US economist says 'desperate' Britain is 'delusional' to think it will get a favourable trade deal

PUBLISHED: 08:14 06 August 2019 | UPDATED: 08:17 06 August 2019

Donald Trump during a state visit to the UK. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA.

Donald Trump during a state visit to the UK. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA.

PA Wire/PA Images

A senior econmist has said that it is 'delusional' for Britain to expect a favourable trade deal with the US.

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Larry Summers, former US treasury secretary and ex-director of the National Economic Council in president Barack Obama's administration, said Britain has "no leverage" in any trade negotiations and should not hope to be prioritised in a trade deal with the US.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Summers said: "I'm not sure what Britain wants from the United States that it can plausibly imagine the United States will give.

"If Britain thinks that the American financial regulators who have great difficulty coming together on anything are going to come together to give greater permissions and less regulation of UK firms, I would call that belief close to delusional."

He added: "Look at it from America's point of view: Britain has much less to give than Europe as a whole did, therefore less reason for the United States to make concessions. You make more concessions dealing with a wealthy man than you do dealing with a poor man.

"Second, Britain has no leverage. Britain is desperate. Britain has nothing else. It needs an agreement very soon. When you have a desperate partner, that's when you strike the hardest bargain. The last thing you do is quit a job before you look for your new one.

"In the same way, establishing absolutely that, as a matter of sacred principle, you're leaving Europe has to be the worst way to give you leverage with any new potential partners."

He said it is "close to inconceivable" that the UK would be able to increase its trade with the US enough to make up for lost trade with the EU.

US Senator Tom Cotton, however, said Britain should be at the "front of the queue" for a trade deal with the US.

Cotton told Today: "Many of my colleagues in the Congress would say that Great Britain should be in the front of the queue given everything our nations have gone through together.

"Obviously it wouldn't be a matter of days or weeks for such negotiations, it might be months, but I would suspect it would be months not years."

His comments come as Dominic Raab embarks on his second major overseas trip since being appointed by Boris Johnson, starting in Toronto on Tuesday before moving on to Washington on Wednesday and Mexico City on Thursday.

Raab said ahead of the trip: "In my first fortnight as foreign secretary, I'm travelling east and west to underline that the UK is determined to strengthen our friendships with countries across the world and raise our international horizons."

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