New York: US President Joe Biden has played down the chances of a post-Brexit free trade deal between his government and the UK, as he held talks with Boris Johnson at the White House.
Biden said he would discuss the issue “a little bit” with the UK prime minister, adding: “We’re going to have to work that through.”
Downing Street said a direct deal with the US remained his “priority”.
However, UK ministers have been pondering joining an existing North American trade pact instead, the BBC reported.
Biden and Johnson also discussed Northern Ireland, climate change and Afghanistan during the 90-minute meeting.
The UK is keen to strike free trade deals around the world in the wake of leaving the European Union’s single market, including with the US, with which annual trade was worth an estimated $273 billio in 2019.
A deal would encourage more business between the two countries by making it cheaper, usually by reducing or eliminating taxes called tariffs.
Johnson, echoing Biden, downplayed chances of securing agreement with the US before the next general election, saying: “The Americans do negotiate very hard.”
Environment Secretary George Eustice told Sky News: “We still very much hope to be able to put together an agreement with the United States. We are not putting timescales on it.”
“It’s just not a priority for the US administration,” he added.
Johnson highlighted the decision to lift the ban on British beef, and Downing Street is increasingly confident that there could soon be a favourable decision lifting the export ban on lamb.
Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office before the talks, Biden said: “We’re going to talk a little bit about trade today and we’re going to have to work that through.”
He did not counter the assertion from his predecessor Barack Obama that the UK would have to join “the back of the queue” in seeking a trade deal after Brexit.