Responding to lack of US-UK trade deal

Dangers and opportunities

Sir, – British prime minister Liz Truss has admitted that a trade deal between the UK and US would be unlikely in anything other than the long term.

If this is a “humiliation” for the Brexiteers (Newton Emerson, “Truss brings down curtain on UK-US trade deal pantomime”, Opinion & Analysis, September 22nd), it is hardly the first. Brexit has, since 2016, been sustained by unfounded optimism as to the future of UK trade agreements.

Although the absence of a trade deal is embarrassing for Britain, it is also unsettling for Ireland. Newton Emerson writes that, even without a trade deal, “Brussels, Dublin and Washington will seek other ways to apply pressure if protocol talks drag on”. But it is unclear how they will apply that pressure.

The US, if it is to continue to play a significant role regarding the NI protocol, will need to develop a clear and coherent strategy now that the fiction of a trade deal is off the table. If not, this could spell trouble for Ireland.


However, the absence of a trade deal also presents opportunities.

First, the promise of a trade deal with the US was offered by Brexiteers as a reason for divergence from the EU, given lower sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) standards in the US. Therefore, there could be an opportunity to revisit a Swiss-style agreement between the EU and the UK on veterinary standards, which in turn could mean there would be next to zero SPS checks required between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Such a change in policy by the UK might be a long shot but this is where the US could play a meaningful role.

Second, the EU and the US have been steadily increasing their cooperation through a new initiative called the EU-US Trade and Technology Council, launched last year.

Inviting the UK to join could provide Ms Truss with the political cover necessary to allay the concerns of hardline Brexiteers while reinstating the US as a credible actor, capable of contributing in a meaningful way to resolving ongoing issues around the NI protocol.

Third, ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement next year, the US could appoint a special envoy for Northern Ireland, a position that has been vacant since January 2021.

Finally, as suggested in Newton Emerson’s article, more limited sectoral trade agreements could be made contingent on meaningful engagement on making the NI protocol work.


Dublin Constituency,

European Parliament