Sunak downplays chances of getting Biden to open post-Brexit trade deal talks
Rishi Sunak has dampened any hopes that he could get Joe Biden to reopen negotiations on a post-Brexit free trade deal with the US.
The Prime Minister insisted trans-Atlantic trade was “growing massively anyway” as he praised pacts with individual states ahead of his meeting with the US President in San Diego on Monday.
A free trade deal with the world’s largest economy had been touted as one of the prizes of leaving the European Union but negotiations have stalled.
Mr Sunak insisted his new Windsor pact with the EU was a “great step forward” for Northern Ireland, following hopes it could ease tensions with Democrats in the US and pave the way for trade talks.
But the Prime Minister downplayed the focus on a free trade deal with the US, telling GB News: “America is always, and has always been for a long time, our closest economic relationship, it’s our single biggest trade partner.”
Asked if the trade deal is off the table, Mr Sunak said: “It’s just people should actually know that our relationship with America economically is very strong, our exports are growing massively anyway and we’re concluding agreements with states.”
Earlier, the Prime Minister had said the UK and the US will “work through” concerns about Mr Biden’s multibillion-dollar package of green subsidies.
He welcomed the White House’s commitment to tackling climate change, but said the UK had already raised concerns about the measures in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).
The 430 billion US dollar (£357 billion) package is an attempt to make the economy environmentally friendly with tax credits for green technology.
But it has strained relations with European economies, including the UK, which have been frozen out of US markets, with Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch calling it “protectionist”.
Mr Sunak told reporters: “We have raised concerns with the US about the IRA and we will work through with them as they think about how best to implement it.
“Those are conversations that the Government has been having with them for a while and will continue to have.”
Mr Sunak will use the talks with Mr Biden to formally invite him to visit Northern Ireland to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.
The visit by the president, who often highlights his Irish roots and has taken a keen interest in issues related to the agreement, would be expected to take place around the anniversary in April.
It was hoped that the Windsor Framework, aimed at resolving Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit difficulties, could ensure the visit goes ahead.
In Stormont, the DUP is blocking the operation of the institutions created by the Good Friday Agreement in protest at the Northern Ireland Protocol, the post-Brexit arrangements the Windsor Framework is designed to replace.
The party is currently deliberating on whether to accept the new framework and return to Stormont, but it is not believed the impasse will halt a presidential visit by Mr Biden.