London’s Falling, and a U.S. Trade Deal Won’t Save It

If there is light at the end of the Brexit tunnel, Brexiteers say, it’s this: Britain, finally unshackled from the stringent restraints of the European Union, will soon be able to go out and strike its own trade deals, and realize its dream of becoming a “truly global Britain.”

Although Brexit hasn’t happened yet, global Britain’s first test has begun. This week, British Trade Secretary Liz Truss traveled to Washington, D.C., to set out Britain’s goals for a free-trade deal with the United States. “Negotiating and signing exciting new free trade agreements is my top priority,” Truss said ahead of her trip, “and none are more important than with the United States.”

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Striking a trade deal—much less a “very substantial” one—isn’t easy. But when Britain leaves the EU and finds itself outside the bloc’s trading orbit, it will endeavor to do just that with its special ally. It’s an accord that Britain is desperate to secure, and one that President Donald Trump has predicted could see as much as a “three to four, five times” increase in trade between the two countries.

An agreement won’t be simple: The United States, which has a history of playing hardball with trading partners, will be the more dominant player during negotiations. And despite the budding bromance between Trump and Britain’s newly inaugurated prime minister, Boris Johnson, the United States won’t have much incentive to make any exceptions. In addition, if Britain leaves the EU without a deal, it will be far more eager to strike potential new trade accords than its would-be trading partners.

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