What would the US presidential election mean for a UK-US post-Brexit trade deal?

3 mn read

Following the UK’s exit on 31 January 2020 the UK entered a Transition Period. Trade, travel and freedom of movement remain largely unchanged during this period. The transition period ends on 31 December 2020. As the UK is about to leave the EU, it will need to re-sign a trade agreement with the EU and the US.

The US presidential election is underway, and the UK will be looking to strike a post-Brexit trade deal with whoever wins. But how might the result affect the UK?

Food Standards

Similarly, to US food trade deals with Taiwan, food standards will be an issue for the UK population but seemingly not the government. Boris Johnson wants to go ahead with the deal, despite its implications. However, the deal will likely go smoother under the Trump administration than the Biden administration.

On the 4th of November, the House of Commons will vote on an Agricultural Bill that was previously turned away by Parliament last month. The House of Lords amended the bill that would protect UK farmers from competing with cheap imported produce. (The amended bill will replace the former Amendment 16 to two alternative Amendments 16B and 18B.)

Labour MP Ruth Cadbury, said: “If we do a trade deal with the US that has no conditions on animal welfare, our farmers will be at risk, because they will have to compete with low-cost agricultural mega-corporations, such as those US pork farmers still using sow stalls.”

EU Market Access

The UK still holds valuable agriculture-food trade relations with countries within the EU. However, the EU’s concerns about a second Donald Trump term could act as a barrier for UK farmers and companies when exporting their products via the EU’s Single Market.

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Politico reported, “Everyone is concerned about the sort of unpredictability of the White House,” Lauri Lepik, a long time Estonian diplomat who served as ambassador to Washington and to NATO, said of the possibility of a second Trump term. “Everyone understands he doesn’t value transatlantic relations — or he values them in a very monetary way.”

This would leave the UK no choice but to accept poorer food standards and put UK farmers at risk of competing with cheap but low-quality imports.

Personal Relations

In the media, Trump and Johnson have been widely compared. Their similarities and successful partnership could cause issues for a Conservative/Democrat relationship.

Johnson’s investment in Brexit, which was opposed by Joe Biden, could damage the UK’s chances of a successful UK-US trade deal if Biden were to be elected.

“The Labour Party’s Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy told Politico that Johnson and his government had ’needlessly and repeatedly created tension with the Democrats.’”

Biden was vocal on Twitter about not allowing Ireland’s Good Friday Agreement to be a sacrifice for Brexit and said that, “Any trade deal between the US and UK must be contingent upon respect for the Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border.”


UK Trade Secretary Liz Truss said that the tariffs “damage industry and livelihoods on both sides of the Atlantic.”

Truss said that the UK considers retaliatory tariffs, on products such as Scotch whiskey, to be unacceptable and continued to push for their immediate removal.

As seen in 2018 with China’s trade, Trump favours placing tariffs on imports as the world’s strongest economic power. Trump’s sympathies with Johnson may be the only way for financially focussed Trump to drop the tariffs. Sympathies that Biden does not have as someone opposed to Brexit.

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The UK will gain a better US trade agreement under Trump’s administration. Johnson and Trump have a comfortable relationship and Trump has an affinity for Johnson’s motivations for Brexit. Biden and Johnson will likely clash, and Biden will not allow Johnson to place a hard border on Ireland which Johnson continuously pushes for. The tariffs that work against the UK’s favour may be nullified by Trump sympathising with Johnson’s motives for Brexit.

However, the trade deal agreed under the Trump administration will not necessarily be what is best for the UK in terms of supporting UK farmers and food standards. Chlorinated chicken and hormone infused beef are worries for the British public.

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Millie Turner is an Eat News correspondent in the UK who has received accolades for her features. She writes with special focus on international politics, corporate corruption, and the climate crisis.


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