Barry Gardiner MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade, responding to US Trade Representative, Michael Froman’s comments that it was too early for the US to start talks over bilateral trade and investment deals with the UK following the referendum, said:
“The Government has damaged Britain's future by prematurely pressing for a trade deal now when we don’t yet even know what terms we are able to offer.
“The American rebuff to Liam Fox was decisive and predictable. Common sense should have told him that the US would not negotiate a separate trade deal with the UK until it became clear what our future trade relationship with Europe looked like. In particular the US were never going to jeopardise their current negotiation with the EU by doing a side deal with the UK.
"By pressing ahead now against the rules that expressly forbid EU member states from such separate negotiations, the Government has made Europe less likely to give the UK future market access on favourable terms whilst showing the Americans that our Government is desperate. It also sends a poor message to the rest of the world that the UK is willing to ignore its obligations under existing treaties.”
Notes to Editors
1. The International Trade Secretary Liam Fox was told by US Trade Representative Michael Froman on 25 July that it is too early to start talks over bilateral trade and investment deals with the UK when the future UK-EU trading relationship remains up in the air. The USTR released a statement saying: "As a practical matter, it is not possible to meaningfully advance separate trade and investment negotiations with the United Kingdom until some of the basic issues around the future EU-UK relationship have been worked out."
2. The EU has exclusive competence over external trade deals, meaning EU member states cannot enter into independent, bilateral trade agreements. Before Article 50 is triggered, the UK is unable to negotiate separate deals. However, David Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, has suggested publicly that the UK would ignore these rules, writing in ConservativeHome: ‘I would expect the new Prime Minister on September 9th to immediately trigger a large round of global trade deals with all our most favoured trade partners. I would expect that the negotiation phase of most of them to be concluded within between 12 and 24 months. So within two years, before the negotiation with the EU is likely to be complete, and therefore before anything material has changed, we can negotiate a free trade area massively larger than the EU.’