President Donald Trump is changing his opinion about a free trade agreement with the European Union. The Times reported on Saturday (22 April) that there has been a realization in the Trump administration that an FTA with the world’s largest free trade bloc would be much more important to the US interests than a post-Brexit deal with Britain. London will not be free to negotiate new trade agreements until after it has left the bloc in 2019.
A US-UK free trade deal would thus be pushed aside after German Chancellor Angela Merkel convinced President Trump that negotiations on a deal with the EU would be easier than he had previously thought. Moreover, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has recently met with his American counterpart in Washington and said that a US-EU trade deal could be finalized soon. He added that there had been some relaxation regarding this matter in the White House and believed that a progress would be made when the world’s financial leaders meet in Hamburg in July under the German leadership.
A quickly negotiated FTA between the US and Europe would be a major blow to the United Kingdom, which was hoping to develop deeper trade ties with the US after Theresa May became the first foreign leader to meet the newly appointed Donald Trump in January. Trade became a hot topic for Britain after the then-US President Barack Obama said that the UK would go to “the back of the queue” were it to leave the bloc. Pro-Brexit campaigners then argued that his comment was a meddling intervention in British affairs, claiming that Britain would be able to negotiate free trade deals with major economies swiftly.