Trump, May agree to talks on post-Brexit deal

President Trump made his debut as a statesman last Friday, with Mrs May the first foreign leader to visit his White House. The British PM has been keen to secure an early commitment to the UK-US "special relationship" from Mr Trump.
President Trump made his debut as a statesman last Friday, with Mrs May the first foreign leader to visit his White House. The British PM has been keen to secure an early commitment to the UK-US "special relationship" from Mr Trump.PHOTO: NYTIMES

US President assures British leader current trade terms will continue when UK leaves EU

LONDON • President Donald Trump has promised Mrs Theresa May that Britain will be able to continue trading with the US on the same terms as it does now when it leaves the EU.

The Prime Minister's Office said the offer, made over lunch at the White House after the two leaders' joint news conference last Friday, is designed to offer businesses certainty as they prepare for Brexit.

The leaders also agreed to begin work on a trade negotiation agreement, preparing the ground for a deal once Britain is allowed to make its own arrangements - something it cannot do while still a member of the European Union.

The United States is Britain's biggest national trading partner.

President Trump made his debut as a statesman last Friday, with Mrs May the first foreign leader to visit his White House.

Her decision to meet Mr Trump just one week after his inauguration has caused controversy at home. Mr Trump has been condemned by European politicians of all stripes for his comments about women, Muslims and the use of torture.

FIRST STEP

This is the first step leading to a future trade deal with the US which could provide huge benefits to our economic muscle and will give businesses additional certainty and confidence.

MRS THERESA MAY

Mrs May has been keen to secure an early commitment to the UK-US "special relationship" from Mr Trump.

"President Trump pledged to ensure that the trade arrangements that the UK has with the US through its membership of the EU will continue in place at the moment the United Kingdom leaves," Mrs May's team said in a statement.

Meanwhile, various measures are being considered, including mutual recognition of qualifications, removal of cellphone roaming charges and elimination of blocks on the trade of some agricultural goods,according to an official who asked not to be identified.

"This is the first step leading to a future trade deal with the US which could provide huge benefits to our economic muscle and will give businesses additional certainty and confidence," Mrs May said.

The US gets £47.3 billion (S$85 billion) of UK goods a year, exceeding Britain's next largest partner, Germany, by almost £17 billion, according to a UK government report.

London and Washington will set up joint working groups on what can be achieved before Brexit.

The idea of the negotiation agreement, according to Mrs May's office, is to resolve outstanding questions about what could be covered in a free trade agreement.

The office said the conversation over lunch last week had focused on the Brexit vote, which Mr Trump told Mrs May was going to be wonderful for Britain. They also discussed the relationship between the former leaders of their countries in the 1980s - Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.

At the end of the lunch, said Mrs May's office, Mr Trump told the British Premier that he liked to keep menu cards as souvenirs.

He then handed that day's card to a member of staff with instructions to keep it safe, in memory of the time he had lunch with the British Prime Minister.

BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2017, with the headline 'Trump, May agree to talks on post-Brexit deal'. Print Edition | Subscribe