UK still first in line for Brexit trade deal, says Mnuchin

Ahead of a meeting between Theresa May and Donald Trump, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin made it clear that the UK would be “at the front of the line” in coming trade negotiations.

Steven Mnuchin with the IMF

IMF Staff Photograph/Stephen Jaffe

The UK remains at the “front of the line” for a post-Brexit, free trade deal with America, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said in Davos.

UK and US post-Brexit trade deal

Speaking ahead of a meeting between President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Theresa May at the World Economic Forum, Mr Mnuchin said that it was “clear” that Britain would be “at the front of the line, and not at the back of the line” when negotiations started.Relations have become strained between the White House and Downing Street recently, largely because of opposition in the UK to the president’s proposed state visit to the UK and Mrs May’s displeasure at Mr Trump re-tweeting anti-Muslim videos posted by a far right group in Britain.Asked about the state of relations between the UK and US, Mr Mnuchin said, “I think we have had a very special relationship for a long period of time. We are very clearly supportive of the UK over the Brexit issue.“We are monitoring discussions with the European Union and we want to see a successful transition. There will be certain restrictions to deal with, but as soon as the UK is ready, then we would be prepared to negotiate an attractive trade deal.”Mr Mnuchin met Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, in Davos on Wednesday and Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond on Thursday, while US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has discussed stronger trade ties with UK International Trade Secretary Liam Fox.
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UK to seek to remain at forefront of tech development

Mr Ross said after the meeting that the UK planned to follow the US model of having “commercial officers” based in every embassy to boost economic and business ties.
In her speech to the WEF, Mrs May pledged to put the UK at the forefront of efforts to improve ordinary people’s lives by giving them access to new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI). But she warned tech companies that they had to take their responsibilities to society seriously and that investors should consider the social impact of the companies before putting money in.“Technology companies still need to go further in stepping up to their responsibilities for dealing with harmful and illegal online activity,” she said.“These companies simply cannot stand by while their platforms are used to facilitate child abuse, modern slavery or the spreading of terrorist and extremist content.”

The importance of AI for the UK

Mrs May said online giants should “focus their brightest and best” on blocking unacceptable content and called for action on a cross-industry basis to counter online use by criminals and terrorists.Mrs May, who is hosting panel discussions with leaders from tech companies and life sciences industries during her two-day stay in Davos, stressed her determination to establish the UK as a world leader for AI, which she called “one of the greatest tests of leadership for our time”.“It is a test that I am confident we can meet,” she said. “For right across the long sweep of history, from the invention of electricity to the advent of factory production, time and again, initially disquieting innovations have delivered previously unthinkable advances and we have found the way to make those changes work for all our people.”She went on to announce that the UK is to join the WEF’s new AI council to help shape global governance and applications of new technology in an ethical way.
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