January 10, 2017 / 7:52 AM / 6 months ago

Britain in 'front seat' for U.S. trade deal, top Republican says

3 Min Read

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain will be in the "front seat" to negotiate a new trade deal with the incoming administration of Donald Trump, a top Republican in the United States Senate said, the BBC reported.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker said after meeting British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson that a trade deal between the two countries would be a priority as Britain prepares to leave the European Union.

Last year, ahead of the Brexit vote, President Barack Obama exhorted Britons to stay in the EU and warned that if they left they would be at "the back of the queue" for a U.S. trade deal.

Corker said Johnson knows full well that "there is no way the United Kingdom is going to take a back seat".

"They will take a front seat and I think it will be our priority to make sure that we deal with them on a trade agreement initially but in all respects in a way that demonstrates the long-term friendship that we've had for so long," Corker was quoted as saying by the BBC.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson walks through the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol in Washington January 9, 2017.Kevin Lamarque

Trump, while a candidate for the U.S. presidency, hailed Brexit as a "great thing" when visiting Scotland the day after the vote, though Britain cannot sign a trade deal until it leaves the EU which under current plans will likely be in 2019.

After visits to see aides in Trump Tower in New York and meet members of Congress in Washington, Johnson said there had been a "huge fund of goodwill" towards Britain and a desire to move quickly on a trade deal.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (L) meets with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R) in the U.S. Capitol in Washington January 9, 2017.Kevin Lamarque

"They want to do it and they want to do it fast and that understanding was most vivid and most urgent on the part of the incoming administration," he told parliament on Tuesday when asked about his trip.

Speaking earlier, Johnson also described the incoming Trump administration as having a "very exciting agenda of change" and stressed that close relations between the two countries were not under threat.

"We are America’s principal partner in working for global security and, of course, we are great campaigners for free trade," Johnson was quoted as saying by the Guardian newspaper.

"We hear that we are first in line to do a great free trade deal with the United States. So it's going to be a very exciting year for both our countries."

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and William James; editing by Stephen Addison

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