Brexit trade deal negotiations with the United States will not restart for years, Liz Truss has conceded.
The Prime Minister made the admission as she flew to New York for a meeting with Joe Biden on Wednesday.
Brexiteeers claimed an agreement with the US would be easy to secure and suggested that it was a major benefit of leaving the EU’s customs union.
But speaking overnight on her flight to New York the prime minister downplayed the idea and told reporters that she had no expectations of talks restarting with Joe Biden’s government.
She said instead her priority was striking agreements with India and the Gulf states, as well as joining a Pacific trading bloc.
“There aren’t currently any negotiations taking place with the US and I don’t have an expectation that those are going to start in the short to medium term,” she said.
Questioned about the comments, No 10 officials did not deny that Ms Truss was effectively conceding it would be years before talks with the White House resumed
Theresa May and Boris Johnson heavily courted former US president Donald Trump in the hope that he would sign an agreement with them and give them a supposed Brexit win.
But Mr Biden has effectively put negotiations on ice – and also raised concerns about the impact of the UK governemnt’s Brexit policy on the territory’s peace process.
He also also focused on signing trade deals with other countries, in May adopting a new agreement with the same 12 Indo-Pacific nations Ms Truss wants to target.
The political situation in the US may or may not change after 2024. Mr Trump is expected to seek to run again for the opposition Republican party.
Speaking on Tuesday morning culture secretary Michelle Donelan told Sky News: “The Prime Minister and the President will be meeting this week, they’ll be talking about a variety of different issues, including potential trade deals. So let’s see what comes out of that meeting.”
But pressed on whether trade talks would come up, she said: “The purpose of this meeting is not to secure a trade deal. This is the first bilateral meeting between the newly elected prime minister and the president of the United States.”
The meeting was rescheduled after a previous planned bilateral ahead of the Queen’s funeral was cancelled.
When Boris Johnson last visited the US as prime minister, Mr Biden downplayed the possibility of a deal with the UK and warned the British government against tampering with the “Irish accords” amid a row over the post-Brexit protocol.
Mr Johnson has been threatening to unilaterally override parts of the Brexit deal, in breach of international law – a policy Ms Truss has said she will continued.
While in New York, Ms Truss is also set to have talks with French President Emmanuel Macron and the EU’s Ursula von der Leyen, which are expected to prominently feature Brexit issues.
Ms Truss will meet Mr Macron on Tuesday, before seeing Mr Biden and Ms von der Leyen on Wednesday. She had been set to talk to the US President in Britain over the weekend as he visited for the Queen’s funeral, but the meeting was postponed.
Labour’s Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy, who is also attending UN general assembly meeting, said: “After being snubbed by the Biden administration within her first weeks in office, Liz Truss urgently needs to wake up to the damage her reckless approach to foreign policy is doing to the UK’s national interest.
“The Prime Minister must use the UN General Assembly to bring the UK back in from the cold and begin rebuilding our country’s diplomatic influence.”
And shadow international trade secretary Nick Thomas Symonds said Ms Truss’s admitted was “terrible news for the UK economy” and “costing billions in lost potential trade opportunities and holding back growth”.
He added: “There is no doubt that the blame for this mess lies at the door of the Prime Minister, who tarnished the UK’s international reputation as Foreign and International Trade Secretary. This is an embarrassment for Liz Truss.
“The Conservative manifesto promised a trade deal with the United States by the end of this year, now this has no chance of being delivered.”