The US stands ready to agree a free trade deal with the UK as soon as possible, Paul Ryan, the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, has said in London. He also predicted that the UK would be able to sign a Brexit agreement with the EU, adding that the US, as a special ally, would be standing by the UK all the way through the talks.
Ryan’s remarks, echoing previous promises by Donald Trump, will be music to the ears of the international trade secretary, Liam Fox, who was in the Policy Exchange thinktank audience addressed by Ryan.
He said: “Now that article 50 has been invoked, the UK and the EU will determine the best path forward over the course of these negotiations. We want the parties to come together and strike a lasting agreement: a strong UK-EU relationship is in all of our best interests.
“In that same vein, the United States will work closely with our EU friends and chart a path forward on TTIP [Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership] negotiations. At the same time we are committed to working with President Trump and your government to achieve a bilateral trade agreement between the United States and Britain.
“This is one of the bipartisan messages I bring with me, I bring Democrats and Republicans here to this room to this country today, to say that the United States stands ready to forge a new trade agreement with Great Britain as soon as possible so that we may further tap into the great potential between our two people.”
He added that he assumed the UK would be able to get an Brexit agreement with the EU, saying: “I cannot imagine you will not and I just want you to know that as your special partner and greatest ally, we are going to stand with you through all of this. We want you as soon as the UK is ready and able to do a bilateral trade agreement.”
He added he wanted to revive TTIP – the largest stalled US EU trade deal. He said: “If we handle this correctly, it will bring more prosperity and security.
Such an agreement he said would help show the benefits of liberal democracy, democratic capitalism, liberty, and free enterprise. “I cannot imagine you will not get this done, and we will be with you every step of the way,” he said.
Ryan, battered by defeats on healthcare reform and low personal poll ratings, was on a cross-party congressional delegation to Europe to reaffirm America’s commitment to Nato.
Ryan also defended the bombing of a Syrian airbase in the wake of the sarin gas attack allegedly by Bashar al-Assad’s air force. He said: “When a leader gases his own people, you have to make good your word to oppose,” he said. The value of the US bombing of the Syrian air force was a moral statement, but also sent a signal to the Iranians, the Russians and obviously Assad that he is not going to stand by and let this happen, he said.
Ryan said that by contrast Obama made a colossal mistake by drawing a red line in 2013 and acting when it was crossed by the Syrian government.
Ryan also said it was right for Trump not to take any option off the table including a military attack on North Korea. “Of course all options are on the table – you never take options off the table,” he said.
He described the dictatorship as “unstable and armed with a nuclear weapon racing towards the ability to deliver a long-range weapon. That is not acceptable, so we have to do whatever we can to prevent that from happening. Allowing this dictator to have this kind of power is not something that civilised nations can allow to happen.”
At the same time he praised China for starting to take economic sanctions against North Korea, adding that no one wanted to use the military option.