Brexit deal: Boris Johnson to conduct 'parallel trade talks with EU and US'
Boris Johnson could undertake trade talks with the European Union at the same time as those with the US, Downing Street suggested.
It comes as MPs will further scrutinise the Prime Minister's Brexit bill when they return to Parliament following the Christmas break.
Once the UK leaves the EU at the end of the month, it will formally enter the transition period where both Brussels and Westminster will try to hammer out a free trade deal before the end of 2020.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman signalled the Government could aim to hold the talks in parallel with separate negotiations with Washington, stating the UK will “not just focus on discussing the future partnership with the EU” over the next 12 months.
Not just an EU focus
It comes as senior Tories have pushed the idea as a means to pile pressure on Brussels to give the UK a quick trade deal.
Asked during a Westminster briefing if the Government will conduct trade talks with the EU in tandem with those with the US, the spokesman replied: "Once we have left the EU on January 31 we will be free to hold trade discussions with countries across the world and not just focus on discussing the future partnership with the EU."
Reports over the weekend claimed ministers, including Dominic Raab and Liz Truss, are pushing for parallel talks with the US to put pressure on the EU.
They believe Brussels is more likely to give favourable terms if the UK has already agreed a trade deal with the US.
But the EU’s trade commissioner Philip Hogan, who will be leading the negotiations, said he believed Mr Johnson would take a more “commonsense approach” to the deadline for the talks.
According to Irish news channel RTE, Mr Hogan said the point would be reinforced by the new European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who will be meeting the Prime Minister for bilateral talks in Number 10 on Wednesday.
European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer said the meeting would "set the scene" for the Brexit process but in order to launch trade talks the European Council, made up of the 27 remaining EU nations, would need to approve a mandate "and we are not at that stage yet".
"This is not a meeting that will go into the details of the trade negotiation per se," he added.
The UK is scheduled to leave the bloc at the end of the month, and the Government will push the necessary legislation through the House of Commons by the end of Thursday.