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US to seek free-trade agreement with UK 'at the earliest possible time' after it leaves EU

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday met with UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
Image: Susan Walsh via PA Images

THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION will pursue a free-trade agreement with Britain as soon as possible after it leaves the EU, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said. 

He made the comments as the UK’s new foreign secretary Dominic Raab made his first official visit to the US.

Speaking at a news conference with Raab, Pompeo said the Trump administration remains committed to respecting whatever Britain’s final decision on Brexit is and is eager to conclude a trade deal.

“We support the United Kingdom’s sovereign choice, however Brexit ultimately shakes out and we’ll be on the doorstep, pen in hand, ready to sign a new free trade agreement at the earliest possible time,” Pompeo said.

Raab said Johnson and his Cabinet are “absolutely resolved, determined” to leave the EU at the end of October with or without a deal to soften its effects.

He said he hoped to conclude a new trade deal with the US “as soon as possible after we leave the EU on October 31.”

After his first phone call with Johnson, Trump told reporters that a bilateral deal with post-Brexit Britain could be “three to four, five times” bigger than current trade and once London is out of the European Union “we could do much more”.

“We’re working on a trade agreement already,” Trump said. “I think it will be a very substantial trade agreement.”

Trump’s apparent enthusiasm for a deal is in marked contrast to the attitude of his predecessor Barack Obama, who said that Britain would be at the “back of the queue” for any kind of trade deal if it left the EU.

Last year, the US ran a $20 billion trade surplus with Britain.

The two countries exchanged $262 billion in goods and services, according to the US Trade Representative’s office, meaning Britain was America’s fifth-largest export market.

Top US exports are financial services and aircraft while British exports include autos and tourism.

Risk of no-deal growing

Meanwhile, Finance and Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe said yesterday the risk of a no-deal Brexit is growing but that such a scenario can still be avoided.

Made his comments in London, where he met new British chancellor Sajid Javid on Tuesday. 

Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1′s Morning Ireland, Donohoe said both men used the meeting to reiterate their respective governments’ positions.

Donohoe said Javid is “absolutely committed” to Britain leaving the European Union by the current deadline of 31 October.

He said he told Javid that the Irish government remains committed to the backstop element of the Withdrawal Agreement, describing it as “the best possible insurance policy for all of the risks that we may need to deal with in the future”.

Includes reporting by Associated Press and © AFP 2019  

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