Labour MPs discussed US/UK Brexit trade deal with Trump allies

Labour MPs discussed US/UK Brexit trade deal with Trump allies

Speculation is mounting that Labour is paving the way to open UK/US trade talks with a Donald Trump administration if he wins back the White House just as Sir Keir Starmer enters Downing Street.

The Independent has learnt that senior Labour MPs, including shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock and shadow exports minister Tan Dhesi, were guests at the right-wing Heritage Foundation in Washington DC this week.

The Heritage Foundation has earned a reputation for being at the heart of a shift to the right in the Republican Party. It has led Project 2025, the preparations for the next Republican administration in the White House including policy documents and staffing.

The shadow ministers were joined by Tory Crewe MP Kieran Mullan and pro-Trump British think tank the Legatum Institute at the discussions in Washington.

David Lammy has said Labour would seek to work with whoever is in the White House (PA Wire)
David Lammy has said Labour would seek to work with whoever is in the White House (PA Wire)

The move comes after shadow foreign secretary David Lammy raised eyebrows by defending former president Trump’s Nato policy.

The Independent understands that Mr Lammy also asked to speak at Heritage in a further attempt to bolster relations when he visited but had his request turned down.

Recently, Mr Lammy’s attempts to build bridges with Trump allies have been praised by Legatum for changing his previously hostile language about the former president.

Drew Hale, who chaired the meeting and is Heritage’s head of trade policy, also praised the Labour MPs for their engagement on “a potential US/UK trade deal”.

He described the MPs as “great” and said that they appeared to be very favourable to a US/UK deal as well as the UK joining the existing trading group with America, Canada and Mexico (USMCA).

Sarah Elliott, head of the US unit at Legatum who was also present, added that Labour is “definitely putting an olive branch out and showing an openness to work with Republicans”.

A trade deal with the US was one of the biggest promises made by Brexiteers during the 2016 EU referendum. However, a succession of Tory prime ministers have failed to deliver one following Joe Biden’s victory over Mr Trump in 2020.

In her brief premiership, Liz Truss suspended the US trade talks and Rishi Sunak has not restarted them.

The much-coveted US trade deal would be a major victory for a Keir Starmer government if Labour could succeed where the Tories failed. Labour has closer ties with the Democrats but appears more ready to deal with the Republicans than the current Tory leadership.

Mr Kinnock told The Independent: “The purpose of this cross-party delegation to Washington DC was to strengthen political ties between the UK and the US across a number of key policy areas.

“The programme included meetings and briefings with a diverse set of organisations ranging from Congress to the World Bank, USAid, the State Department, business groups and think tanks.

“A wide range of issues were discussed at every meeting, from Ukraine, to trade, to migration, to the special relationship.”