Politics

Biden to scupper US-UK trade deal as unearthed document shows ‘significant differences’

Brexit: UK need to 'water torture' final talks with EU says expert

Documents seen by Politico shed light on the state of negotiations between the western allies. The media organisation says progress under the Trump administration was made, with areas such as “small and medium-sized businesses, investment and digital services” nearing completion.

But the report cites “issues of pharmaceutical regulation, textiles and other goods standards” and “intellectual property” as areas outstanding.

Politico described these as “significant differences”.

The US-UK deal needs to be agreed and put before the US Congress by April to be protected by the Trade Promotion Authority.

The next four weeks are pivotal to the deal as Britain leaves the EU on December 31 and President-elect Biden is sworn in on January 20.

Both of these changes will make talks between the US and UK clearer.

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Mr Biden has warned any deal would be out of the question if the Good Friday Agreement is not respected by the UK Government during Brexit.

The accord was implemented in the late Nineties to protect the peace in Northern Ireland following the period of violence known as The Troubles.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has told the BBC the countries are in talks to reduce tariffs, in what is described as a “mini deal”.

The UK has said it would reduce tariffs over subsidies for aerospace firms, and Mr Lighthizer said he hoped tariffs on Scottish whisky could be lowered.

It is further indication of strides being made towards full US-UK free trade agreement, and Mr Lighthizer, told the broadcaster it was “extremely likely” that a full deal would be struck.

However, he also acknowledged the potential for “tough compromises”.

Another bilateral tie, the Customs Assistance Agreement, has also been agreed.

This allows customs authorities to share data to tackle customs fraud.

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It was signed by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury Jesse Norman and US Ambassador Robert Wood Johnson in London on Wednesday.

Jesse Norman, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said: “This is an important agreement that ensures continuity post EU exit, and demonstrates the strength of the US-UK customs relationship.

“This deal will allow us to continue to cooperate in combating customs offences by sharing information and good practice, and provides the legal underpinning for schemes to ease trade flows for importers and exporters.

US Ambassador Robert Wood Johnson said: “Every single day, the US and the UK work side by side to stop criminals trafficking illegal goods across the Atlantic – from guns, to drugs, to illegal wildlife products and even counterfeit medicine.

“This Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement means that after Brexit, our investigators can keep sharing information to stop criminals in their tracks and keep people in both our countries safe.”

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, has said a “narrow path” has opened up in UK-EU trade talks.

She has said the next few days will be “decisive”.

Key differences linger, with fishing rights a sticking point.

Mr Johnson said “there is every opportunity of a deal”.

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