UK-US Brexit trade deal hope shattered as Rishi Sunak doesn’t even mention it to Biden
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak ‘didn’t discuss’ a post-Brexit trade deal in his first meeting with Joe Biden – and dodged questions on whether Brexit has played a part in Britain’s economic woes
The Tory government had previously promised to strike a post-Brexit agreement with the US by the end of this year.
But Downing Street admitted the pair did not discuss the possibility of striking a trade deal, showing it is no longer a priority.
And Mr Sunak confessed today: “We didn’t discuss the trade deal in particular but we did discuss our economic partnership.”
The Prime Minister insisted “I am filled with optimism” and more trade can be done in “lots of ways” other than a full free trade agreement. But he declined to say an agreement would be in place by the next election, which is expected in 2024.
Joe Biden and his allies have long buried the hope of a post-Brexit trade deal – which had been hyped up by ex-President Donald Trump.
Boris Johnson had talked up “solid steps” on US trade in 2021, but even then he was downplaying the hope of a rapid trade agreement.
Yet in 2016 Mr Johnson, when campaigning for Vote Leave, had boasted: “We could strike free trade deals with America”.
Mr Sunak today dodged questions about whether Brexit has “contributed” to the UK’s economic woes, moments after inflation hit a 40-year high of 11.1%.
The Leave-backer admitted “every country’s going to have idiosyncratic things”.
But he said: “Two-thirds of the global economy, G20 members, are seeing inflation rates above 7%.
“The IMF thinks a third of the global economy either is, or will be in recession. That’s the global context, that’s what’s dominated the conversations I’ve been having here.
“And we know why that is – it’s the legacy of Covid and it’s of course what Putin is doing that is driving up energy and food prices.”
As Mr Sunak and President Biden met at the G20 summit in Bali, Mr Sunak pledged to get an agreement with the EU to end the Brexit rows over Northern Ireland by next April, which will be the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.
“At the moment where world leaders meeting here in Bali are seeking progress on world peace, Putin’s striking civilian targets – children, and women. I mean, it’s just, It’s almost – in my words, not yours – barbaric,” the President said.
Mr Sunak told Mr Biden it was a “great honour to have the opportunity to sit down with you”.
“I think the partnership between our countries is unique and enduring. And of course, it’s bigger than any two individuals. I’m proud to have stewardship of it at the moment,” he added.
“The United States is our closest ally, biggest trading partner, closest security partner.
“And I’m glad to see that partnership in action doing good whether it’s standing up to – and I agree with your words – barbaric activity by Russia in Ukraine, but also tackling climate change, stabilising the global economy.
“Our values are aligned, our interests are aligned and there’s much good to that we can do working together.”