British Prime Minister Boris Johnson poses for the G-7 family photo at G-7 summit at the Hotel du Palais in Biarritz, France, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

UK's Johnson pursues more post-Brexit trade talks at G7

August 26, 2019 - 8:40 am

BIARRITZ, France (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson talked trade with the leaders of Australia and Egypt at the Group of Seven summit Monday as he sought to position his nation for a post-Brexit world.

Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison agreed at the summit in the French resort town of Biarritz to do a trade deal after the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, a departure now set for Oct. 31. Morrison said he believed a U.K.-Australia pact could be done within a year.

"But at the end of the day it's got to be in our interests," Morrison said. "We are not going to sign up to something we don't think helps us and neither will they."

After a one-on-one meeting with Johnson at the three-day G-7 summit on Sunday, U.S. President Donald Trump promised they would work out "a very big trade deal" between their nations once Brexit happens.

Johnson also met Monday on the summit's sidelines with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. The two discussed their shared desire to strengthen economic, trade and security co-operation between the U.K. and Egypt.

Despite the optimistic outlook given for Britain's trade and future, the country's departure from the EU and its single market of 500 million hasn't taken place more than three years after voters backed leaving. Johnson said Sunday that the U.K. should prepare for an exit without a withdrawal deal in place, acknowledging that the prospect of a Brexit agreement getting approved in the next two months was "touch and go."

The British prime minister's promise to bring his country out of the EU on Oct. 31 no matter what has raised worries about a disorderly divorce that would see new tariffs and border checks on trade between Britain and the EU, seriously disrupting business.

Johnson has told European Union officials it won't be possible to stop Britain's departure from the trading bloc without the removal of controversial language about the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, saying they shouldn't listen to British lawmakers who think they can block Brexit.

The consequences could be costly to the EU, Johnson suggested in interviews with broadcasters Sunday. He told Sky he would withhold the bulk of the 39 billion pounds ($48 billion) the U.K. is supposed to pay the EU for the divorce if there is no deal.

The British prime minister badly needs a trade deal with the United States and other big powers. Supporters of Brexit say a free trade deal with the U.S. could help make up for reduced commerce with the EU. In 2018, Britain did almost half its trade with the EU, while the U.S. accounted for 18% of U.K. exports and 11% of imports.

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