U.S. eager to help Britain post-Brexit with new trade deal

U.S. President Donald Trump wants to see a successful British exit from the European Union that Washington will support with a U.S.-UK free trade agreement, national security adviser John Bolton told British officials on Monday.

Countries could make agreements sector by sector, security adviser John Bolton says

U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, seen last week in Lima, Peru, is meeting Conservative lawmakers and officials on a two-day visit to the U.K. as the U.S. administration seeks to strengthen ties with the new government. (Paolo Aguilar/EPA-EFE)

The United States would "enthusiastically" support a no-deal Brexit if that is what the British government decided to do, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton told reporters on Monday.

Bolton also said Britain and the United States could make trade deals on a sector-by-sector basis, leaving more difficult areas in the trading relationship until later. He said the ultimate aim was a comprehensive trade deal.

As the United Kingdom prepares to leave the European Union on Oct. 31, its biggest geopolitical shift since the Second World War, many diplomats expect London to become increasingly reliant on the United States.

"If that's the decision of the British government we will support it enthusiastically, and that's what I'm trying to convey. We're with you, we're with you," said Bolton, in London for two days of talks with British officials. The U.S. administration is seeking an improved U.S.-British relationship with Prime Minister Boris Johnson after sometimes tense ties between Donald Trump and Johnson's predecessor, Theresa May.

Bolton said the ultimate aim was a comprehensive trade deal, but highlighted that financial services could be one of the more difficult industries to reach an agreement on.

A central message Bolton was making is that the United States will help cushion Britain's exit from the EU with a free trade agreement that is being negotiated by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and his British counterpart, Liz Truss.

A senior Trump administration official, describing Bolton's message to British officials, said Trump "wants to see a successful British exit from the European Union" and that a trade deal would help Britain.

Trump had wanted to work with the May government on a trade deal but her government "didn't want to do it. This government does. We're very happy about it," the official told reporters traveling with Bolton.

Trump believes that "when it comes to trade negotiations the EU is worse than China, only smaller," the official said.

Huawei, Iran could also be on agenda

The president spoke with Johnson by phone on Monday about a number of subjects, including trade and security, the White House said. Trump looks forward to meeting with Johnson "in the near future," the White House said in a brief statement.

For his part, Bolton was said to be meeting Monday with Edward Lister, who is Johnson's chief strategic adviser, and Sajid Javid, the new chancellor of the exchequer, among others.

On Tuesday, Bolton is to meet Truss as well as Ben Wallace, the new defence minister and Steven Barclay, the secretary of state for exiting the European Union, among other officials.

Bolton is also expected to urge officials from Johnson's newly formed government to align its policy on Iran more along the lines of the United States, which has pushed a much tougher line against Tehran.

Bolton is expected to meet with U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid, right, seen with Prime Minister Boris Johnson on July 25. (Aaron Chown/Reuters)

Britain has so far backed the European Union in sticking with the Iranian nuclear accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, but the seizure of a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz has put pressure on London to consider a more robust stance.

British marines seized an Iranian vessel, which is suspected of smuggling oil to Syria, off the coast of Gibraltar on July 4. This month, Britain joined the United States in a maritime security mission in the Persian Gulf to protect merchant vessels.

Trump has also sought Britain's help in getting tougher on the Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei out of concern that its next-generation 5G technology represent a national security risk. Washington wants its allies, including Britain, to avoid using equipment from Huawei.

Britain's National Security Council, then chaired by May, met to discuss Huawei in April and decided to block Huawei from all critical parts of the 5G network but to give it restricted access to less sensitive parts.

But Bolton hopes to find a more friendly audience on the topic from the Johnson government. A final decision has yet to be made by the British government.


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