America should do a free trade deal with Britain following Donald Trump’s US election victory, one of the most influential Republicans in Washington DC believes.
Paul Ryan, speaker of the US House of Representatives, thinks such an agreement would show the UK that America remains an “indispensable ally”.
Mr Ryan wants US officials to start working on an agreement right away to show “solidarity” even though no deal can be signed until Britain has left the European Union.
The support is a huge boost for Theresa May’s Government, which has talked up the chances of a free trade deal after Mr Trump’s shock election victory this month.
Unlike Barack Obama, who publicly opposed Brexit and said the UK would be at the “back of the queue” for a trade deal, Mr Trump welcomed the vote to leave the EU.
Mr Ryan, a former Republican vice-presidential candidate, was at loggerheads with Mr Trump during the US election campaign like much of the party’s establishment.
However since Mr Trump’s victory the pair have put on a show of solidarity in a joint media appearance and are said to be taking most days.
Shortly after the Brexit vote in June, Mr Ryan voiced his support for a UK-US trade deal. “We need to emphasize that they are our indispensable ally,” he told Milwaukee’s WISN radio.
“We have a special relationship, and I think that does mean we should have a trade agreement with … Great Britain.”
He added: “We need to show our solidarity. Obviously it takes time to do something like this, but I think it is something we should be working on.”
The comments went largely unreported in Britain at the time, with the UK political establishment in meltdown, but have taken on renewed significance after Mr Trump’s victory.
The Republicans now control all three branches of US government – the presidency, the Senate and the House of Representatives – making it far easier to make policy changes.
Aides to Mr Ryan this week confirmed to The Sunday Telegraph that he still believes America should seek a free trade deal with Britain after Brexit.
“Speaker Ryan and President-elect Trump agree that America needs to secure good trade deals,” a spokesman for Mr Ryan said.
“He is in near-daily communication with President-elect Trump and Vice President-elect [Mike] Pence about the agenda for next year.” The spokesman added that his comments from June on the subject “still stand”.
Mr Trump publicly backed a similar position during his presidential campaign in a post uploaded on his website on June 24, the day after the Brexit vote.
“A Trump Administration pledges to strengthen our ties with a free and independent Britain, deepening our bonds in commerce, culture and mutual defense,” the statement read.
“The whole world is more peaceful and stable when our two countries – and our two peoples – are united together, as they will be under a Trump Administration.”
Aides to Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, are planning to fly out to America to meet Mr Trump’s team for talks within the next fortnight, with Mr Johnson himself hoping to visit before Christmas.
There is hope the two countries can sign a “statement of intent” early next year to lower trade barriers – though a full-blown deal will have to wait until Britain is outside the EU, expected in mid-2019.
A senior Whitehall source earlier this month explained how the UK’s chances of a free trade deal with the US had been boosted by Mr Trump’s election.
While Mr Trump is against trade agreements that expose America to less developed markets, leading to a loss of manufacturing jobs, a deal with Britain does not bring the same risks.
“Donald Trump’s victory opens up new options that weren’t there under the current administration. We are optimistic and waiting to hear what his trading position will look like,” a senior Whitehall source said.
Nigel Farage has been recommended as Britain’s next ambassador to the US by President-elect Donald Trump. CREDIT STEVE FINN