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A new President is needed in the White House for the “Special Relationship” between the UK and USA to thrive again, a leading political commentator warned this week. An audience at the Legatum Institute’s discussion on the future of the UK-US relationship and trade were told that a Republican President or “even a different Democrat President” would look more favourably on the alliance with Britain which was described as “the most important in the world”.
The event was held just hours after it had been revealed that Biden has shelved any discussions of a UK/ US trade talk until after the Presidential election in November with little optimism he would start them if he is returned to the White House.
It was the latest chapter in a saga which has seen Joe Biden painted as “anti-British” with some speculating it is because he emphasises his Irish roots even though most of his forebears come from England.
But the Legatum event, which featured former Defence Secretary Liam Fox, also heard a warning that no US President is likely to be keen to pursue trade deals.
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Fred de Fossard, Head of Legatum’s British Prosperity Unit, who chaired the discussion, told the audience that on a recent trip to Washington that Britain’s relationship with America had become politicised.
He reported that he was told the UK is now “seen as a GOP (Republican) country” along with othe traditional American allies like Israel and that the Democrats as they have moved to the left are now more hostile.
Sarah Elliott, a member of Republicans Abroad and new head of Legatum’s unit on US relations, said: “I do think a change in administration will help [the Special Relationship] again, although that makes the UK look like a GOP ally rather than the United States ally. But I think another Democratic leader might be more favourable.”
She also suggested that Donald Trump might be better for the UK and more willing to do a trade deal.
“The interesting thing about if we do get another Trump administration is he’s quite protectionist. So will he defend our cloronated washed chicken or not? But he loves the UK, as we know from his previous administration, so it’d be a lot more friendly.”
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But Shanker Singham, former adviser to the International Trade Department, was more optimistic.
He said: “I think a second Democrat administration or whoever it is, will be different from this one. Even Biden will be different as a result of pressure from Congress, from companies from business, it’s open, so huge, and that pressure will be applied on the White House.
“Biden’s been able to resist that pressure. There hasn’t really been very much of it so far, but there will be I think therefore, they will change.”
Dr Fox, a former International Trade Secretary, told the meeting that free trade agreements (FTAs) are what is needed when all else fails and that there are better ways of improving UK/ US trade.
But even with Trump saying he would do a deal with the UK, Dr Fox did not believe that whoever wins next year will want an FTA.
He said: “In terms of a free trade agreement being snubbed by the US, in fact, what we’re getting is an equal share of zero. There is no intent, almost either major party in the United States to see further free trade agreements. There’s just no appetite for FTAs. It’s not popular.”
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