Sunday 25 March 2018

May turns to Trump for immigration and trade deal to boost hand in Brexit talks

British PM Theresa May will meet new US President Donald Trump on Friday. Photo: PA
British PM Theresa May will meet new US President Donald Trump on Friday. Photo: PA

Peter Dominiczak

Theresa May and Donald Trump are to discuss a US-UK trade deal that slashes tariffs and makes it easier for hundreds of thousands of workers to move between the two countries.

The British prime minister will on Friday become the first foreign leader to hold talks with the new US president at the White House, following assurances by Mr Trump's team that he wants to do a major free trade deal with Britain that can be announced in the weeks after Brexit.

One option understood to be under discussion in Whitehall is to agree to cut - or even drop - tariffs on items which Britain and America already export to one another.

Sources believe any agreement on tariffs would give Ms May significant leverage in her negotiations with Brussels and allow her to demand that EU leaders give Britain a good deal.

Government sources also said that Ms May wants to explore ways in which it can be made easier for US citizens to work in the UK and vice versa.

There are currently about one million Americans working in Britain and about one million UK citizens in the United States. "We can grow those numbers," a senior UK government source said.

Read more: Billionaire investor George Soros predicts Theresa May 'will not last' as UK Prime Minister

The job creation plan in both countries would allow Mr Trump to stand by his "America first" pledge, whilst still agreeing to a deal that benefits both America and the UK.

Ms May said yesterday that she would hold discussions with Mr Trump about trade, terrorism and the crisis in Syria.

"There will be many issues for us to talk about, because obviously the special relationship between the UK and the US has been strong for many years," Ms May told BBC One's 'The Andrew Marr Show'.


"We'll have opportunity to talk about our possible future trading relationship, but also some of the world's challenges that we will face, issues like defeating terrorism, the conflict in Syria."

Ms May added: "What I think is important is that when I sit down with Donald Trump I'm going to be able to talk about how we can build on that special relationship. He's already said to me that he wants to see a very strong relationship between the UK and the US going into the future. There are issues that we will work together on in the future."

Government insiders said that as part of a working group designing a possible US-UK trade deal, officials will attempt to find goods which the two countries already export to each other to see if it is possible to agree "lower or even zero tariffs".

Ms May made clear she will discuss the importance of the Nato defence alliance, an organisation that Mr Trump has repeatedly criticised. She said: "I've spoken to him about Nato. Nato is very important. Nato has been the bulwark of our security here in Europe and we work together in Nato.

"We've both made the point before about contributions being made by countries. The United Kingdom is spending 2pc of its GDP on defence. I believe that's important."

In a phone call yesterday with Jens Stoltenberg, the Nato secretary general, Ms May repeated that she intended to emphasise the continued importance of the alliance in her meeting with Mr Trump.

Read more: Britain's 'ambitious' path is not always understood, says May

Ms May also told Andrew Marr that she would tell Mr Trump when she found his behaviour "unacceptable" - a criticism she had already levelled at him over comments he had made in the past about women.

Asked if she would raise the issue at their White House meeting, Ms May said: "I have already said that some of the comments that Donald Trump has made in relation to women are unacceptable, some of those he himself has apologised for.

"When I sit down, I think the biggest statement that will be made about the role of women is the fact that I will be there as a female prime minister, prime minister of the United Kingdom, directly talking to him about the interests that we share." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Also in Business