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Will gin prove to be the deal-breaker in UK-USA trade talks?

July 25, 2020 12:49 PM
By Peter Black

lswa (Thanks to Jez Timms for sharing their work on Unsplash.)Of all the things to be outraged about when it come to Donald Trump, the price of gin must surely feature near the bottom of a very long list. Unfortunately, UK Ministers appear to exist in a different world to the rest of us, one they have created themselves by insisting we leave the world's biggest free trade area, and in which we are suddenly vulnerable to every whim of the US President, without the bargaining power to strike back. Such are the realities of Brexit.

In this case, the Independent reports on hand-wringing by the UK's International Trade Secretary, Liz Truss, who believes that the public will lose enthusiasm for a trade deal with the US if Donald Trump imposes further tariffs on British industry. In her world the public are enthused for such a deal. In the real world it doesn't even feature on most people's agenda.

The cause of her anguish and outrage is the threat of price hikes on products such as gin. It had escaped my notice, but Trump slapped extra tariffs on drinks including Scotch last year as part of a dispute over European subsidies for plane manufacturer Airbus. Truss believes that this action has cast a shadow over talks around a post-Brexit UK-US trade deal:

She told a House of Lords committee that she had made clear to the US that additional tariffs on gin and other drinks would be "hugely detrimental" to negotiations.

She added: "I think the British public would lose their support for negotiations continuing were there to be additional tariffs levied."

Ms Truss will present her US counterpart, Robert Lighthizer, with a bottle of gin when they next meet, she added.

She told peers: "These tariffs are completely unnecessary and they harm industry on both sides of the Atlantic.

"We want them removed and we want them removed fast - preferably through a negotiated settlement.

Perhaps if she and her government had not significantly weakened the UK's negotiating stance by leaving the EU, and not put us in hock to Trump, things might be working out rather differently.