The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday said that the United Kingdom is “at the front of the line” for a trade deal with Washington on the eve of Brexit.
Pompeo visited London to strengthen ties between the countries, one day before the UK began negotiating its future trade relationship with the European Union.
US President Donald Trump has spoken in favour of Brexit since he came to the White House, unlike his predecessor Barack Obama, who on a visit to the UK shortly before the 2016 referendum warned London would be “at the end of the line” for a trade agreement with the US if it left the EU.
Pompeo said that he travelled to the UK to start the dialogue on an agreement as soon as possible.
During a meeting with UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in London, he said, “The previous administration took the view that if the United Kingdom made this decision they’d be at the back of the line, we intend to put the United Kingdom at the front of the line”.
“This is a historic relationship between our two countries it’s been fantastic and I mean that”, Pompeo added.
As of 1 February, the UK will be a state outside the EU and will have free access to negotiate trade agreements with third countries, while trying to forge a relationship with the 27 member states of the bloc.
Raab said at the event with Pompeo on Thursday: “We need to bring the country together, we need to bring other countries together but having the US say look it’s all fine by us and do you know what there’s a great opportunity for a free trade deal, it’s great.”
Pompeo also held a meeting with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson at 10 Downing Street.
A spokesman for the prime minister said they addressed the opportunities that will be open to the country after its exit from the EU, including a free trade agreement with the US.
On Tuesday, the UK participated in its last meeting as an EU member when Foreign Office minister Chris Pincher attended the General Affairs Council.
The vote was preceded by an emotional debate of the Members of the European Parliament, who bid farewell — sometimes with words of love and warmth — to Britain’s 41-year stay in the world’s largest trading bloc.
On January 23, the House of Commons (lower house of British parliament) overturned five amendments to the government’s Brexit bill made by the House of Lords (upper house), less than 10 days before Britain is set to exit from the European Union (EU).
The UK will formally leave the EU at 11 pm on Friday, more than three years after the British public narrowly voted in favour of the divorce.
Brussels wanted a sober goodbye and will simply remove British flags from the buildings of its institutions.
Pro-Brexit party Leave Means Leave, backed by Eurosceptic politician Nigel Farage, will hold a public party in London that is expected to be attended by around 10,000 people.
A new 50p coin will be released into circulation which will include the message “Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations”.
Johnson was also due to give a televised speech addressing the nation.
No festivities were expected in Scotland and Northern Ireland, where citizens mainly voted to remain in the EU.
(With inputs from agency)