Biarritz, France, 25 August 2019 (dpa/MIA) – US President Donald Trump heaped praise on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the G7 summit on Sunday, saying the new premier was the “right man for the job” of delivering Brexit.
While Trump seemed convinced a post-Brexit trade deal could be done “pretty quickly,” Johnson appeared less sanguine, though he expressed his clear interest in reaching an agreement once his country was out of the European Union.
“We’re going to do a very big trade deal, bigger than we’ve ever had with the UK,” Trump said, as the two held their first-ever face-to-face meeting as leaders at the summit in Biarritz, France.
Trump said that after Brexit, the British “won’t have the anchor around their ankle,” in reference to the EU.
Johnson used the anchor comment to try to pivot to a discussion about Washington relaxing rules on British ships using US ports, which Trump appeared to ignore.
The British premier has previously expressed concerns that a trade deal would require more than the president’s nod, and, sitting across from Trump said he was expecting “tough talks ahead.”
The US Congress would have a say in any trade agreement and lawmakers in Washington might be reluctant to reward Britain in the case of a no-deal Brexit, which would threaten the stability of the 1998 peace deal in Northern Ireland.
Johnson has portrayed the EU’s insistence on provisions to maintain an open border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland, a member of the EU, as the main obstacle to a Brexit deal.
Johnson said he was “very interested” in talking to Trump about a trade deal, lamenting: “I don’t think we sell a single joint of British lamb to the United States. We don’t sell any beef. We don’t sell any pork pies.”
Analysts have expressed doubt as to whether a trade deal with the US could make up for new barriers to British trade with the EU that might result from a no-deal Brexit.
According to official statistics, trade with the EU made up 43 per cent of British exports and 54 per cent of imports in 2016, compared with 18 per cent and 11 per cent respectively for the US.
Trump said he did not need to give any advice to Johnson, though he had repeatedly offered unsolicited guidance to the previous premier, Theresa May.
“He’s the right man for the job,” the US leader insisted. “I’ve been saying that for a long time. It didn’t make your predecessor very happy.”
“This is a person that’s going to be a great prime minister, in my opinion,” Trump said, as Johnson shot back laughing: “I am not going to discourage you.”
After the meeting, the White House released a statement hailing the “Special Relationship” between the two countries and said economic working groups were being set up.