Boris Could Start Trade Negotiations with U.S. Before EU: Report

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson could start trade negotiations with the United States before the European Union, signalling to Brussels he is serious about diverging from the bloc after Brexit.

The Telegraph reports that British civil servants are drafting the pros and cons of prioritising the American deal, with a government source telling the newspaper: “We mean business and we’re not messing around.”

The comments come after members of Boris Johnson’s Cabinet and the U.S. ambassador to the UK Woody Johnson have urged the prime minister to at least pursue both sets of trade talks at the same time in order to signal to Brussels that the country will not be held back in its aim of signing global trade agreements while waiting for the EU to progress negotiations.

The source told the newspaper: “The political signal would be — ‘We’ve got the capacity to do this at the same time, don’t hold this up’.”

The newspaper reports that British negotiators have prepared documents for accelerated talks with their American counterparts who are said to be “impatient to get things started”.

Talks could start as early as mid-February, around the time that the prime minister is to visit Washington, D.C.

“There is so much political will on both sides for this, the understanding is that the first talks round will come very rapidly after the two-week review period, which could mean as early [to] late February,” the source said.

The UK is set to leave the EU at the end of this month, but the EU has already started to make threats, suggesting European leaders’ willingness to agree on a trade deal is dependent upon the UK continuing to abide by EU regulations — which themselves could stop the UK signing FTAs with other countries.

Prime Minister Johnson is said to have privately told the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen during a Downing Street meeting this week that upcoming talks between London and Brussels will be based on negotiating an ambitious FTA, “not on alignment”.

The reported remarks signal Prime Minister Johnson’s commitment to making the UK globally competitive after Brexit and that he is prepared to walk away from the EU without a trade deal.


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