The Cable

U.S. Trade Rep: No Deal With Britain if it Leaves the EU

The United States won't be making a trade deal with London if a Brexit occurs.

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On Friday, President Barack Obama is widely expected to give a speech urging Britons to keep their country in the European Union, a rare intrusion into the domestic politics of an ally. On Thursday, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman beat his boss to the punch.

In an interview with the German publication Handelsblatt published Thursday, Froman said Britain has a “stronger voice” inside the European Union, and that the United States is “not in the market” for a bilateral trade deal with London.

He made his comments against the backdrop of ongoing negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a massive potential trade deal between the United States and Europe. The London-based think tank Centre for Economic Policy Research estimates potential benefits of TTIP equal to $134 billion and $107 billion in the European Union and United States, respectively, per year.

“We think it’s exactly the right time to finish TTIP because we want global trade to be as strong as it can,” Froman said, adding, “If we don’t get it done, then we create a great deal of uncertainty on whether we will ever get it done.”

Froman has made similar threats to avoid a so-called Brexit before. But the timing of the comments is particularly striking given that it comes as TTIP negotiations continue, the June 23 referendum on whether Britain should leave its European partners draws nearer, and just one day before Obama’s speech. Polls show the British public is split on whether to stay in Europe.

According to Michael Leigh, whoever served as director general for Europe’s potential expansion at the European Commission from 2006 to 2011, “you could almost forget” TTIP if a Brexit occurs.

“The U.S. would need to work out a new position in terms of its relations with key European countries,” Leigh, who is now a senior advisor with the German Marshall Fund, recently told Foreign Policy. “The U.K. would become more marginal.”

Concerns about a Brexit are especially dire in Berlin. In February, German parliamentarian Gunther Krichbaum, a close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, threatened a trade war if Britain leaves, warning that Berlin would slap steep tariffs on British exports coming into Germany.

Photo credit: MANDEL NGAN/Getty Images

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