The UK has failed to make any meaningful progress on free trade talks with the US due to "chronic" staff shortages and communication problems in Whitehall, documents leaked to the Daily Telegraph have revealed.
— James Rothwell (@JamesERothwell) July 10, 2019
The files allegedly revealed how two years of meetings found that departments were overstretched and working "at cross purposes" and had stalled over disagreements over trade terms and conditions on rules on finance, farming and healthcare.
The Telegraph alleges that officials are worried that the US has grown frustrated with impasses with London and could end its potential post-Brexit partnerships with the UK's "global Britain" trade framework.
What Did the Memos Say?
A British diplomat warned in a message that UK trade secretary Liam Fox's US visit this week may look like a "bit of a desperate bid" to make progress in talks, and other memos appear to raise concerns amongst UK officials about London's ability to hold such talks.
Further documents scrutinise disgraced UK ambassador to the US, Sir Kim Darroch, following leaks of the diplomat's criticisms on the Trump administration, leading to his resignation and a cancelled meeting between Dr Fox and US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross.
— Brian Klaas (@brianklaas) July 11, 2019
The memos also accused the UK of struggling to keep up with US negotiators, the Telegraph said, with one email from 2018 showing that US president Donald Trump had begun sending "less senior" delegates due to London's failure to get "the right people in the room".
Britain's most competent civil servants had also been 'shunted' around important positions, sparking chaos amid the UK's changing Brexit schedule.
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) July 10, 2019
Other memos warned London of forcing Silicon Valley tech giants such as Google, Facebook and others to pay more corporation taxes.
US officials have also been seeking to pull the UK out of the European Union's orbit by painting "the EU Commission as the bad guys" and influencing the UK's post-Brexit plans as "it was easier to change a regulation before it was finalised".
How Have UK Officials Responded?
A spokesperson from the Department for International Trade rebuffed the accusations, stating that "UK-US Trade and Investment Working Group had held its sixth meeting and included "100 officials from the two sides", and had covered "all major policy areas" necessary to begin free trade agreements.
— Dr Liam Fox MP (@LiamFox) July 11, 2019
"Formal Talks cannot begin until after Brexit", the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson also slammed the memos as "completely and demonstratably false" whilst mentioning that International Trade secretary [Liam Fox] had already met with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Ivanka Trump on Monday.
"We are well prepared for trade negotiations with our biggest trading partner,” the spokesperson said as quoted by the Telegraph.
As the UK remains divided over Brexit and numerous issues, negotiations between the US and UK stalled after British envoy to the US Kim Darroch resigned after leaks revealed that he had called President Trump "inept and incompetent", and that the US president would end up in "disgrace". Donald Trump retaliated by calling Amb Darroch "a very stupid guy" and promised not to speak to him. The British Foreign Office later announced Darroch's resignation and stated that his comments made working with the US "impossible".