As Brexit looms, will US craft trade deal with Britain?

Rachel Tesler

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President Trump are efforting a post-Brexit free trade deal, but the U.K. leader warned they could not rush negotiations at the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France this weekend.

While early reports revealed that the U.S. would open its borders to U.K. needs in the months after Britain leaves the European Union, bilateral trade discussions have proven more challenging. Before trade talks, Trump whole-heartedly supported Johnson’s Britain and his charge for Brexit.

“We’re going to do a very big trade deal - bigger than we’ve ever had with the UK,” Trump said. “At some point, they won’t have the obstacle of - they won’t have the anchor around their ankle, because that’s what they had.”

UNPRECEDENTED SETTLEMENT

Johnson also claimed on Sunday during the G-7 summit that Britain no longer legally owes the 39 billion pound divorce bill when it leaves the European Union, as agreed to by his predecessor Theresa May.

The Brexit hardliner plans to meet with European Council President Donald Tusk during the G-7 to discuss a British settlement that's 10 billion pounds less than originally conceived.

The British media reported differing figures for the settlement, with Sky News saying the deal would be as high as 9 billion pounds, while the Sunday Times said British government lawyers say the amount the nation would legally have to pay is 7 billion pounds.

“I think what the entire European Union understands is that if we come out without a deal then ... the 39 billion is no longer legally pledged,” Johnson told Sky News, when asked if he had told EU leaders this week he planned to withhold the money.

According to Reuters, a source close to French President Emmanuel Macron said in June that failing to pay the Brexit bill would result in a sovereign debt default and an official in his office said Wednesday that leaving without a deal would not remove Britain’s obligation to pay.

BREXIT FALLOUT

With the impending Oct. 31 Brexit date, British obligations to pay the divorce deal are legally unprecedented. As leadership struggled to codify a clean break, the fallout from Britain’s departure may prove even more disastrous. The G7 exposed fractious tensions between the industrialized nations’ trade protections, while a leaked British dossier revealed expectations for food, fuel and medication shortages in a "no-deal" Brexit scenario. Britain was expected to rely heavily on its special relationship with the U.S. following Brexit.

U.S.-UK SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP?

In bilateral talks Sunday, Johnson sat opposite Trump and praised the U.S. economy, but expressed some discontentment with the U.S.-China trade war.

“But just to register a faint, sheeplike note of our view on the trade war - we are in favour of trade peace on the whole,” Johnson said.

He urged Trump to lower trade barriers and open up parts of the U.S. economy to British firms, citing a wide range of sectors to prevent demise.

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While Trump has extended a comprehensive plan to Britain, he preempted that the National Health Service be excluded. Johnson has since said reaching a U.S.-U.K. trade deal seemed unlikely on the current Brexit schedule.

“They want to do it within a year, I’d love to do it within a year, but that’s a very fast timetable,” Johnson told Sky News.

While Johnson anticipated London and Washington would collaborate on “fantastic deal,” cracks emerged when Trump interrupted, saying “lots of fantastic mini-deals, we’re talking about many different deals but we’re having a good time.”

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