THE UK will not strike a trade deal with the US, Boris Johnson has admitted.
Despite saying he was hoping to make a deal on his visit to the US this week, the Prime Minister today acknowledged it would now not be likely.
Just hours earlier, Downing Street said that a unilateral agreement was the “priority” for Mr Johnson, however he later suggested he would consider joining an existing pact between the US, Canada and Mexico (USMCA) instead.
This idea was quickly diminished, when it was ridiculed by the Opposition, as well as some experts who suggest the existing pact is not open to new members.
Speaking in Washington, where he is attending the UN General Assembly, Mr Johnson said: “I can tell you today that what we’re going to get from the United States now is a lifting of the decades old ban, totally unjustified, discriminating on British farmers and British lamb.
“It’s about time too. And what we’re wanting to do is make solid incremental steps in trade.
“The Biden administration is not doing free trade deals around the world right now but I’ve got absolutely every confidence that a great deal is there to be done.
“And there are plenty of people in that building behind me who certainly want a deal.”
Downing Street officials later said Boris Johnson does not think the US will never broker a trade deal with the UK, “full stop”, but that such an agreement was not Joe Biden’s immediate focus.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “It’s not that they’re not going to do one, full stop.
“The point that the Prime Minister is making is that it’s because of various reasons within the US it’s not going to be the immediate focus of the president right now.”
The spokesman also claimed “good progress” was being made on removing restrictions on British lamb being imported to the US, adding: “On lamb, we’ve had some good discussions, the Prime Minister and president made good progress on that. There are details that now need to be worked through.”
Emily Thornberry Labour’s shadow international trade secretary, said: “Within the space of 24 hours, Boris Johnson has taken us from first in line to the back of the queue for a US trade deal, briefed reporters in Washington that we were seeking to join the USMCA instead, and now decided to ditch that idea as well, presumably after someone bothered to read the agreement and realised what it would mean for food standards and the NHS.
“It is an utterly farcical way for the Prime Minister to carry on when representing our country abroad, and a shambolic approach to running the UK’s trade policy.
“It all leaves the Government not a single step closer to its manifesto commitment to cover 80 per cent of UK trade with free trade deals by the end of next year, and not the slightest clue how it is going to get there.”