Tuesday 12 December 2017

'No hope' of Britain striking deal with US while still in EU

David O’Sullivan
David O’Sullivan

Shona Murray

The EU's chief representative in the US has poured cold water over British and American plans for an immediate bi-lateral trade agreement as long as the UK is a member of the EU.

According to EU law, as a full member of the European Union, the UK won't be able to negotiate a trade deal with the US until Brexit is complete.

Earlier in the week, US president-elect, Donald Trump said he favoured the US "very quickly" doing a bi-lateral trade deal with the UK.

However, as long as the UK remains a member of the EU, it cannot negotiate any trade deal, as the EU has full competence over matters to do with trade.

The "idea of a deal with the United Kingdom is interesting", said EU Ambassador to the US, David O'Sullivan. But, "for the moment, the UK is still a member of the EU", and until such a time as they leave, they are "not in a position to begin negotiations" with any other country.

And while, we know a "little bit more of what the UK intends to do" regarding Brexit, after the speech by UK Prime Minister Theresa May during the week, "we still don't know precisely what will be the trading relationship between the United Kingdom and the EU-27 once the UK has left."

It will be "in function of that" new trade agreement it can be determined whether a trade deal between the UK and US "is possible."

But, "we've some way to travel before we get to the point" where a trade deal between the UK and US would become a "reality", warned Mr O'Sullivan.

President-elect Donald Trump also said that Brexit was a "great thing" for the UK; a comment likely to trigger concern European member states, which have traditionally been close allies of successive US administrations, in spite of certain disagreements over foreign policy and the recent Iraq war.

While Mr Trump believes Brexit is a positive move for the UK, it poses serious challenges to the economic and political landscape of Ireland, where the UK and Ireland's weekly trade of €1.2bn for goods and services.

Meanwhile Mr O'Sullivan said Ireland's EU partners are "sympathetic" to the fact that Ireland is in a "particular" position as a result of Brexit, and pointed to the fact that the EU's lead negotiator for Brexit, former EU Commissioner, Michel Barnier has stated his recognition of Ireland's situation.

However, "it should not be forgotten that the end of the day it was the decision of the United Kingdom to withdraw that has 'created the problem', it's not the other members of the EU who have created" the situation posed by Brexit.

Pointing out is not the EU's fault that Ireland finds itself in such a potentially perilous position.

Ireland will want to "preserve its interests as best it can" but "unfortunately there are consequences of the British decision that we are going to have to manage", said Mr O'Sullivan.

He also pointed to the fact that Ireland is not the only country with strong trade links with the UK, and that several eastern European countries have citizens employed in Britain, and they are also concerned for their futures.


"We should not forget that others have stakes in this too. Many of our continental partners trade with the UK, and many of our central and eastern European partners have got large numbers of people working and living in the UK and are very concerned about their future."

The future negotiation will be between the EU-27 and the UK, said Mr O'Sullivan and Ireland will "make its views well known within the 27", and it is highly likely that Ireland will get a "sympathetic hearing".

Shona Murray is Foreign Affairs Correspondent with Newstalk.

Irish Independent

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