Business Insider Edition

Boris Johnson's plans for a Brexit trade deal with Trump are 'in breach of European law' warns Trade Secretary

Adam Bienkov , Business Insider US
 Jul 15, 2019, 01:54 PM
Current frontrunner for next prime minister, the former foreign secretary Boris Johnson
  • Boris Johnson plans an immediate trade deal with Trump after the UK leaves the EU on October 31.
  • Sources close to Johnson say he would travel to the US soon after becoming prime minister to strike a limited deal.
  • However, the UK's International Trade Secretary warns that doing so would break the law.
  • The UK is forbidden from entering international trade negotiations while still an EU member.
  • For more stories, see www.businessinsider.co.za.

Boris Johnson's plans to strike an immediate Brexit trade deal with Donald Trump are in "breach of European law," with a UK-US deal likely to take years to complete, the International Trade Secretary has warned.

The Times reported on Monday that the frontrunner to replace Theresa May as prime minister, plans to negotiate a deal with the US prior to the United Kingdom's scheduled exit date from the European Union on October 31.

"There is no question that the moment we leave on the 31st we should be in a position to get some kind of arrangement with the US," a source on Johnson's campaign told the paper.

However, entering negotiations with a third country prior to Brexit would be in breach of the UK's treaty obligations as an EU member state, Liam Fox warned on Monday.

"We can't negotiate anything with the US until after we have left the European Union," Fox told the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme on Monday.

"It would be in breach of European law for us to do that."

Sources close to Johnson suggested that the plan was to strike a "limited" deal with the US in just one area of goods only.

However, Fox, who campaigned for Brexit alongside Johnson, dismissed this saying that any deal would probably take years to pass through the US Congress.

"I've no idea what that [limited deal] would be," Fox told the BBC.

"That will take time and you have got the added complication, just remember, we are now getting very close to the American pre-election year where it is quite hard to get things through Congress so even if you negotiate them quickly you wouldn't be able to ratify them."

Last month Fox also rubbished Johnson's claim that the UK could use an international trading rule called "GATT 24" to keep trading with the EU on zero tariffs in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

"It is important that public debate on this topic is conducted on the basis of fact rather than supposition," he said.

Johnson has previously sought to downplay fears about a US trade deal weakening UK food and agricultural standards.

Under US food standards, products can contain certain amounts of foreign bodies, including maggots, insect fragments and mould.

For example US producers are allowed to include up to 30 insect fragments in a 100-gram jar of peanut butter; as well as 11 rodent hairs in a 25-gram container of paprika; or 3 milligrams of mammalian excreta (typically rat or mouse excrement) per each pound of ginger.

Johnson has recently sought to downplay such fears by insisting that he would demand the US meets UK standards instead as part of any deal.

However, Fox dismissed this, telling the BBC: "If you go to the US and say we are going to take any discussions on agricultural access off the table they will close down pretty quickly."

Fears about the National Health Service also being included within a trade deal were heightened recently when Trump told reporters during his recent state visit to the UK that it would be "on the table" in trade talks.

Trump later withdrew the comment.

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