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UK trade deal with the US will not make up for the damage caused by Brexit, Justice Secretary David Lidington says

Admission comes hours after Donald Trump said 'very, big big' UK-US trade deal would be completed 'very, very quickly'

Benjamin Kentish
Sunday 09 July 2017 14:48 BST
David Lidington has previously said Brexit would be disastrous for the UK economy
David Lidington has previously said Brexit would be disastrous for the UK economy (PA)

A trade deal between the UK and the US would not be enough to offset the damage caused by Brexit, a cabinet minister had admitted.

David Lidington, the Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor, said even a “big new trade deal” with the US would not replace the benefits of being in the EU single market and that deals with other countries would be needed too.

“It wouldn’t be enough on its own, no”, he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. “But it would be a very good thing to have, as would trade deals with the emerging economies of Asia and Latin America.”

The Justice Secretary said Brexit would give the UK the “flexibility’ to make new trade deals with other countries.

“One of the frustrations sometimes about being part of the EU is that, while the mass of the EU gives it leverage in international trade, it moves sometimes at a tortoise-like pace because all the member states have to agree a common negotiation position,” he said.

“Having the nimbleness and the flexibility [after Brexit], we’ll still be the fifth or sixth biggest economy in the world, that does give us some opportunities.”

Mr Lidington, a vocal Remain supporter, said he did not regret saying during the referendum campaign that Brexit would be a catastrophe for British business and the UK economy.

“I took a very firm view in that campaign that I thought British interests, both strategic and economic, were best served by saying in the EU,” he said.

“But the people took a different decision, as they were democratically entitled to do, and I don’t think if you call yourself a democrat you can somehow say we should just set that aside and ignore it. That would do immense harm to public confidence in democracy.

Mr Lidington also blamed ongoing leadership gossip on “too much warm Prosecco”.

He said: “I think the summer parties is the key to this. I have been in Parliament 25 years and almost every July a combination of too much sun and too much warm Prosecco leads to gossipy stories in the media.

“The key thing is this: the public has had an election, I think they want the politicians to go away and deal with the real problems that the people of this country are facing.”

On Sky News's Sophy Ridge on Sunday he praised the Prime Minister's performance, adding: “I see somebody who is very determined to lead and get on with the job.”

Mr Lidington was speaking hours after Mr Trump gave Theresa May a boost by saying the UK and the US would strike a trade deal “very, very quickly”.

“There is no country that could possibly be closer than our countries”, he said before meeting Ms May at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.

“We have been working on a trade deal which will be a very, very big deal – a very powerful deal, great for both countries and I think we will have that done very, very quickly.”

Under EU rules, official talks between the US and the UK over a future trade deal cannot begin until Britain formally leaves the EU in March 2019.

The meeting between Mr Trump and Ms May lasted for around 50 minutes and focused largely on trade. Downing Street said the discussion was entirely “positive”.

Mr Trump confirmed that he hopes to finalise plans for a state visit to the UK.

“We’ll work that out”, he said.

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