Rishi Sunak plays down hopes of striking US trade deal with Biden

Free-trade deal with the world’s largest economy was promoted as one of the prizes for leaving EU

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Reuters
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British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has played down hopes that he could get US President Joe Biden to reopen negotiations on a post-Brexit free-trade deal with the US.

Mr Sunak praised the deals already negotiated with individual states, but insisted transatlantic trade was “growing massively anyway” before his meeting with Mr Biden in San Diego on Monday.

Negotiations have stalled on a free-trade deal with the world’s largest economy, which had been promoted as one of the prizes for leaving the EU.

Mr Sunak insisted his new Windsor pact with the EU was a “great step forward” for Northern Ireland, after hopes that it could ease tension with Democrats in the US and pave the way for trade talks.

But he played down the focus on a deal with the US.

“America is always, and has always been for a long time, our closest economic relationship," Mr Sunak told GB News. "It’s our single biggest trade partner.”

Asked if the trade deal was off the table, he said: “It’s just people should actually know that our relationship with America economically is very strong, our exports are growing massively anyway and we’re concluding agreements with states.”

Earlier, Mr Sunak said the UK and the US would “work through” concerns about Mr Biden’s multibillion-dollar package of green subsidies.

He welcomed the White House’s commitment to tackling climate change, but said the UK had raised concerns about the measures in the Inflation Reduction Act.

UK and EU strike post-Brexit deal on Northern Ireland - in pictures

The $430 billion (£357 billion) package is an attempt to make the economy environmentally friendly with tax credits for green technology.

But it has strained relations with European economies, including the UK, which have been frozen out of US markets, with Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch calling it “protectionist”.

“We have raised concerns with the US about the IRA and we will work through with them as they think about how best to implement it," Mr Sunak told reporters.

“Those are conversations that the government has been having with them for a while and will continue to have.”

Mr Sunak will use the talks with Mr Biden to formally invite him to visit Northern Ireland to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

The visit by the President, who often highlights his Irish roots and has taken a keen interest in issues related to the agreement, would be expected to take place around the anniversary in April.

It was hoped that the Windsor Framework, aimed at resolving Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit difficulties, could ensure that the visit goes ahead.

In Stormont, the Democratic Unionist Party is blocking the operation of the institutions created by the Good Friday Agreement in protest against the Northern Ireland Protocol, the post-Brexit arrangements that the Windsor Framework is designed to replace.

The DUP is deliberating on whether to accept the new framework and return to Stormont, but it is not believed the impasse will stop a visit by Mr Biden.

Updated: March 13, 2023, 10:17 PM