Britain is highly unlikely to secure a US trade deal unless it first strikes an agreement with the European Union, a former top American official has warned.
A prized tie-up between London and Washington will be off the table if talks with Brussels break down, according to former assistant US trade representative Barbara Weisel.
She added that any agreement is also likely to be delayed if the Democrats win the White House next month, in a major blow to Boris Johnson’s Government.
Ms Weisel’s warning comes ahead of a fifth round of US-UK talks ending this Friday, with senior sources at the Department for International Trade saying they have set July next year as a “benchmark” for when a US agreement should be concluded.
That is when Congress-granted powers that allow the president to fast-track free trade agreements – the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) – are due to expire.
But Ms Weisel, now managing director of economic policy consultant Rock Creek Global Advisors, an international economic policy advisory firm, told a webinar hosted by the transatlantic lobby group British American Business that this would be a difficult time frame to stick to if Democratic candidate Joe Biden, sweeps to power on Nov 3.
Donald Trump’s trade representative Robert Lighthizer is almost certain to be ousted by Mr Biden, she said, adding: “Putting people in place who are going to do the negotiations [means] the whole thing’s going to get delayed.”
Ms Weisel said: “Absent a Brexit deal, it becomes very difficult to conclude the US-UK negotiations.
“The truth is, the relationship between the UK and the EU is going to be the dominant consideration.”
Mr Biden said last month that if he were president, there would be no US trade deal unless Britain honoured the Good Friday Agreement in its negotiations with Brussels.
Ms Weisel said: “The Biden platform has been very clear that they don’t see trade negotiations as a priority initially.
“Trade is important but it’s part of the general foreign policy approach of repairing relations and taking a more co-operative approach with allies and partners.”
Despite negotiations moving more rapidly than is typical for most trade talks, key stumbling blocks remain on agriculture, healthcare, public procurement and digital commerce.
Emre Peker, of the Eurasia Group consultancy, put the chance of a deal by mid-2022 at 60pc but noted that this would require “tough concessions”.
He added that there is a 30pc chance that slow progress in difficult chapters leads to open-ended talks, and a 10pc chance that the effort is killed by a massive backlash in the UK, coupled with US indifference.