Anti-Trump hysteria must not block UK-US trade deal

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This article was originally published on The Commentator

Leaving the EU and its Customs Union will bring back control of trade policy to Britain. Striking new trade deals with non-EU countries is therefore an exciting opportunity presented by Brexit. It is also an important aspect of the Prime Minister’s vision of a ‘global Britain’.

The United States, already our largest single trading partner, is a principal candidate for such a deal. 13 percent of total UK exports go to the US, even though there is no formal trade deal currently in place.

Some critics of the Government’s Brexit approach are sceptical about the prospect of such a trade deal, and point to President Trump’s ‘America First’ approach, including his recently proposed tariffs on steel and aluminium.

However, the American administration’s position on trade is more nuanced than the pessimists suggest. While Trump is critical of supposedly unfair and unbalanced deals negotiated by his predecessors, he is very keen to strike his own agreements with countries he likes.

When the President last met Prime Minister Theresa May at the World Economic Forum in Davos, he re-iterated his enthusiasm for a US-UK trade deal, predicting a “tremendous increase” in trade between the two countries. He expressed his frustration that Britain is not able to negotiate until we are out of the EU.

Unfortunately, this promising opportunity of increased future prosperity is in danger from opposition on several fronts.

Left-wing politicians, profoundly opposed to Donald Trump’s policies and character, are obstructing the increase in ties with our main ally. The Government has tried to charm Trump — who loves publicity and has deep respect for the Queen — by inviting him on a State visit. London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn voiced opposition, with Khan saying a Trump visit “would not be welcomed”.

Who is Sadiq Khan to suggest who the Queen invites to our country, and last time we checked, Jeremy Corbyn is not yet the leader of our Government.

Corbyn and Khan should recognise Governments need to deal with all sorts of leaders to pursue their interests. In the past, the Queen has received Chinese Presidents, Communist dictators and Japanese Emperors on state visits. Only this week, Britain has rolled out the red carpet for the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman. These invitations are not made as fanatical endorsements of their recipients, but are merely a necessary aspect of pursuing the national interest.

Whatever anyone’s views on Trump’s policy agenda or past behaviour, it is surely right to invite the leader of our longstanding, foremost ally on the world stage to be a formal guest of our country on a State visit. This is especially so when a trade deal is potentially at stake.

Perhaps of more concern is the apparent failure of our supposedly impartial diplomats to help enhance links with the US Government. According to the Daily Mail, the British Ambassador in Washington declined to show up to an event to launch the Royal Commonwealth Society of the United States recently.

Despite the attendance of several Senators and members of President Trump’s Cabinet, not one member of the UK diplomatic corps was present. This was reportedly regarded as “a snub” by the Americans. Our Ambassadors are employed to represent and further our country’s interests. This ridiculous boycott demonstrates a clear failure to fulfil this responsibility.

Politicians and diplomats alike must leave aside any personal distaste for Trump’s late-night tweets, and get behind the drive for a mutually beneficial trade deal.

A further impediment to our trade relationship with the United States is the campaign by Remain-supporting MPs and Peers to keep us closely aligned with the EU’s economic structures. Joining a Customs Union with the EU (as Corbyn has proposed), or aligning with EU regulations, would prevent Britain negotiating its own trade deals.

Britain needs to take back control, with an independent trade policy and regulatory flexibility in order to reach advantageous agreements.

A free trade agreement between the United Kingdom and the United States would be a considerable economic gain arising from Brexit. At a time of rising protectionism, a Global Britain can lead the way in international free trade, simultaneously aiding our own consumers and exporters.

US officials are eager to agree a quick and comprehensive deal. Politicians and diplomats must not let personal political views override Britain’s economic advancement. It is vital we Get Britain Out of the European Union’s economic stranglehold so as to make the most of all opportunities.

Peter Lyon is a Research Executive at cross-party grassroots campaign Get Britain Out

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