Johnson sets sights on speedy US and EU trade deals



Jim Pickard and George Parker | Financial Times

Boris Johnson will next month announce plans to conclude fast-track trade deals with the EU and the US, in a speech outlining his vision for post-Brexit Britain. The prime minister will confirm that he wants to run parallel negotiations with Brussels and Washington, setting a big test for a new cohort of UK trade negotiators — many of whom will be involved in such talks for the first time.

His allies say the government will publish its objectives for its trade talks with the US in February; Mr Johnson is separately targeting the conclusion of a Canada-style trade agreement with the EU by the end of 2020. Mr Johnson’s aides are billing his speech as the moment Britain turns a page after it formally leaves the EU on January 31. “Brexit won’t be mentioned, apart from to say we are moving on from Brexit,” said one official.

London has been under growing pressure from Washington to set out its negotiating position for the potential US-UK trade deal that has been hyped up by many senior Brexiters. The US set out its own position 11 months ago.

One initial demand will be for the US to ease off on Britain regarding its retaliatory tariffs imposed on all EU countries over subsidies to Airbus, including whisky and shortbread. Further potential tariffs are also in the pipeline, including blended whisky, salmon and sparkling wine. Washington is meanwhile likely to press for greater access for its goods producers, raising the spectre of “chlorinated chicken” entering the British market, as well as more access for healthcare companies to the National Health Service.

Both are seen as red lines by Downing Street. “The prime minister is very good on animal welfare and on protecting the NHS, I don’t think he’ll go there,” said one person close to the talks. Mr Trump said in June that the NHS must “be on the table” during UK-US trade talks, only to later suggest that he had misspoken.

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