovuk) June 18, 2017
Dr. Fox makes his visit as departure negotiations begin and the Brexit secretary, David Davis, commences his efforts to secure “a deal like no other in history”.
Asked in January 2017 if he would be interested in a negotiating a trade agreement with Britain after Brexit, then President-Elect Donald Trump was enthusiastic: “Absolutely, very quickly. I’m a big fan of the UK; we’re gonna work very hard to get it done quickly and done properly — good for both sides,” he said.
Brexit campaign leader Nigel Farage said he believes such a deal could be negotiated in as little as 90 days thanks to the president’s “can-do” attitude – a sharp contrast with his anti-British predecessor Barack Obama, who famously threatened that Britain would be sent to “the back of the queue” if it voted to leave the EU.
The State of Indiana has made it clear that the UK will always be at the front of the queue for trade and business. pic.twitter.com/puhquILW4W
— Jonathan Arnott MEP (@JonathanArnott) July 13, 2016
Practical-minded EU leaders have expressed some concern about the bloc’s leadership pursuing too belligerent a strategy in the Brexit negotiations, given Britain’s many global trading opportunities.
Hungarian foreign minister Péter Szijjártó, for example, has said it is vital to avoid “a situation where Britain is better off trading with the Americans, Turks, Indians, Australians or Japanese” than with EU member-states.
“Losing such a partner and giving it away to others would be a suicidal strategy,” he warned.