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G-7 SUMMIT

Trump offers UK PM a 'very big' trade deal for post-Brexit Britain

Trump says Britain's EU membership had been a drag on efforts to forge closer trade ties

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Sitting opposite Mr Trump on Sunday, Mr Johnson praised the performance of the US economy before adding: "But just to register a faint, sheep-like note of our view on the trade war - we are in favour of trade peace on the whole." .

Biarritz, France

US President Donald Trump promised a big trade deal for post-Brexit Britain to Boris Johnson on Sunday and praised the new prime minister as the right man to take Britain out of the European Union.

Mr Johnson, who faces a delicate task of assuaging European allies while not angering Mr Trump at a G-7 summit in France, said that trade talks with the United States would be tough but there were huge opportunities for British businesses in the US market.

Speaking to reporters with Mr Johnson ahead of a trade-focused bilateral meeting, Mr Trump said Britain's membership of the EU had been a drag on efforts to forge closer trade ties. "We're going to do a very big trade deal - bigger than we've ever had with the UK," Mr Trump said. "At some point, they won't have the obstacle of - they won't have the anchor around their ankle, because that's what they had. So, we're going to have some very good trade talks and big numbers."

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With less than three months until an Oct 31 deadline, it is still totally unclear, how, when or even whether Britain will leave the EU. The uncertainty around Brexit, the United Kingdom's most significant political and economic post-war move, has left allies and investors aghast and roiled markets.

On Sunday, Mr Johnson met and told European Council President Donald Tusk that Britain would be leaving the European Union on Oct 31 whatever the circumstances, a British official said.

Mr Johnson said that if Britain leaves the European Union without a deal, it will no longer legally owe the £39 billion (S$66.4 billion) divorce bill agreed by his predecessor Theresa May. Sky News said the figure was £9 billion, while the Sunday Times reported British government lawyers had concluded the amount Britain was legally obliged to pay could be as low as £7 billion.

On his arrival on Saturday, Mr Johnson said in reference to the escalating US-China trade war that he was "very worried" about the growth of protectionism. He said that those who "supported tariffs were at risk of incurring the blame for the downturn in the global economy".

Sitting opposite Mr Trump on Sunday, Mr Johnson praised the performance of the US economy before adding: "But just to register a faint, sheep-like note of our view on the trade war - we are in favour of trade peace on the whole."

Mr Johnson used a pre-summit phone call to Mr Trump to demand that he lower trade barriers and open up parts of the US economy to British firms, citing a wide range of markets from cars to cauliflowers.

Britain was looking forward to some comprehensive talks about taking the future UK-US relationship forward, Mr Johnson said, adding he had made clear to Mr Trump that the National Health Service would not be a part of trade talks.

London's preference is for a comprehensive free trade deal with the US post-Brexit, UK government officials say, while some US officials including Mr Trump's national security adviser John Bolton have talked of a sector-by-sector approach. Hints of those divisions emerged on Sunday.

As Mr Johnson said London and Washington would do a "fantastic deal", Mr Trump interrupted to say: "Lots of fantastic mini-deals, we're talking about many different deals but we're having a good time." REUTERS