Ruling out a US trade deal “strengthens Liz Truss’s hand in Brexit talks”, a commentator has said. This came after the UK Prime Minister told journalists that “there [aren’t] currently any negotiations taking place with the U.S. and I don’t have an expectation that those are going to start in the short to medium term.”
She made the comments on the eve of her arrival in New York for the UN General Assembly, saying the “number one issue” for discussion with U.S. President Joe Biden was “global security and making sure that we are able to collectively deal with Russian aggression.”
European political commentator James Crisp said that, while the move could be seen as a “show of weakness”, it in fact has the “double benefit of neutralising US and EU attack lines before Protocol negotiations reboot in earnest.”
He explained: “Threats to veto a deal, when negotiations were not even taking place, were always a paper tiger but valuable ammunition to opponents of Ms Truss’s hardball Protocol strategy.
“Dublin and Brussels could point to an influential ally’s disapproval as proof that the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which overrides the treaty, breaks international law.
“Ms Truss has now defanged the paper tiger.”
Writing in the Telegraph, the expert added: “Ruling out the trade deal allows the UK to press for maximum leniency in the Protocol border checks in negotiations with Brussels, which now appear increasingly likely after recent talk from London and Dublin of a ‘landing zone’ for a deal.
“The slaughter of this Brexit sacred cow may have been a surprise, but it is also good strategic sense.”
The UK Government has long been touting a US-UK trade deal as a key benefit of Brexit.
But Ms Truss’ latest remarks are the strongest admission that such a deal is unlikely to take place any time soon.
A No. 10 official told Politico that Truss’ change of message reflected “the reality that Biden is not doing any deals.”
Ms Truss’ relationship with the US has been strained by her threats to rip up the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The White House said that Mr Biden plans to tell Ms Truss that she must work with the EU to find a negotiated solution to post-Brexit tensions over the protocol.
The UK has been locked in talks with the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol – which was agreed as part of the withdrawal agreement to avoid a hard border in Ireland post-Brexit – since October 2021.
Ms Truss declined to discuss the issue with French President Emmanuel Macron yesterday.
No 10 has not confirmed whether or not she will raise the issue with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Mr Biden will raise the issue “in some detail” with Ms Truss.
This comes as Ms Truss pushes ahead with her controversial Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which will allow the Government to unilaterally override parts of the protocol and suspend elements of the agreement.
The impact of the new legislation would reportedly be even more far-reaching than the triggering of Article 16, which would still require checks on some goods travelling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The Bill’s critics have said it will breach international law.