Liz Truss’s admission that Britain’s post-Brexit free trade deal with the US is years away is “terrible news” for the UK economy and an “embarrassment” for the prime minister, according to the Labour party.
Prime minister Truss is in New York for the United Nations general assembly – her first foreign trip as prime minister – and is set to have her first bilateral meeting with US president Joe Biden on Wednesday.
On the flight to New York, Truss made what the Telegraph calls the “surprising admission” that there was no prospect of talks on a free trade agreement with the US in the “short or medium term”.
The PM’s comments contradict the Conservative party’s 2019 general election manifesto which aimed to have “80% of UK trade covered by free trade agreements within the next three years, starting with the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.”
A government source said the US has been using the threat of calling off trade talks as a “sword of Damocles” in order to put pressure on the UK during Brexit negotiations. Truss’s government believes her admission about a trade deal with the US being unlikely “will lessen the impact of any US threats”, according to the Telegraph.
Pippa Crerar, the Guardian’s political editor said Truss’s admission is “the first time the government has conceded there is virtually no chance of getting agreement on an early bilateral trade deal with the US, Britain’s biggest trading partner, despite it being coveted by Brexit supporters as one of the major potential benefits of leaving the EU.”
‘Truss’s admission is terrible news for UK economy’, says Labour
Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow international trade secretary said: “The admission that there is no prospect of a trade deal with the USA is terrible news for the UK economy – it is costing billions in lost potential trade opportunities and holding back growth.
“There is no doubt that the blame for this mess lies at the door of the prime minister, who tarnished the UK’s international reputation as foreign and international trade secretary. This is an embarrassment for Liz Truss.
“The Conservative manifesto promised a trade deal with the United States by the end of this year, now this has no chance of being delivered. Only the fresh start a Labour government can provide will rebuild these international relationships and run a trade policy focused on growth.”
Close attention will also be paid to the meeting Truss will have in New York with French president Emmanuel Macron following comments she made during the Conservative leadership election campaign. Truss ruffled relations when she said the “jury is out” when asked if Macron is a “friend or foe” to Britain.