Report: Johnson to Prioritise Trade Deal with Trump

LONON, ENGLAND - JULY 10: Boris Johnson, a leadership candidate for Britain's Conservative Party visits Wetherspoons Metropolitan Bar to meet with with JD Wetherspoon chairman, Tim Martin on July 10, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Henry Nicholls WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Henry Nicholls WPA Pool/Getty Images

Conservative Party leadership frontrunner Boris Johnson is reportedly planning to meet with President Donald Trump soon after taking over as prime minister to arrange a limited, short-term trade deal with the U.S., the UK’s first post-Brexit trade deal.

It is believed that Mr Johnson wants to secure a limited agreement in “one area” of goods in time for the October 31st deadline — the date on which the Conservative pledged to take the UK out of the EU, with or without a deal.

He and President Trump would then spend the rest of the visit developing an outline of a wider trade deal.

An ally of Mr Johnson told The Times: “The key to the whole thing is the US. If we get a trade deal with America we will be very quickly in the market for other deals. It encourages others to realise that we mean business.”

“There is no question that the moment we leave on the 31st we should be in a position to get some kind of arrangement with the US,” the source added.

A spokesman for Mr Johnson did not confirm the report, telling the newspaper: “No plans have been made for anything other than winning this campaign and the immediate transition. That is where the focus is.”

The report comes as the European Union dismissed calls from Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay to scrap the Irish backstop, according to The Sun. A diplomatic note seen by the tabloid described the political deadlock between the UK envoy and Brussels, with one EU source saying: “Things are going nowhere. If that’s what Boris is going to come out and say, then we’re in real trouble.”

Mr Johnson had said that he would attempt to renegotiate the withdrawal treaty with Brussels, but has pledged to take the UK out of the EU on Halloween with or without a continuity deal with the bloc.

One point of contention between Brussels and London is the Irish backstop, which could lock the UK in the Customs Union. Remainers have alleged that in the event of a clean Brexit, a so-called ‘hard border’ would be erected between the UK country of Northern Ireland and the EU member-state Republic of Ireland, the border allegedly breaking the Belfast Agreement.

However, the Republic’s commissioner in Brussels, Phil Hogan, said this week that there would be no need for border checks on the island even in the event of a no-deal Brexit, according to the Belfast Telegraph. Mr Hogan said that between the UK and EU, 35 pieces of legislation have been put in place to maintain an operational, non-restrictive border, with other checks being carried out at destination and points of origin.

Meanwhile Latvia, seen as an ally of the UK, has warned the EU that it has failed to grasp the hardening attitude of leaving by the British, with the country making a clean break of the bloc more likely.

Edgars Rinkēvičs told The Telegraph on Sunday:  “I think that in the European Union we sometimes do not grasp that the UK, after three years of this very tortuous process, has a very hardened stance.” Mr Rinkēvičs also admitted that he does not think the withdrawal treaty can be negotiated between now and the exit date.

Mr Johnson’s reported proposed first visit as prime minister to the United States may also be a means to normalise relations after leaked cables from Sir Kim Darroch revealed the former ambassador had called the Trump administration “inept”, the revelation threatening to open a rift between the two historic allies.

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