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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Boris Johnson accused of Brexit failure as he admits UK-US trade deal near back of queue in Biden’s priorities – live

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Good morning. It turns out the UK has ended up near the “back of the queue” after all. For five years now, since the referendum, Brexiters have been talking up the prospects of a free trade deal with the US, which, according to the enthusiasts, was going to offer huge benefits to the UK and was just around the corner. Shortly after becoming prime minister in 2019, Boris Johnson even said he would like to see it concluded within a year.

But now Johnson has admitted, in terms, that Barack Obama was right, and that a trade deal with the UK is not a priority for Washington. Asked when it was happening, Johnson told reporters travelling with him to the US: “I wouldn’t hold your breath.” He went on:


The reality is that Joe [Biden] has a lot of fish to fry. He’s got a huge infrastructure package, he’s got a build back better package. We want to do it, but what we want is a good free trade agreement. And I would much rather get a deal that really works for the UK than get a quick deal.

My colleagues Heather Stewart and David Smith have the full story.

This morning, in an interview with the Today programme, Kwasi Kwarteng, claimed that this did not mean that the trade deal had been shelved. He said:


I don’t think it’s on the back burner, but I think what the prime minister said – in fact, I know that’s what he thinks and what’s what he said – is that it’s much better to take our time to get a really good deal with US than simply to rush the process and get a bad deal.

Asked how long a deal might take, he said:


I’m hopeful that we can we can we can get there, but I can’t give you a time as to how long it will take. Trade deals can can take very different amounts of time and I can’t possibly guess how long this one will particular one will take.

But Nigel Farage, the former Ukip and Brexit party leader who for many years was the leading champion for Brexit in UK politics, accused Johnson of failure. Last night he posted this on Twitter.

Nigel Farage
(@Nigel_Farage)

The government had many years to do a wide-reaching trade deal with America under the Trump administration.

It could have been done by now, but May and Johnson completely blew it. https://t.co/CN590oaR7K

September 20, 2021

Kwarteng’s interviews this morning mostly focused on the energy crisis. My colleague Graeme Wearden has all the latest developments on that story on his business live blog.

Here is the agenda for the day.

9.30am: The Commons health and social care committee takes evidence from the Royal College of General Practitioners and other health experts on the treatment backlog created by the pandemic.

11.30am: Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, takes questions in the Commons.

After 12.30pm: MPs begin a debate on a Labour motion on the cost of living.

Lunchtime (UK time): Boris Johnson is interviewed by American broadcasters for their morning shows. He is also due to record interviews with British TV journalists.

1pm: Sir David Lidington, Theresa May’s effective deputy when she was PM, speaks at the launch of a report from UK in a Changing Europe on global Britain.

Around 2.30pm: Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, gives a statement to the Scottish parliament on Covid.

3am: Jennifer Arcuri gives evidence to the London assembly’s oversight committee about her relationship with Boris Johnson when he was mayor.

Later Johnson will be meeting Joe Biden in the White House, but that is not due to happen until after 9pm UK time.

For more Covid coverage, do read our global live blog.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

Alternatively, you can email me at andrew.sparrow@theguardian.com

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