Will the UK agree a trade deal with the US? Such an agreement has long been cited by Leave campaigners as a prize for Brexit Britain. When Donald Trump became President it was seen to increase the chances of such a deal being struck. While Barack Obama had suggested the UK would be at the ‘back of the queue’, Trump suggested a deal could be thrashed out quickly. However, the idea of it being agreed before the US election now seems unlikely.
As the UK and US begin a second round of negotiations, America’s chief negotiator Robert Lighthizer has warned that a deal is unlikely to be approved before the US presidential election in November: ‘That would be very, very, very quick time. I think it’s unlikely that that happens’. Even if the terms were agreed, it would need to go through congress which on the pre-election timeline is difficult: ‘It is almost impossible unless the members [of Congress] decided they want to do something extraordinary, to have it actually come before the Congress before November.’
This won’t come as a surprise to anyone in government. The idea of having a deal rubber-stamped before the election has been viewed as a very difficult ask for some time. Instead, the ambition is to get an outline framework agreed by September. Should Trump be re-elected, this could then proceed to Congress in the spring and ratified by next summer. But even this timetable is viewed as a best-case scenario on achieving a trade deal – it could take much longer. Should Joe Biden win the election, the whole exercise would most likely need to be revisited.
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