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[WASHINGTON] The Trump administration this week will begin laying groundwork for a trade deal between the US and the UK that would take effect after Britain leaves the European Union, a White House aide said.
Prime Minister Theresa May last week declared Britain is "open for business" as she announced plans to pursue a clean break with the EU, paving the way for the UK to eventually strike new trade accords with the continent and other countries. Mrs May is to visit Washington this week.
Trump officials believe their discussions with her government encouraged Mr May to be more aggressive in exiting the union. She can use any American support to argue the UK will prosper outside the bloc although she risks inflaming tensions with EU leaders if they suspect her government is actively negotiating trade deals while still an EU member.
Two of President Donald Trump's senior advisers, Steve Bannon and son-in-law Jared Kushner, met with UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in New York on Jan 8. The three are preparing for the future pact, the aide said, requesting anonymity because the discussions aren't public.
Mr Bannon, Mr Trump's National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and other administration officials have also met with British defense and intelligence leaders, the aide said.
The British embassy in Washington had no immediate comment.
President Barack Obama warned in April that if the UK pursued Brexit, the country would go to the "back of the queue" for US trade deals. UK voters chose to leave the EU anyway in a June referendum, and Mr Trump now appears to be scrapping Mr Obama's position on the matter. Mr Trump's team is also considering a deal to reduce barriers between US and British banks, the Sunday Telegraph reported, citing officials from both sides.
Mr Trump has tapped Woody Johnson, the billionaire owner of the New York Jets NFL team, to serve as US ambassador to the UK, a person familiar with the matter said on Jan 19.
May and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto will make visits to the US this month to meet with Mr Trump, White House officials said.
Mrs May will meet with Trump on Jan 27, White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee said on Saturday. Pena Nieto will meet with Trump on Jan 31, said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Neither provided further details on the meetings.