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US trade deal would not offset potential losses of hard Brexit, warns Cable

The Lib Dem leader also said there were “parallels” between the current economic situation and the start of the 2008 financial crisis.

A potential trade deal between the US and UK is “not remotely comparable to the potential losses” Britain will sustain if it withdraws from the EU through a hard Brexit, the Liberal Democrat leader has warned.

Sir Vince Cable claimed any agreement struck with America would not offset the potential losses of leaving the European single market and customs union.

His comments came as US President Donald Trump talked up the prospects of a “very big and exciting” post-Brexit trade deal between the US and UK, amid controversy over whether Britain would have to relax food standards to secure an agreement.

Sir Vince told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme: “Well, I think we’ve learnt in the last few months to take anything President Trump says with a pinch of salt.

“It is certainly possible that there could post-Brexit be a trade deal with the US, it’s one of the few that might actually happen, unlike China, India, which are much more difficult.”

He added: “It could be significant, it’s not remotely comparable to the potential losses if we withdraw from the European single market and the customs union, but it would provide potentially some trade benefits.”

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(Jonathan Brady/PA )

Sir Vince said it was a “bargaining situation”, with the Americans wanting access to the UK market “at the expense of what a lot of people here would regard as safety standards for foods”.

Scientific evidence, he argued, had to be regarded as the basis for consumer standards, adding: “The more food you import from the US, the less is produced by British farmers.”

He added: “I’m not denigrating the idea of free trade with the United States, but it doesn’t offset the potential losses we’ll have if we withdraw from the European Union through a hard Brexit.”

Sir Vince said there were “parallels” between the current economic situation and the start of the 2008 financial crisis.

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(Jonathan Brady/PA)

He singled out rising personal debt, but pointed to the “big difference” between previous “reckless” mortgage lending and current personal and car loans.

Sir Vince said: “If the economy really slows down badly, goes into recession or alternatively interest rates go up, a lot of people are going to be hurt quite badly and that is a worry.”

The British economy, he argued, was being kept going not by investment, which was needed, but by personal borrowing, creating a “long-term problem” of risk.

Sir Vince said his party was “not remotely considering” a coalition either with the Conservatives or Labour.

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