Theresa May has been warned not to rush into Donald Trump’s “bear hug” and try to negotiate a free trade deal with the US too quickly.
Paul Drechsler, president of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday that negotiating a trade deal is “a dog eat dog activity” and every deal is not “necessarily a good and fair deal for both parties”.
He said: “The USA has one of the best negotiating teams in the world in terms of trade deals, we don’t want to walk into a bear hug and I would be wary of trying to be too fast on a trade deal.
“The important thing is to know what we want to achieve, what the objectives are and what the trade-offs are.”
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Mr Drechsler said businesses were “no wiser” about what the future trading relationship will look like than they were a year ago.
He also defended the organisation’s call for a transitional deal keeping Britain in the single market and customs union.
He said: “As soon as anybody defines a plan for exit, sets out what it means, then we can transition.
“But in the meantime we don’t have a plan, businesses around the country need to make decisions on investment, on whether to put their headquarters in the UK or somewhere else, on whether to place jobs in the UK or somewhere else.
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“Those decisions are being taken now, so it’s not about buying time. As soon as somebody has the plan then of course we can know what the future holds. At the moment we don’t.
“We are no wiser today than we were 12 months ago in terms of what conditions business will be able to plan on for the future.”
Mr Drechsler said politicians should have an “honest conversation” with voters and not chase headlines.
“There is a wonderful future ahead of us but we have to recognise there are also threats and challenges to that and I would just encourage everyone, let’s ease up on the vitriol and let’s focus on the facts and evidence,” he said.
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“Let’s engage people in understanding the exciting possibilities, not feed them just bits and pieces that are on the surface exciting but lack no substance beneath.”
Speaking at the G20 summit on Saturday, Mr Trump said he expects to reach a “very powerful” trade deal with Britain “very quickly” post-Brexit.
Mrs May said it was a “powerful vote of confidence” in Britain that Mr Trump and other world leaders have shown a “strong desire” to strike new trade deals once Britain leaves.
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The PM said she was “optimistic and positive” about a future pact with the US.
Meanwhile, a Cabinet minister has said a trade deal with the US will not be enough to make up for the economic damage caused by Brexit.
Justice Secretary David Lidington said that while a UK-US deal would be a “very good thing”, it would not be “enough on its own” to make up for cutting ties with Brussels.