US President Trump keen on trade deal with post-Brexit Britain

Demonstrators protesting against the visit of President Trump marching along the street in Whitehall in Central London yesterday, on the second day of his three-day state visit to Britain. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, fla
Mr Trump and his wife Melania, flanked by British Prime Minister Theresa May and her husband Philip, in Mrs May's office in Downing Street yesterday. The visitors were shown a handwritten parchment copy of the US Declaration of Independence, which is one of only two known to exist.PHOTO: REUTERS
Demonstrators protesting against the visit of President Trump marching along the street in Whitehall in Central London yesterday, on the second day of his three-day state visit to Britain. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, fla
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, flanked by United States President Donald Trump and his wife Melania, with Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, at the state banquet at Buckingham Palace on Monday night. PHOTO: REUTERS
Demonstrators protesting against the visit of President Trump marching along the street in Whitehall in Central London yesterday, on the second day of his three-day state visit to Britain. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, fla
Demonstrators protesting against the visit of President Trump marching along the street in Whitehall in Central London yesterday, on the second day of his three-day state visit to Britain. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

But he hints, after meeting with May, that it will involve opening up UK's health service

United States President Donald Trump emerged from a meeting yesterday with outgoing British Prime Minister Theresa May talking up a "phenomenal trade deal" between the two countries once the United Kingdom leaves the European Union.

But he also hinted that any such deal would have to include opening up Britain's cherished National Health Service (NHS) - a proposition certain to stir controversy.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Mrs May at London's Foreign Office after a day of meetings, he said trade between the two long-time allies could be "two and even three times what we are doing now".

"There is tremendous potential in that trade deal," he said.

Mrs May was similarly welcoming of a trade deal.

"Mr President, you and I agreed the first time we met that we should aim for an ambitious free-trade agreement when the UK leaves the EU," she said.

Both appeared to gloss over the intricacies involved in such a deal as well as the fact that Brexit remains very much an unknown proposition.

And even before talks get started, critics were already voicing concerns over what might happen if the US demands access for its companies to the NHS.

When asked if the entire economy needed to be on the table in future trade talks, including the health service, Mr Trump said: "When you are dealing with trade, everything is on the table. So, NHS or anything else, a lot more than that."

NO RESTRICTIONS

When you are dealing with trade, everything is on the table.

U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, on future trade talks that could include Britain's National Health Service.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn swiftly condemned the idea: "We will fight with every last breath of our body to defend the principle, for the principle of a health service free at the point of need to everybody, as a human right."

After a day of pomp, it was down to politics for Mr Trump on the second day of his state visit to Britain.

The state visit - promised by Mrs May two years ago and meant as a celebration of the special relationship between the two countries - had turned into a highly unconventional one, given that it comes at a chaotic time for Britain.

Mrs May is to resign on Friday over her failure to deliver on Brexit.

Mr Trump said that he backs Brexit and believes the UK will leave the EU.

Asked whether he thought Brexit would take place by the current October deadline, he said: "I think it will happen, and I believe the Prime Minister has brought it to a very good point where something will take place in the not-too-distant future."

The American President had other thoughts on British politics, too. He repeated his endorsement of Conservative Party front runner Boris Johnson.

"So, I know Boris. I like him. I have liked him for a long time. I think he would do a very good job."

"I know Jeremy," he added, referring to Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who is also vying for the top job. "I think he would do a good job."

 

On the topic of 5G technology provider Huawei, Mr Trump said the US and Britain would come to an agreement and "work out any differences", dismissing any suggestions that this would threaten any intelligence sharing between the two allies.

He said: "We did discuss it, I see absolutely no limitations, we have never had limitations, this is a truly great ally and partner, and we will have no problem with that."

Earlier yesterday, Mr Trump visited the Churchill War Rooms beneath Westminster, and was also given a framed copy of then British Prime Minister Winston Churchill's blueprint for the United Nations - the Atlantic Charter agreed with then American President Franklin D. Roosevelt in August 1941. It sets out principles of free trade and collective security that formed the basis of the post-war peace.

Earlier in the day, Mrs May and her husband Philip also showed Mr Trump and his wife Melania a handwritten parchment copy of the US Declaration of Independence, which is one of only two known to exist, at the Prime Minister's office.

On Monday night, Mr Trump and his family were feted at a lavish banquet hosted by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 05, 2019, with the headline 'Trump keen on trade deal with post-Brexit Britain'. Print Edition | Subscribe