As October 31st, the date set for Britain to leave the EU with or without a deal emerges, Brexit was one of the many issues that divided G7 leaders this weekend. Days before the summit, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made progress with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She told him that a compromise could be reached on the Irish border as the prospect of no-deal dawns upon the EU. However, French President Emmanuel Macron insisted that Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement is not up for renegotiation in the limited period of time leading up to October.
With Europe’s two leading superpowers divided on the best way to approach Brexit, Johnson could depend upon one useful ally to aid his country’s post-Brexit ambitions, regardless of whether the UK leaves the EU in October with or without a deal: Donald Trump. CNN reports that he told reporters ‘he’s going to be a fantastic Prime Minister’ when he asked them if they know who Boris is. He added: ‘He needs no advice. He’s the right man for the job. I’ve been saying that for a long time. It didn’t make your predecessor happy.’ CNN suggests Trump has finally found a leader who can match him in style if not substance.
However, the Prime Minister made clear to the President that he would like to witness an end to the current trade war the US is having with the EU and China in particular. Despite this, their breakfast was no doubt the highlight of this weekend’s G7 summit as it was the first face-to-face meeting both leaders have had since Boris was elected by the Conservative Party faithful as Prime Minister. Trump has promised the UK ‘a very big trade deal’ and that Britain is losing ‘the anchor round its ankle.’
The meeting between the two leaders at the G7 signifies that the US-UK trade deal is about to become a reality. It was the only positive outcome to emerge from this weekend’s summit, especially as the European Council’s President, Donald Tusk, maintained the Irish backstop is not up for renegotiation whilst attending the G7. Both the Prime Minister and the President will meet again in September at the UN General Assembly in New York in September to sign a precursor agreement before a full trade deal is signed in the next nine to 12 months. This was confirmed by Trump’s adviser, Professor Ted Malloch, who told the Daily Express the UK’s International Trade Development Secretary Liz Truss and Ambassador Robert Lighthizer have been meeting behind the scenes.
Although the NHS remains off limits in this trade agreement, the reason why an increase in US-UK trade was the only positive outcome from the G7 summit is because of the increased benefits it will bring to both nations. The Daily Express suggests there are a number of barriers for British products entering the US, which includes Melton Mowbray pork pies, beer, cabotage, insurance products and more. The US Trade Representative suggests the US enjoys a trade surplus with Britain worth $19 billion in 2018. The Initiative for Free Trade think-tank suggests a trade deal that achieves maximum market barrier reduction and enables market integration that does not encroach on both nations’ sovereignty to legislate in ways that do not discriminate against imported goods, services or capital, is a huge positive.
Whilst this weekend’s G7 summit has been overshadowed by US-Chinese trade tensions, Trump’s and Boris’s meeting reminds us there is hope that there is still a place for free trade in the world. This occasion will be remembered in history as one vital step towards progress regarding the upcoming post-Brexit US-UK trade deal.