Boris Johnson has said that he expects negotiating a post-Brexit trade deal with the US to be a “tough old haggle”, but that he is confident Britain “will get there”.
The Prime Minister’s remarks come after Donald Trump’s national security adviser said the UK would be “first in line” for a deal with the US, possibly on a gradual “sector-by-sector” basis.
John Bolton, who met Mr Johnson in London on Monday, said the US could focus on striking bilateral trade deals in certain sectors such as manufacturing and car-making where the two countries may agree, and work out more complicated areas later.
The PM, speaking during a visit to Leeds, said he wanted to see trade with countries around the world and with Europe after Britain leaves the EU.
“We have fantastic opportunities to open that up. Actually the US market is growing very fast for the UK, but they still ban haggis, for Heaven’s sake.
“In the US there are all sorts of opportunities we have to open up trade, but that also goes for companies around the world, but the single biggest deal we need to do is a free trade deal agreement with our friends and partners over the Channel.”
He added: “In my experience the Americans are very tough negotiators indeed, and we will do a great deal with them and it will open up opportunities for UK business, particularly service companies in the US, but it will be a tough old haggle – but we will get there.”
However, Mr Johnson’s Brexit plans could be blown off course early next month after a judge agreed to fast-track a hearing on whether the Prime Minister can legally suspend Parliament to force through a no-deal exit.
Anti-Brexit campaigners – including more than 70 MPs and peers – filed a petition at the Court of Session in Edinburgh to attempt to stop Mr Johnson from being able to prorogue Parliament.
Judge Lord Raymond Doherty agreed to expedite the timetable for the legal challenge to take place, setting the date for the substantive hearing as Friday September 6 – in what is shaping up to be a tumultuous week in Westminster.
MPs will return from their summer break on Tuesday September 3, and Labour could call a confidence vote in the Government any day that week.
The following day, the Government will provide a progress report on power-sharing in Northern Ireland, which will be debated within five days.
A Government source said Downing Street anticipated that Monday September 9 – when MPs are likely to discuss the report in the Commons – could be the first major legislative showdown over a no-deal Brexit.
Some insiders speculate that the European Union is watching and waiting to see the outcome of any bids to prevent a no-deal Brexit in the Commons before it considers making amendments to the beleaguered Withdrawal Agreement.
Downing Street reiterated on Monday that Mr Johnson remains “very clear in his determination to want to get a deal” and said he will hold talks with EU leaders over the phone in the coming days.