The US national security adviser John Bolton has said that the UK will be the “first in line” for a trade deal which could pursue a “sector by sector” deal.
Following a meeting with Boris Johnson in London Bolton said the US could focus on sectors such as manufacturing and the automotive industry.
US trade negotiators say it is acceptable under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, Bolton said.
He said, “A prior American president said that if the United Kingdom left the European Union, it would go to the back of the queue on trade deals.
“To be clear, in the Trump administration, Britain’s constantly at the front of the trade queue, or line as we say.”
The US was “ready to negotiate” with Theresa May’s government, and the trade deal could work “in pieces” or sector by sector.
Bolton said, “We want to move very quickly. We wish we could have moved further along in this with the prior government.
“We were ready to negotiate. We are ready to negotiate now.”
He added, “You could do it sector by sector, you could do it in a modular fashion in other words.
“You could carve out some areas where it might be possible to reach a bilateral agreement very quickly, very straight forwardly.
“That would then lock that in and when the other areas that might be more difficult were concluded later, you could combine it in one overall agreement.
“So, the objective is either one document or a series of agreements that would be comprehensive.
“In order to expedite things and enhance the possibility for increasing the trade and investments between the two countries, doing it in a sector-by-sector approach or some other approach that the trade negotiators might agree with, we are open to that.”
“The idea of doing it in pieces rather than waiting for the whole thing is not unprecedented. I think here we see the importance and urgency of doing as much as we can agree on as rapidly as possible because of the impending October 31 exit date.”
Bolton was asked if piecemeal trade agreements like this are allowed under WTO rules. He said, “our trade negotiators seem to think this.”
He said issues concerning Iran and Huawei’s involvement with the UK’s 5G could wait until after Brexit.
The national security advisor said, “The message I wanted to convey on Iran, and on some other issues in which I include China, 5G, Huawei, that cluster of issues, is that the President and the US Government fully understands that in the next few days the UK Government has a singular focus on the Brexit issue, so that we are not hoping for anything on these broad and complex questions.
“We just ask that, as issues come up, we resolve them individually and we reserve the time to have a larger conversation on some of these important issues at a moment that is really right for the new government. We just felt we owe them that.
“Obviously we have views on these issues, I think that is appreciated by the new government. They said in particular that looking really from square one on the Huawei issue that they were very concerned about not having any compromise in the security of telecommunications in the 5G space.”
He added, “We don’t want to put you under pressure on these issues. There will be time enough to talk, that is really all we ask for.”
The decision to leave the EU will result in the UK having a more powerful international voice and and make NATO stronger, Bolton said.