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US vote likely to impact UK-EU trade deals

By EARLE GALE in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-11-05 09:32

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomes US President Donald Trump at the NATO leaders summit in Watford, Britain Dec 4, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

The United Kingdom government closely watched the count after the United States' presidential election because of the impact the result could have on post-Brexit trade deals.

According to Britain's Daily Express newspaper, deals with both the US and the European Union hung in the balance. The paper said a win for Joe Biden would "spell trouble" for Prime Minister Boris Johnson's hope of a trade deal with Washington. Also, Biden's strong support of the peace process on the island of Ireland reportedly meant he would likely oppose Britain striking a deal with the EU, if it would lead to a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

Jason Reifler, a professor of political science at the University of Exeter, told radio station LBC he too believed a post-Brexit free-trade deal with the US would be less likely with Biden in the White House, because he will favor Europe.

"I think that a Biden win means the core special relationship and security relationship between the United States and Europe is fully intact and restored," he said.

But Robert "Woody" Johnson, the US ambassador to the UK, said he thought a post-Brexit, transatlantic trade deal was possible, regardless of whether Donald Trump or Biden is the next president, saying on Tuesday: "I'm confident our countries can get this done no matter what happens (today)."

Meanwhile, the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said on Wednesday that a free-trade agreement between the bloc and the UK remained elusive after two weeks of intensified talks with his British counterpart, David Frost.

The Reuters news agency quoted a British government spokesperson as saying: "There are significant gaps that do remain between our positions in the most difficult areas, and there is much work still to be done if we are to bridge those gaps."

The Financial Times quoted a European Commission spokesman as saying: "Negotiations are continuing on all the different topics."

The face-to-face talks return to London on the weekend with the two sides still at loggerheads on fishing rights in British waters and on rules limiting state aid to companies, the Financial Times reported.

It said an EU diplomat said both sides were still "a long way apart".

Brussels confirmed on Tuesday that Britain had not replied to a letter from the European Commission sent last month that warned the UK's Internal Market Bill violated last year's Brexit treaty with regard to Northern Ireland. The EU set Tuesday as a deadline for a reply and said on Wednesday it is now considering its next steps.

While talks in search of a trade deal with the EU continue, the Guardian newspaper said devolved administrations, local authorities, and businesses in the UK are at risk of being overwhelmed on Jan 1.

The paper said the Institute for Government think tank said in its report Brexit: How Ready is the UK? that local councils, trading standards officers, and port health authorities will be overstretched by additional Brexit duties coming at the same time as a resurgence of the virus.

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