A trade deal between the UK and the US was once counted as a great potential prize of Brexit. But now those plans have been delayed, with no clear timetable in sight.
Downplaying expectations of an agreement between the two countries before he met with the US president on 21 September, British prime minister Boris Johnson said that Joe Biden had a “lot of fish to fry”.
The apparent frostiness of the Biden administration swiftly led to suggestions from unnamed British Government sources that the UK might instead apply to join the US-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) agreement as an alternative.
The difficulty, of course, is that nobody knew how seriously to take this. There was back tracking soon after, with a Downing Street spokesperson insisting the focus was still a direct deal with the US.
After all, there are towering obstacles to the UK joining the USMCA in practice. For a start, doing so would require the agreement of all three existing members. The fact that they do not appear to have even been consulted about the possibility is something of a diplomatic faux pas and makes the entire situation even stranger.
If the current US administration is unwilling to negotiate a bilateral free trade agreement with the UK, why should it be more predisposed to negotiate a quadrilateral one?