Boris Backs Plans to Pursue Rapid Trade Deal with U.S., Use as Leverage over EU: Report

HERTFORD, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 04: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson shakes hands with US President Donald Trump onstage during the annual NATO heads of government summit on December 4, 2019 in Watford, England. France and the UK signed the Treaty of Dunkirk in 1947 in the aftermath of WW2 cementing …
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson is planning to use his pursuit of a U.S. trade deal as leverage when negotiating with the EU post-Brexit.

Mr Johnson has approved ministers’ plans to go “hell for leather” for a rapid U.S. free trade agreement, according to sources speaking to The Times. There are reportedly 70 civil servants in Whitehall prepared to work on an American trade deal, while there are smaller teams of 20 to 40 working on trade deals with Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.

Progress on the U.S trade deal would be used to put pressure on the EU to agree a deal, with a senior government official telling the newspaper: “If we can do a deal on beef with the US, that is beef we don’t need to buy from Ireland, which means we have some leverage with the EU.”

Reports emerged on Friday that civil servants were preparing papers on the pros and cons of prioritising the agreement of a U.S. trade deal over one with the EU.  Members of the Cabinet and the U.S. ambassador to the UK Woody Johnson have urged Boris Johnson to at least pursue both sets of trade talks simultaneously to pressure the EU, which has in recent weeks begun threatening the UK that it would block a trade deal unless the UK signed up to EU regulations post-Brexit.

Also on Friday, Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid made clear that the UK would be diverging from EU regulations. He said during an interview with the Financial Times: “There will not be alignment, we will not be a ruletaker, we will not be in the single market and we will not be in the customs union — and we will do this by the end of the year.”

If the UK continues to abide by EU regulations, that close alignment could impede signing free trade agreements with other countries.

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