The international trade secretary, Liam Fox, has said a post-Brexit trade arrangement with the US may take longer to agree than some people hope, after reports that Boris Johnson would make this a priority if he becomes prime minister.
Fox said potential complications could include different rules across American states and the start of the presidential electoral cycle. He also stressed that no deal could be agreed before the UK formally left the EU.
Fox told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme there had already been six meetings of a trade working group with the US to examine the issues.
“One of the things you have to remember about the US is that not all trade policy is actually done at the federal government level,” he said. “A great deal of the trade policy is done at the state level, particularly in the non-tariff barriers to trade, things like regulation. We have been increasing the number of our staff in the US who are expert at the state-to-state level.”
On Monday the Times cited unnamed “allies” of Johnson as saying he hoped to have a simple trade pact with the US, possibly on one area of trade, ready to go on the day of Brexit, due on 31 October.
Fox reiterated that a deal could not be agreed before then, saying: “We can’t negotiate anything with the US until after we’ve left the European Union. It would be in breach of European law for us to do that.”
He said even a seemingly straightforward, single-element initial deal could be held up. “You have got the added complication that we’re now getting very close to the American pre-election year, where it’s quite hard to get things through Congress. So even if you negotiate them quickly you wouldn’t necessarily get to ratify them.” [...]
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