Britain unlikely to strike trade deal with US before 2023, admits Liz Truss

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Liz Truss arrives at Downing Street in London - Hannah McKay/Reuters
Liz Truss arrives at Downing Street in London - Hannah McKay/Reuters

Britain is unlikely to strike a trade deal with the US before 2023, the International Trade Secretary has conceded, ahead of a trip to the country to build “broader” support for an agreement.

A source close to Liz Truss said she was now “playing the long game”, with this week's visit intended to court prominent Democrats, as well as Silicon Valley tech giants that could benefit from a free trade deal with the UK.

Ms Truss is understood to believe that a deal is now unlikely until after the US midterm elections, which are due to be held in November 2022.

An official summary of a meeting between Boris Johnson and Joe Biden at last month's G7 meeting in Cornwall simply stated that the pair had agreed only on “progression” towards a future free trade agreement, which the two sides described as “a deal which would create jobs and bring new opportunities to both of our countries”.

Last September, before Mr Biden's election, Ms Truss had said that she hoped to strike a deal with the US by July 1 – the deadline for the US president to fast-track trade agreements through Congress.

But a source close to Ms Truss said: “Liz is playing the long game and wants to build a much broader base of support for a deal in the US domestic market, which is why we’re heading to California as well as DC.

“We want the backing of the American public, key industries like tech, and the political class, and Liz is out there to get that and bang the drum for Britain.”

The seven-day trip will be Ms Truss's first to the US since Mr Biden's election. She had previously concluded five rounds of talks with officials serving under Donald Trump, but the new administration is reviewing the deal.

Ms Truss will hold talks with Katherine Tai, the US Trade Representative, in Washington, with other planned meetings including Google Ventures and senior state officials in California. A source said she saw support from “West coast tech-types” as key to securing an agreement.

Officials at the American embassy in London have previously said that they feared allegations of lax food hygiene rules in the US were having a “pernicious” effect in Britain, amid debate over the future trade deal. US officials have insisted the country's food is “just as safe” as UK produce, and confronted criticism over America's use of chlorine to disinfect chickens.

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