British Prime Minister Liz Truss has conceded that negotiations for a post-Brexit free trade deal with the U.S. would not restart for years.
Truss made this known as she flew to New York ahead of a meeting with President Joe Biden on Tuesday.
The prime minister stressed her trade priority was striking agreements with India and the Gulf states, and joining a trade pact with nations including Australia and Japan.
She heavily downplayed the chances of talks even resuming to get the comprehensive deal with the States that was billed by Brexit backers as a major benefit of leaving the EU during the referendum.
Truss, a former Brexit opponent who had switched to becoming a supporter, said the deals with Delhi and other allies, were Britain’s trade priorities ahead of talks with the U.S. president at a United Nations summit on Wednesday.
“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 said flying with her to New York.”
Officials did not deny that Truss was effectively conceding it would be years before talks with the White House resume.
Biden had stalled on trade negotiations and, vocally proud of his Irish heritage, has raised concerns about the impact of Brexit and the Northern Ireland Protocol on the peace process.
The next presidential election is in 2024 and the more trade-focused Donald Trump might run again for the Republicans.
When Boris Johnson last visited the U.S. as prime minister, Biden downplayed the chances of a deal with Britain as he warned against tampering with the “Irish accords” amid a row over the post-Brexit protocol.
Truss named among her priorities the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), one of the world’s largest trading blocs which included Australia, Canada and Japan.
The other she cited was the Gulf Co-operation Council, which included Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and was the EU’s sixth largest export market.
Johnson and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi set a deadline for striking a deal by Diwali, the Hindu celebration being held on Oct. 23.
So far, Britain and the U.S. had been striking smaller state-by-state agreements, with Britain signing deals with Indiana and North Carolina.
But these were far less ambitious than the comprehensive free trade deal touted by Brexit supporters during the 2016 referendum.
One of the issues facing future talks was Truss’s threat to override parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which the EU says would break international law.
Senior figures in Biden’s Democratic party have warned a trade deal could be jeopardised by Britain single-handedly tearing up the agreement, which was part of the Brexit divorce deal.
While in New York to attend the UN General Assembly (UNGA), Truss is also set to have talks with French President Emmanuel Macron and the EU’s Ursula von der Leyen.
These were bound to prominently feature Brexit.
Truss would meet Macron on Tuesday, before seeing Biden and von der Leyen on Wednesday.
She had been set to talk to the U.S. president in Britain over the weekend as he visited for the queen’s funeral, but the meeting was postponed.
Labour’s Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy, who was also attending UNGA, said.
“After being snubbed by the Biden administration within her first weeks in office, Liz Truss urgently needs to wake up to the damage her reckless approach to foreign policy is doing to the UK’s national interest.
“The Prime Minister must use the UNGA to bring the UK back in from the cold and begin rebuilding our country’s diplomatic influence.”