US trade deal not enough to make up for Brexit economic damage, says minister
David Lidington’s comments came as the president of the CBI warned against rushing into “dog-eat-dog” trade deals.
A trade agreement with the United States will not be enough to make up for the economic damage caused by Brexit, a Cabinet minister has said.
US President Donald Trump said he believed a deal could be done “very, very quickly” when he met Prime Minister Theresa May at the G20 summit in Hamburg on Saturday.
However, Justice Secretary David Lidington said while a UK-US deal would be a “very good thing”, it would not be “enough on its own” to make up for leaving the EU.
Mr Lidington’s comments came as the president of the CBI warned against rushing into “dog-eat-dog” trade deals and claimed British firms were still in the dark about the business environment they will face after Brexit.
Asked if a US trade deal could make up most of the damage done by leaving the EU, Mr Lidington told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “It wouldn’t be enough on its own, no. But it would be a very good thing to have, as would trade deals with the emerging economies of Asia and Latin America.
“Certainly, one of the frustrations sometimes about being part of the EU is that while the mass of the EU gives it some leverage in international trade, it moves sometimes at a tortoise-like pace because all the member states have to agree a common negotiating position.”
The UK on its own would be more flexible and there would be greater opportunities for trade deals, he said.
At the G20, Mrs May said the US, Japan, China and India had shown “great interest in working with us on trade arrangements in the future”.
Brexit Secretary David Davis has promised a trade deal with Brussels which would deliver the “exact same benefits” as EU membership but Mr Lidington said: “That will depend not just on us but on the EU 27.”
CBI president Paul Drechsler said businesses were “no wiser” about what the future trading relationship will look like than they were a year ago, and defended the organisation’s call for a transitional deal retaining membership of the single market and customs union.
Mr Drechsler told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “As soon as somebody has the plan then, of course, we can know what the future holds. At the moment we don’t.”
On the prospect of a US deal, he said: “One has to recognise not every trade deal is necessarily a good and fair deal for both parties.”
German business leaders also cast doubt on ministers’ claims that lobbying by the country’s industries will help secure a Brexit trade deal.
Dieter Kempf, president of the BDI, the federation of German industries, told the Observer: “Defending the single market, a key European project, must be the priority for the European Union. Europe must maintain the integrity of the single market and its four freedoms: goods, capital, services, and labour.”