James Forsyth

A US / UK free trade deal is the big prize for Theresa May

A US / UK free trade deal is the big prize for Theresa May
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Theresa May’s team will be basking this morning in the write-ups of her successful visit to Washington. As I say in The Sun this morning, the big prize for her is a US / UK free trade deal.

Government ministers think that, given the political will on both sides, the deal could be negotiated in just eight months. There is also confidence in Whitehall that the US will be prepared to grant an exemption for public services which would ‘protect’ the NHS. This should do much to reduce the intensity of the opposition to the deal.

Trump’s protectionist rhetoric is often cited as a reason why a US / UK deal won’t happen, or will be very limited. But worrying as Trump’s protectionist rhetoric is for the world economy, it doesn’t actually mean much when it comes to a US/UK deal. No one in the old manufacturing, rust belt states that Trump flipped to win the presidency will feel their job is threatened by a trade agreement with the UK.

The other area on which May wants to push Trump is Nato, which he has previously labelled obsolete. Crucially, Trump didn’t dissent when she said that he had told her he backed Nato 100%. This enables May to go back to European leaders and say that she is shaping Trump’s views to the Western alliance’s advantage, not just cosying up to him. This should, in turn, help her when it comes to the Brexit negotiations.