Liz Truss says ‘we need to diversify our trade’
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The UK and the US have historically enjoyed close ties and have been steadfast allies on the geopolitical stage. US presidents, however, have often preferred a cohesive European bloc that encompasses the UK, rather than a separated Britain.
Although the US is an important trading partner for the UK, US President Joe Biden tempered UK expectations of a trade deal in September, when he discussed the possibility with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
For the UK, it remained a “priority,” but Mr Biden made it clear that it did not hold the same importance across the Atlantic.
Professor Rob Singh, expert in contemporary US politics and American foreign policy at Birkbeck, University of London, told Express.co.uk: “The Biden administration, like most of the administrations since the Second World War, has always seen a united Europe as being a good thing, and it still does.
“There’s nothing that the UK can do which will trump that.
“They’re much more interested in a strong EU working together with the United States, and that is still the case.”
Professor Singh described that “the investment in the transatlantic relationship is still there, but I think [Brexit] probably has weakened the UK and the EU in different ways, as far as attitudes in Washington are concerned.”
He added: “It’s made us more of a supplicant to Washington than people expected.”
Professor Singh singled out trade as a way in which the UK has slipped in its dynamics with America, and is unlikely to regain equality in the future.
He claimed some pro-Brexit campaigners “thought it would be easy to get a free trade deal with the US, and that it would be transformative for us.
“Well, we’re nowhere near getting a free trade deal, and even if we did, it would probably be largely on American terms.”
The majority of the UK’s trade deals in force post-Brexit have been legacy agreements from when the UK was still an EU member state.
He expressed doubt over whether, even if the UK did secure such a free trade deal, it would constitute a real win for Brexit Britain.
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Professor Singh said: “Most estimates are saying about half a percentage point of GDP – which is not insignificant, but it’s not huge.
“The US are still more keen on getting an agreement with the EU, understandably, as the biggest trading bloc in the world.”
In the context of Article 16, Professor Singh added that amid the potential issues it causes between London and Washington, “we’re still a reliable ally as far as they’re concerned, but we’re just not as useful as we used to be.”
In addition to trade, said Professor Singh, there is “a certain scepticism about the decline in the size of our armed forces, and in their utility, after things like Basra in Iraq and Helmand in Afghanistan.”
He cited UK forays into the Middle East – or lack of, in the case of intervention in Syria in 2013 – as putting “all sorts of question marks even over that dimension of the relationship with DC.”
He added: “I used to say to people in DC, ‘What is the best manifestation of the notion of a special relationship with the UK?’
“And I would get people in the Pentagon who would say ‘Well, look, if the UK phones us up and wants to come and talk to us, and to articulate its view of a particular issue, we will always see them.’”
“These days? That’s not entirely so clear as to whether that is as strongly the case as it used to be ten, twenty years ago.”
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