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Government accused of ‘foolishly gambling’ on Trump agreeing post-Brexit mini deal before exit

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss and the US trade representative Robert Lighthizer (on screen) as they formally begin the UK-US trade talks during a video conference call - Credit: Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA Wire

Labour’s Keir Starmer has accused Boris Johnson’s government of a “very foolish gamble” with hoping that Donald Trump would sign up to a post-Brexit “mini” trade deal before his exit.

Tariffs of £5.6 billion were imposed by former president Trump’s administration in retaliation for state support given to Airbus, with products including Scotch whisky badly affected by the measures.

Ministers announced in December they were unilaterally withdrawing from the Boeing-Airbus dispute at the end of the Brexit transition period in a bid to secure an agreement with Trump before he left office.

Writing in the Herald, Starmer said: “That always looked a very foolish gamble and so it has proven to be.

“Trump has gone, with no deal agreed. The gamble has very visibly backfired. The Scotch whisky industry is still facing 25% tariffs yet the government has thrown away the main leverage they had to get those tariffs removed, with nothing to show for it in return.”

But the Labour leader said there was an opportunity for the UK to “reset” its relationship with the White House following the departure of Trump with fresh negotiations.

 “With Joe Biden now in the White House, the United Kingdom has the opportunity to reset our relationship with the United States. It is a chance for both nations to work together to reverse some of the economic damage done by Trump and his administration.

“This will take time and it will not be easy. One particularly harmful legacy Trump leaves behind is the punitive tariffs imposed on Scotch whisky and other vital Scottish exports.

“When businesses are working flat out to weather the storm of the coronavirus, the 25% imposed on Scotch whisky and other UK goods was an act of economic and diplomatic vandalism.

“Now, with a new president and a new administration in place, the UK Government must seize this opportunity and appeal to Joe Biden to reverse Trump’s harmful tariffs.”