Prime Minister Liz Truss kicked off her first visit to the United States as Britain’s leader with the admission that a UK-US free trade agreement won’t happen for years.
Truss said a transatlantic deal was not one of his priorities – a stark contrast to the stance of his immediate predecessors like Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Theresa May. Both boasted the promise of a deal with the world’s biggest economy as one of the main prizes for the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union.
“There are currently no ongoing negotiations with the US, and I do not expect them to start in the short to medium term,” Truss told reporters aboard her plane to New York, where she landed Tuesday to attend the Assembly. General of the United Nations.
Truss said she was more focused on gaining accession to the Trans-Pacific trade partnership and closing trade deals with India and the Gulf Cooperation Council of states such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
“Those are our business priorities,” she said.
Truss’s pessimistic assessment of transatlantic trade came ahead of her first one-on-one meeting with President Joe Biden since she took office two weeks ago. The two leaders are due to meet on Wednesday on the sidelines of the UN meeting in New York. Both were among dozens of world leaders who attended Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral in London on Monday.
Truss said his priorities for the meeting with Biden were “to make sure that we are able to collectively deal (with) Russian aggression” and to ensure that “we are not strategically dependent on authoritarian regimes.”
“I want to work with our allies like the United States, like France, the EU, the Baltic States, Poland to address the challenge we face with Russian aggression,” she said. “That should be our priority.”
That puts the UK broadly in line with Biden’s tough stance on Russia and China, but the trade stalemate puts the oft-praised “special relationship” between Britain and the US on the back burner.
Brexit supporters say one of the main benefits of leaving the bloc, and its vast free market of nearly half a billion people, is the chance for the UK to make new trade deals around the world.
Trade talks between the UK and the EU started with fanfare shortly after the UK left the EU in 2020, but the talks failed amid growing US government concern about the impact of Brexit, especially in Northern Ireland. .
Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that shares a border with an EU member, and Brexit has brought new customs checks and documents to Northern Ireland’s trade, an issue that has turned into a political crisis for the government. of power-sharing in Belfast. .
In response, Britain announced plans to lift checks and rip up part of its Brexit treaty with the EU – a move that angered the bloc and alarmed Washington. Biden warned that neither side should do anything to undermine the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the cornerstone of Northern Ireland’s peace process.
Truss says he wants to reach an agreement with the EU but will continue to rewrite the treaty if that fails. She said the situation cannot “deflect”.
With hopes of a UK-US deal fading, Britain resorted to signing trade agreements with individual US states. So far, it has signed agreements with Indiana and North Carolina.
Truss campaigned for the Conservative leader on a promise to shake up the British economy by cutting taxes, reducing regulation and attracting more investment to the UK. on hold during a 10-day period of national mourning.
The war in Ukraine will be at the top of Truss’ message as she makes her debut speech at the United Nations as British leader on Wednesday, calling for more support for Kyiv and urging nations to stop buying Russian oil and gas.
After the United States, the United Kingdom has been one of the biggest contributors of military and civil aid to Ukraine. Truss wants to assure allies that she will maintain the firm support shown by Johnson. She will pledge that by 2023 Britain will “equal or exceed” the 2.3 billion pounds ($2.7 billion) in military aid given to Ukraine this year.