UK could become part of new trade area with the US, Canada and Mexico after Brexit

Conservative MPs describe prospect of joining a new version of Nafta as an 'opportunity'

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The Independent US

Britain could become an “associate” member of a new North American Free Trade Area (Nafta) once Brexit has taken place, it has emerged.

The prospect of the UK becoming part of a North American trade bloc under Mr Trump's presidency could be on the cards with the heightened flexibility Brexit is expected to bring and the President-elect's disapproval of the deal in its current form.

Moreover, US senator Newt Gingrich, who first proposed the idea of the UK joining Nafta in the 1900s, is now being tipped in some quarters to become the President-elect’s secretary of state - increasing the likelihood of talks about the UK's involvement, according to The Telegraph.

Nafta looks set to be either scrapped or reformed under Mr Trump after he repeatedly criticised it during his presidential campaign, describing it as “the worst trade deal maybe ever signed […] in this country” and blaming the deal for the decline of manufacturing jobs and the influx of immigrants from Mexico into the US.

Since Mr Trump’s election victory, Canada and Mexico have said they are willing to open a “dialogue” about Nafta amid fears that it is in jeopardy, meaning reform is likely to take place.

Mr Gingrich raised the idea of Britain joining when he was Speaker of the House of Representatives in 1998, and received backing from Margaret Thatcher and right-wing Eurosceptics in the UK, but was rejected by the Labour government.

In November 1999 the US Senate Finance Committee proposed a study to see if the UK could be brought within the aegis of Nafta, but it was made clear that Britain would have to leave the EU to join.

Conservative MPs have welcomed the idea of British membership in the trade bloc, saying Britain and the US have similar policies towards the free market and describing it as an opportunity that comes with Brexit, which is likely to take place in March 2019. 

Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg told The Telegraph: “What could be bad about it? As long as it does not stop us doing free trade deals with other people too. 

“This is one of the great virtues of Brexit – we can look at all these things and if we think they are good we can tag along. We should follow up every opportunity because that is the wonderful position we are in – it is such an exciting position for the UK to be in. Prior to 23 June we could not have had this discussion.”