Liz Truss has denied claims the UK “lacks bandwidth” to negotiate post-Brexit trade deals during a tense exchange in the House of Commons.
The international trade secretary addressed comments by Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau that the UK “lacks the bandwidth” to conclude a trade deal.
Trudeau told the FT he feared a trade deal between the two nations could take time due to British negotiators being ‘so out of practice’.
“We know how to negotiate trade deals,” said Trudeau, “The UK hasn’t had to negotiate trade deals in the past few decades.”
He added: “There is an issue of not really having the bandwidth within the [UK] government to move forward on this.”
Highlighting the remarks in the House of Commons, Labour MP Andrew Gwynne said that if “global Britain is to mean if anything, it means not putting your eggs in one basket”.
He said that the secretary of state had “bet everything in recent times” on Trump winning, before asking if a US trade deal is still a priority for the UK government.
But Truss insisted there was “good progress” in getting a deal.
“We’ve made good progress in our US deal, agreeing the majority of text and the majority of chapters. We’re working with both sides of the House in the US for a deal that benefits both of our two nations.”
Truss added: “Fifty-two countries have now trade deals with the United Kingdom, we’ve secured a deal with Japan that goes beyond and above the EU’s agreement. We’re working on accession to the Trans-Pacific partnership. We’re negotiating with Australia and New Zealand.
“So by no means are we entirely focused on the US, but it is our largest single-country trading partner and I’m always struck by the anti-Americanism on the Opposition benches. They simply don’t understand that these are incredibly important for British business.
“And as for the comments from overseas governments and our trade negotiations, I think it’s very interesting that the Labour Party simply like to repeat their lines to take.”
The response comes as the secretary of state failed to advise whether the UK’s new trade deal with Japan would go beyond that which it had as a member of the EU.