UK-US trade warning: Major dilemma threatens to ruin post-Brexit deal with Donald Trump

Talks aimed at striking a post-Brexit deal between the UK and the US will start today after being delayed for weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic. Professor Anand Menon, Director of the UK in a Changing Europe group, spoke to BBC Radio London about the difficulties of negotiating trade deals remotely. He also warned that talks with Donald Trump could encounter stumbling blocks much bigger and fundamental than just operating virtually.

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Professor Menon told the BBC: “A large proportion of freight that is traded internationally goes on passenger planes.

“There aren’t many passenger planes flying at the moment so volumes of international trade have fallen

“So it is, at this moment, far far harder to trade with countries a long way away than it was before the pandemic.

“So the circumstances aren’t great.”

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He continued: “There’s another uncertainty about things with the United States.

“We don’t know what the attitude of the US towards trade is going to be coming out of coronavirus.

“You’ve heard a lot of stuff from the administration along the lines of ‘we should no longer be dependent on foreign suppliers for medical supplies’,

“So it could be that this whole pandemic pushes countries into being more protectionist.”

The expert added: “They may become more suspicious of trade.

“Signing a trade deal is obviously good, increasing trade will be good for the domestic economy.

“But all those factors means that more trade with the United States will not be of a volume to make up for the trade we lose with the European Union when we leave the single market and customs union.”

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Professor Menon used the EU as an example of somewhere where the impact of the pandemic may change how trade is done and negotiated.

He said: “Countries tend to trade most with countries close to them.

“Geography isn’t going to change so, in that sense, yes we’ll continue to trade with them.

“But the EU is having a very rocky crisis, it didn’t look much like a union at the beginning of the pandemic.

“And going forward, the experience of the crisis has led to some remarkable changes of opinion about the organisation.”

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