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UK too desperate to secure US trade deal, says Clinton’s treasury secretary

The former US treasury secretary Larry Summers has said he does not believe that a “desperate” UK would manage to secure a post-Brexit trade deal with Washington, as Dominic Raab, the new foreign secretary, heads to the US to scope out the potential for such an agreement.

Summers, who was a senior official under Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, said the UK was in a weak position when it came to negotiating with trade partners.

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He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday: “Britain has no leverage, Britain is desperate … it needs an agreement very soon. When you have a desperate partner, that’s when you strike the hardest bargain.”

Despite warm words from Donald Trump about a trade deal, Summers said: “We have economic conflict with China and, even on top of that, the deterioration of the pound is going to further complicate the negotiating picture.

“We will see it as giving Britain an artificial comparative advantage and make us think about the need to retaliate against Britain, not to welcome Britain with new trade agreements.”

Even if the two countries could come to an agreement, Summers said, the UK was in a weak negotiating position.

“Britain has much less to give than Europe as a whole did, therefore less reason for the United States to make concessions,” he said. “You make more concessions dealing with a wealthy man than you do dealing with a poor man.”

Summers’ remarks came as Raab headed to Canada, the US and Mexico to “fire up” talks about trading relationships.

The foreign secretary said Asian counterparts he met in Thailand last week expressed a “consistent warmth” for the UK and a “desire to work more closely with us”.

The former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith sought to dispute Summers’ warning, saying: “This is a classic attempt by Larry Summers to use Brexit for domestic point-scoring.

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