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Trump has ‘huge appetite’ for trade deal with the UK, says Raab

The Foreign Secretary called in for a ‘preliminary chat’ in the Oval Office on first visit to US since assuming office.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab met Donald Trump (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab met Donald Trump (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

President Donald Trump has indicated a “huge appetite” for signing a free trade deal with Britain once it has left the EU, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said.

Mr Raab, making his first visit to the US since assuming office last month, said he had a “preliminary chat” with the president on Tuesday covering a range of issues from security to trade.

He said Mr Trump had been “effusive in his warmth” towards Britain and had expressed his “high regard” for Boris Johnson as Prime Minister.

The decision to invite Mr Raab into the Oval Office for an unscheduled meeting will be seen as a sign the president is keen to repair relations with the UK after they soured in the dying days of Theresa May’s premiership.

Mr Raab, who was in the White House to meet Vice President Mike Pence, said: “He called me into the Oval Office. He was effusive in his warmth for the United Kingdom.

“It’s amazing to hear an American president talk about our country in such warm terms. He expressed his high regard for Boris Johnson as a Prime Minister.

“We talked about all the things that we want to do together in the post-Brexit vision for the UK, whether it’s getting a free trade deal done and there’s obviously going to be a lot of work to make that happen. There’s a huge appetite on both sides to achieve that.

“And then all the range of security issues that we share in common and want to make sure we strengthen the relationship and build our capacity to tackle those issues together.”

Mr Trump’s relationship with Mrs May ended acrimoniously following the leak of diplomatic cables from the British ambassador to the US, Sir Kim Darroch, which were highly critical of his administration.

Sir Kim felt compelled to stand down after Mr Trump made clear the White House would no longer deal with him and Mr Johnson – at that stage the Tory leadership favourite – failed to offer him his unequivocal support.

The president also bitterly criticised Mrs May’s handling of the Brexit negotiations, accusing her of ignoring his advice.

Mr Raab’s visit to the White House came at the start of the second leg of a three-day visit to North America intended to “fire up” trade with Britain’s non-EU partners.

Following a meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Mr Raab said: “On defence, security and intelligence our countries trust each other more deeply. We work together more closely than any others.

“We in the UK really prize that relationship. We value it enormously and we really appreciate, both from the administration but also from the personal remarks you and the President made, that the friendship that we have between the UK and the US is something that we prize and we look forward to nurturing in the weeks, months and years ahead.”

Mr Raab added: “We will stay good friends, good neighbours, with our European partners. But we are at the same time determined to seize the global opportunities beyond Europe for the United Kingdom.”

After meeting Canadian foreign minister Chrystia Freeland in Toronto on Tuesday, he is due to travel to Mexico for further talks on Thursday.

PA

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