UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson says Britain is “first in line” for striking a trade deal with the incoming administration of US President-elect Donald Trump, seemingly putting to rest concerns over President Barack Obama’s warnings against Brexit.
Fresh off meetings with some high-ranking members of Trump’s transition team during a brief stop in the US, Johnson said on Monday that London and Washington were going to stay close friends after Trump’s inauguration on January 20.
“Clearly, the Trump administration-to-be has a very exciting agenda of change,” he said. “One thing that won't change though is the closeness of the relationship between the US and the UK.”
"We are the number two contributor to defense in NATO. We are America's principal partner in working for global security and, of course, we are great campaigners for free trade,” he said.
“We hear that we are first in line to do a great free trade deal with the United States. So, it's going to be a very exciting year for both our countries,” Johnson added.
Johnson met with Trump’s son-in-law and his designated top adviser Jared Kushner on Sunday.
Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon, Bob Corker, the Republican senator who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and US House Speaker Paul Ryan were some of the other senior GOPers who held meetings with the top British diplomat.
Corker echoed Johnson’s remarks after the meeting, saying the British foreign minister knew “full well” that “there is no way the United Kingdom is going to take a back seat.”
The remarks amounted to a rebuttal of Obama’s last year warnings that withdrawing from the European Union would put London “in the back of the queue” for trade deals with the US.
“Maybe some point down the line there might be a UK-US trade agreement, but it’s not going to happen any time soon.” Obama said during a visit to London in last April.
Trump has hailed the outcome of the June 23 EU referendum in Britain, where nearly 52 percent of voters opted to end London’s decades-long membership in the bloc.
The Manhattan billionaire has also found a close friend in British Member of the European Parliament and former leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) Nigel Farage, who was one of the main leaders of Brexit.