Brexit: Boris Johnson's failure to kickstart talks on US trade deal means trouble ahead – Scotsman comment

The news that UK lamb will be allowed to be sold in the US, more than 30 years after it was banned because of fears about BSE or ‘mad cow disease', is welcome indeed.

Joe Biden and Boris Johnson meet in the Oval Office of the White House on Tuesday (Picture: Al Drago/pool/Getty Images)

But it is unlikely to have been the triumph that Boris Johnson was hoping for when he set out on his trip to see Joe Biden.

Sheep farmers suddenly have a vast new market, which has apparently lost its taste for lamb, into which they can sell. A high-quality meat produced to high animal welfare standards could do well if Americans can be persuaded to try such delights as rack of lamb.

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UK sheep-meat exports in 2020 were worth about £438 million, which is obviously a considerable sum. However, when compared to total exports for that year of £618 billion, it is clear this particular ‘trade deal’ is not going to have a major impact on the overall health of the post-Brexit economy.

If the Prime Minister had hoped for something more, he was forced to concede to reporters outside the US Capitol in Washington that “the Biden administration is not doing free trade deals around the world right now”.

He added he had “absolutely every confidence that a great deal is there to be done” and that “there are plenty of people in that building behind me who certainly want a deal”, but the bottom line was Biden has other more pressing concerns.

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One of which is the effect of Brexit on Northern Ireland with the US President saying he felt “very strongly” about issues surrounding the peace process, warning he would not want to see a “closed border” in Ireland.

Biden’s apparent reluctance to enter substantive talks about a major trade deal could, of course, be the opening shot in the negotiations, a message to Johnson that any agreement will have to be favourable to the US.

However, whether it’s ‘no deal’ or a ‘bad deal’ for Britain, it is unlikely to live up to the Leave campaign’s rhetoric about a bright new future outside the EU. A YouGov poll last week found 47 per cent thought, in hindsight, that Brexit was wrong, compared to 40 per cent who thought it was right.

As Brexit continues to fail to live up to its billing, trouble for Johnson is brewing.

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