- Boris Johnson plans to strike an immediate trade deal with Trump after Britain leaves the EU on October 31.
- Sources close to Johnson say he would travel to the US soon after becoming prime minister to strike a limited deal.
- However, the UK’s International Trade Secretary warns that doing so would break the law.
- The UK is forbidden from entering international trade negotiations while still an EU member.
Boris Johnson’s plans to strike an immediate Brexit trade deal with Donald Trump are in “breach of European law,” with a US deal likely to take years to complete, the UK’s international Trade Secretary has warned.
The Times reported on Monday that the frontrunner to replace Theresa May as prime minister, plans to negotiate a deal with the US prior to Britain’s scheduled exit date from the EU on October 31.
“There is no question that the moment we leave on the 31st we should be in a position to get some kind of arrangement with the US,” a source on Johnson’s campaign told the paper.
However, entering negotiations with a third country prior to Brexit would be in breach of Britain’s treaty obligations as an EU member, Liam Fox warned.
“We can’t negotiate anything with the us until after we have left the European Union,” Fox told the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme on Monday.
“It would be in breach of European law for us to do that.”
© Getty Liam Fox
Sources close to Johnson suggested that the plan was to strike a “limited” deal with the US in just one area of goods only.
However, Fox, who campaigned for Brexit alongside Johnson, dismissed this saying that any deal would probably take years to pass through the US congress.
“I’ve no idea what that [limited deal] would be,” Fox told the BBC.
“That will take time and you have got the added complication, just remember, we are now getting very close to the American pre-election year where it is quite hard to get things through Congress so even if you negotiate them quickly you wouldn’t be able to ratify them.”
Johnson has previously sought to downplay fears about a US trade deal weakening UK food and agricultural standards.
Under US food standards, products can contain certain amounts of foreign bodies, including maggots, insect fragments and mould.
For example US producers are allowed to include up to 30 insect fragments in a 100-gram jar of peanut butter; as well as 11 rodent hairs in a 25-gram container of paprika; or 3 milligrams of mammalian excreta (typically rat or mouse excrement) per each pound of ginger.
Johnson has recently sought to downplay such fears by insisting that he would demand the US would meet UK standards instead as part of any deal.
However, Fox dismissed this, telling the BBC: “If you go to the US and say we are going to take any discussions on agricultural access off the table they will close down pretty quickly.”
Fears about the National Health Service also being included within a trade deal were heightened recently when Trump told reporters during his recent state visit to the UK that it would be “on the table” in trade talks.
Trump later withdrew the comment.