LONDON: Britain has now entered a transition period following its departure from the EU, during which time it is expected to strike a trade agreement with the bloc. London is also expected to conclude a separate deal with the United States, although according to UK trade secretary Liz Truss, a deadline for this has not been specified.
There is no chance that British government will strike a trade deal with the United States before the American presidential election or even by the end of 2020, according to the Financial Times, which cited a UK government official familiar with the issue.
“Is it going to happen this year? Basically, no”, the source was quoted as saying, while reportedly linking the delay to the coronavirus pandemic.
Another official reportedly added that Britain did not want to be “bounced into a deal”.
London and Washington have been negotiating a separate trade deal since the start of the year, following the UK’s departure from the European Union. Britain has not concluded any bilateral trade agreements for the last 40 years while within the bloc and it has been struggling to negotiate one with its NATO partner, amid disagreements over food standards and allowing American agricultural products into the UK.
A few weeks ago, the UK’s International Trade Secretary Liz Truss insisted that the London was not ready to walk away from UK food safety standards in order to reach a trade agreement with its American partner.
“It is against the law to import chlorinated chicken and hormone-injected beef and we will not be negotiating that away as part of a trade deal”, Truss said.
Her comments followed a report that Prime Minister Boris Johnson was ready to loosen restrictions associated with hormone-injected meat to secure a stronger economic relationship with the US, despite warnings from the UK’s farming industry.
Deal Will Happen But Not That Soon
Both Johnson and Truss initially hoped that the deal with the US would be struck by the end of summer 2020. However, in June the International Trade Secretary said that there was no “deadline” over the deal with Washington and insisted that the UK government was not going to “rush” into it.
US top trade negotiator Robert Lighthizer also said that it was highly unlikely that the two would reach any trade agreement before the November election, which he called “very, very, very quick time”.
“It is almost impossible unless the members [of Congress] decided they want to do something extraordinary,” Lighthizer said during a recent congressional committee meeting.
Lighthizer earlier said that the coronavirus pandemic had slowed down negotiations between the parties. He remained optimistic that a trade deal would still happen, but he referred to the food safety standards, so strongly defended by the British agricultural community, as “nothing more than thinly veiled protectionism”.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently said that he discussed an upcoming trade deal with PM Johnson during his visit to London this week. The meeting came shortly after London moved to ban Chinese tech giant Huawei from participating in its national 5G rollout following repeated calls from Washington.
A UK-EU trade deal, which should have been concluded by the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December, remains an even more distant possibility, according to reports from London and Brussels. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Wednesday that the UK was still hoping to conclude a deal with the bloc, but was also ready for a no-deal scenario following a stalemate in talks.