UK’s Johnson holds talks with US on Brexit eve

LONDON: Prime Minister Boris Johnson will hold talks on post-Brexit trade with the top US diplomat on Thursday (Jan 30), eve of Britain's historic departure from the European Union.

The British premier will aim to paper over recent disagreements as he hosts US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo the day before nearly half a century of EU membership ends late Friday.

With Britain at a historic crossroads, Johnson wants to strike post-Brexit trade deals with both the bloc and the US, but has seen recent strains in the so-called "special relationship" with Washington.

Britain will enter a new chapter when it becomes the first country to quit the EU's institutions at midnight Brussels time on Friday.

Although it will remain under most EU rules during an 11-month transition period, Britain is then likely to lose privileged access to the single European market – the world's largest and most important for UK trade.

But Johnson has argued he will negotiate an ambitious free trade agreement with his 27 former partners while also striking a lucrative trade deal with the US.

"It is a great moment for our country … a moment of hope and opportunity," the British leader said Wednesday, as he prepares to address the nation at 2200 GMT Friday – an hour before Brexit.

'CONSTRUCTIVE DISCUSSIONS'

Pompeo, in London on the first leg of a five-nation tour that also takes in Ukraine, sounded a positive note on arrival Wednesday.

"The #UK is an indispensable ally on a range of issues," he tweeted, adding the special relationship was being strengthened "through constructive discussions".

En route, he had told reporters Britain's decision to ignore months of US warnings and give China's Huawei tech giant a role in the rollout of its 5G network was "something we'll have a conversation about".

"We will make sure that when American information passes across a network we are confident that that network is a trusted one," he added.

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On the flight to London, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Britain's decision to ignore US warnings and give China's Huawei a role in the rollout of its 5G network was "something we'll have a conversation about". (Photo: AFP/Kevin Lamarque)

Pompeo will also speak at a conservative think tank alongside Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

He met his British counterpart on Wednesday evening, with several contentious issues on the agenda.

CONTENTIOUS ISSUES

Britain has been angered by Washington's refusal to extradite the wife of a US diplomat who is using the cover of diplomatic immunity to avoid prosecution over the death of a teenager in a road accident in England.

Meanwhile Johnson has defied expectations since taking power and failed to side with the US on everything from Huawei to the Iran nuclear deal that the US has abandoned.

President Donald Trump – a long-time fan of Brexit and Johnson's ability to deliver it successfully – has publicly urged Britain to rethink, yet has so far been restrained in his criticism.

But others, including Republican senators who will have to sign off on a future US-UK trade deal, have cautioned that Read More – Source