UK working well with USA on trade, says May after Trump mauls Brexit deal

Theresa May has insisted that the UK is working 'very well' with the United States over future trade after Donald Trump suggested her Brexit plan could stop the two countries sealing a deal.

President Donald Trump
President Donald Trump

The Prime Minister insisted the agreement made with EU27 leaders at the weekend would allow the UK to make independent trade deals as she began a series of visits around the UK as she attempted to sell her plan to the public.

It came after the US president heaped more pressure on her attempts to win a Parliamentary vote by describing the agreement she struck with Brussels as “a great deal for the EU” in a surprise intervention.

Asked during a visit to the Royal Welsh Winter Fair in Builth Wells whether the president had “poured cold water” on her Brexit plan, Mrs May said the Political Declaration meant “we will be able to negotiate trade deals with countries around the rest of the world”.

She added: “As regards the United States, we have already been talking to them about the sort of agreement that we could have in the future.

“We have a working group set up and that is working very well, has met several times and is continuing to work with the US on this.”

In what may be seen as an opening salvo for future trade talks with the US, Mr Trump told reporters in Washington on Monday: “Right now, as the deal stands, she may not, they may not, be able to trade with the US. And, I don’t think they want that at all.”

That prompted a warning from Sir Michael Fallon, a former May loyalist, who said he could not vote for her deal because it represented “the worst of all worlds - no guarantee of smooth trade in the future and no ability to reduce the tariffs that we need to conclude trade deals with the rest of the world”.

The former defence secretary told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “It’s no use us just brushing that off, saying ‘No, no, we can do a deal with America’; he’s the President of the United States, and if he says it’s going to be difficult, then it certainly looks like it’s going to be difficult.

“This is not a good deal and we need a better deal.”

Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington shrugged off Mr Trump’s comments, telling the same programme: “I don’t think it was that unexpected.”

The PM’s de facto deputy added: “I think it was always going to be challenging to do a deal with the United States.

“The United States is a tough negotiator, President Trump’s always said very plainly ‘I put America first’.

“Well, I’d expect the British Prime Minister to put British interests first, but it’s going to be a very tough negotiation.”

Mrs May and Mr Trump will both head to Argentina for the G20 conference at the end of the week but Downing Street aides there were no plans for private talks between the two leaders.

Downing Street on Tuesday revealed that an economic analysis of Brexit scenarios will be released on Wednesday afternoon.

In a separate move, Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer has written to the Government urging it to comply with a House of Commons motion to publish the full legal advice on the Withdrawal Agreement in the next few days.

His letter to Mr Lidington says MPs “must be given the necessary information to know precisely what has been agreed to” before they vote on Mrs May’s Brexit deal next month.

It comes after Labour set down a “Humble Address” motion earlier this month to make the legal advice given by Attorney General Geoffrey Cox to the Cabinet public, while the agreement is being debated over the next two weeks.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the Government’s position had been set out by Mr Lidington in the Commons two weeks ago.

The spokesman said on Tuesday: “This is for a full reasoned position statement laying out the government’s political and also legal position on the proposed Withdrawal Agreement and attached protocols.

“The commitment remains as set out a couple of weeks ago.”