Johnson Set to Squeeze in Trade Talks with US Before Brexit Deal

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LONDON – United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to formally open trade talks with the United States before he kick-starts a fresh round of Brexit negotiations with the European Union, The Telegraph reported, citing sources.

British civil servants have come up with tips for ministers on the “pros and cons” of negotiating things with America, the edition noted, adding the argument cited in favor of such a roadmap was the importance of showing the US that “we mean business and we are not messing around”.

Another aim is to not be “trapped” by Brussels, like former Prime Minister Theresa May was and “negate some of the concerns of the EU trying to play the ball in the way they want”, the source said, while another, specially briefed on the plans in Washington, said it was “impatient to get started”.

According to the British newspaper, the “chapter heads” in charge of separate parts of a trade deal must have already been appointed and further “matched” with their American counterparts in a bid to speed up the process. US diplomats purportedly believe the only thing that separates Johnson from engaging in trade talks with Washington is Cabinet authorization, which he is understood to be currently seeking.

The Brexit and Trade Cabinet Committee is expected to meet on Thursday to discuss the two sides’ objectives, right ahead of Johnson’s scheduled trip to the White House in the second or third week of February. According to The Telegraph, Washington’s push for negotiations every fourth week signals its determination to press ahead with trade talks.

The EU earlier warned that its own trade mandate would not be agreed and formally adopted until February 25 with the bloc intending to start trade talks in March. The EU has published a series of slides outlining its own negotiating goals stipulating much tougher demands for the UK to follow Brussels’ rules on tax, state aid, and environmental protection in exchange for a “zero-tariff” Free Trade Agreement.

Johnson, commenting on the timeframe, told European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen earlier in January that he was looking forward to inking a free trade agreement with the EU and that he was ready to start the negotiations as soon as the United Kingdom finalizes its divorce from the bloc by the January 31 deadline, the premier’s statement reads.

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