Trade talks with the US will start tomorrow despite the on-going trade talks with the European Union and the coronavirus pandemic.
International trade secretary Liz Truss will lead the talks via video call with US trade representative Robert Lighthizer.
The talks are expected to start on Tuesday and will last for approximately a fortnight, with further rounds of talks expected every six weeks.
Truss said the talks were ‘essential’ during the coronavirus to help lighten the economic toll of the pandemic.
But an impact assessment paper earlier this year revealed that a US trade deal would boost the UK economy by just 0.2%.
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Ministers are hoping that the talks will give the British side leverage in discussions with the EU, which are set to operate in parallel.
So far there has failed to be a breakthrough, prompting chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier to warn that the bloc needs to ramp up no-deal planning.
Shadow international Trade Secretary Emily Thornberry warned the government to stand up to Donald Trump.
She said: ‘With the US election now just six months away, we should all be extremely wary of a president who will do anything to stay in the White House, and a Conservative government that will do anything to help him.
‘That is a recipe for a trade deal designed for the benefit of the major corporations behind American industry, farming and healthcare, which will have very real implications on workers’ rights, environmental protections, the food we eat and our beloved NHS.
‘If Boris Johnson will not stand up to Donald Trump, then the British parliament must. This is too important to get wrong. Labour will insist that any proposed trade deal is subject to proper scrutiny, and we will not let the interests of the British people be sacrificed to boost the profits of US corporations.’
Around 100 civil servants have been redeployed from Brexit taskforces in recent months to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.
Michael Gove denied that this was a problem, pointing out specialists from other Whitehall departments had been drafted in to help with Brexit.