It is pity that no UK-US trade deal is in sight but it will make it easier to rebuff pressure over the NI Protocol

The new prime minister has conceded that there is little prospect of an early trade deal with the US.
News Letter editorialNews Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

Liz Truss made the admission on a flight to America, where she is attending the US General Assembly.

Striking such a deal between the US and UK would be a huge prize. Trade between Britain and America is of far higher volume than that between the UK and countries such as Australia and New Zealand, where deals are already in place.

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While it is fair to say that it is a disappointment that it will be several years before any arrangement is agreed with the US, the likelihood of it was talked up – above all by Brexiteers.

But as the US National security advisor Jake Sullivan has pointed out, trade deals such as that take a long time to establish. And there is no avoiding the fact that America will always be the more powerful party in such a dialogue. It is richer than any nation on earth, and several times richer than the UK (itself in the top 10 biggest economies in the world).

The US makes up a far, far higher percentage of the UK’s total external trade than vice versa, due to the great disparity in the relative size of the two economies.

There is much talk about the US potentially denying such a trade deal on the basis of the UK attempt to reform the Northern Ireland Protocol (wrongly depicted as a bid to tear it up).But while pro Irish partisan Democratic Party politicians in Washington DC such as Nancy Pelosi issue such threats, the White House under Joe Biden has been more circumspect. It talks about protecting the Belfast Agreement but cannot be unaware of the UK line that the protocol in fact damages that accord. This reticence reflects the sway that the UK still has in the US, as in some respects the latter’s most reliable ally.

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A trade deal with the US will come with time, but meanwhile — as Sammy Wilson says — the fact that such a pact is not an imminent prospect in fact makes it easier to resist American interference in how the UK conducts such crucial national matters such as its internal trade.