UK to ‘drive a hard bargain’ in talks with US

As the UK began talks in Brussels over a trade deal with the European Union this week, the government in London outlined its objectives for upcoming trade talks with the United States.

US and UK flags representing 2020 trade talks
Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to "drive a hard bargain" in negotiations with Washington, as the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) welcomed the fact that the government aimed to make it simpler for skilled workers to cross the Atlantic for work.The government said it wanted to open opportunities for UK businesses and investors while keeping the National Health Service (NHS) free at the point of use, and maintaining protections for British consumers and workers, including on animal welfare.

UK's negotiations will reflect close US-UK relationship

"We have the best negotiators in the business and of course, we're going to drive a hard bargain to boost British industry," says Mr Johnson. "Trading Scottish smoked salmon for Stetson hats, we will deliver lower prices and more choice for our shoppers."Most importantly, this transatlantic trade deal will reflect the unique closeness of our two great nations."International Trade Secretary Liz Truss adds: "Striking ambitious free trade agreements with our partners around the world is one of the key opportunities of Britain becoming an independent trading nation once again."This deal with our biggest single trading partner will cut red tape for our small businesses, cut tariffs for our great products from dairy to cars and increase growth in all four nations."

The 'vital' deal to be struck

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the CBI, describes striking a good trade deal with the US as "vital" to the post-Brexit future."It's encouraging to see the government's ambitions to make it easier for skilled people to move between the UK and US, support small business exporters and future-proof any agreement around industries of the future," she says."The US and UK already share the world's largest bilateral investment relationship; now is the time to use it as a springboard for new jobs and investment here at home."

Optimism despite high ambitions

Adam Marshall, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) says its members were "enthusiastic" about the prospect of reaching a good trade deal with the US."While most businesses still tell us their number one trade priority is to secure a strong trade agreement with the European Union, many are also enthusiastic about finding new opportunities to trade with the USA," he says."The government has set a high ambition for UK-US talks, and it will be important to get the details right over the coming months to ensure that a prospective agreement benefits businesses and communities around the UK."

How do small businesses view talks?

And Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), agrees that striking a deal with the US would open the way for more UK firms to export globally."FSB research shows that the United States is the number one individual country that UK small businesses are looking to as they consider where to trade, with 46 per cent of UK SME exporters prioritising the US market over the next three years," he says. "This shows the sheer scale of ambition that will be unleashed if we can take full advantage of the opportunities a free trade agreement will open up. The success of the UK economy rests on inspiring more small businesses to go global, and trade around the world."

Simultaneous foreign trade talks 

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab went on a trade offensive in the Middle East, travelling to Saudi Arabia today, before heading on to Oman."The Gulf is important to UK security, but it's also a region of enormous opportunity. Both Oman and Saudi Arabia want to grow in sectors such as health, education and culture where the UK leads the world," Mr Raab said. "I look forward to discussing trade, regional security, climate change and human rights in this pivotal region."Simultaneously, Foreign Office Minister Wendy Morton arrived in Uruguay to attend the inauguration of President Luis Lacalle Pou, before heading for Argentina for further trade talks.

Read more news and views from David Sapsted and further articles on Brexit

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