Boris Johnson’s double Donald dilemma

LONDON — For Boris Johnson, G7 will be a tale of two Donalds.

The new U.K. prime minister flies into Biarritz Saturday lunchtime determined to show the world Britain has its mojo back. The centerpiece of his weekend is a meeting first thing Sunday with Donald Trump. Hours later, Johnson will come face-to-face with Donald Tusk.

“My message to G7 leaders this week is this: The Britain I lead will be an international, outward-looking, self-confident nation,” Johnson said in his pre-summit statement. Those who think Brexit — even the no-deal Brexit he is prepared to enact in just 10 weeks’ time — means the U.K. retreating from the world are “gravely mistaken,” he added.

If the Trump meeting is likely to be hailed by Johnson as an exemplar of the U.K.’s new place in the world, the Tusk one will be a reminder of the fractious Brexit process he needs to navigate before he can pursue that agenda with gusto.

In truth, neither head-to-head will be easy. While in style Johnson might appear to share the straight-talking rambunctiousness of his North American ally, in substance many of the prime minister’s policy positions remain closely aligned with those of his Continental counterparts. Play too nicely with one and he risks antagonizing the other — or worse still being stranded, lonely in the middle.

European Council President Donald Tusk | Frederick Florin/AFP via Getty Images

Trump might talk up his good relations with Johnson, choose the prime minister as his first bilateral of the summit and discuss the agenda with him by phone beforehand, and Johnson may enjoy sharing the limelight with a U.S. president, but the two countries are far apart on key foreign policy questions, particularly on Iran and climate change. Regarding a new U.S.-U.K. trade deal, despite public confidence, officials in London are under no illusions about the serious hurdles that need to be overcome.

As for Tusk-Johnson, the European Council president said in February said there was a “special place in hell” for those who championed Brexit without a plan to carry it out. Most thought he was referring to Johnson, the champion of the 2016 Vote Leave campaign, who was then a backbench MP opposing Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

As fellow leaders, their diplomatic relations haven’t been much more cordial. This week Tusk responded to a letter from Johnson requesting that a key pillar of May’s deal — the Northern Ireland backstop — be removed by effectively accusing the U.K. prime minister of wanting to reimpose a hard border on the island of Ireland.

And despite some warm words and mixed messages from Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel this week, a new deal before October 31 that could avert an economically disruptive, crash-out Brexit still looks unlikely, and Johnson knows it.

“I want to caution everybody, OK? Because this is not going to be a cinch, this is not going to be easy. We will have to work very hard to get this thing done,” he told broadcasters on Friday. No wonder then that the other message Johnson intends to convey to Tusk on Sunday, according to officials, is that the U.K. really means it (this time) when it says it will leave with no deal.

Looking both ways

The paradox of Boris Johnson’s G7 agenda is that while the Trump meeting is at its heart, his other key messages could hardly sound more different to those of the U.S. president.

A convinced advocate of global action to combat climate change and protect the environment, the U.K. prime minister joined Emmanuel Macron in advance of the summit in highlighting the seriousness of the “heartbreaking” Amazon rainforest fire.

On Russia, he opposes Trump’s wish to invite Vladimir Putin back into the G7 fold, and on perhaps the most pressing foreign policy issue on the summit agenda — Iran — he stands with France and Germany.

U.K. officials indicated in advance of the summit that there was no change in the U.K.’s support for the nuclear deal, and that London, despite the change of leadership, was still not supportive of the U.S. “maximum pressure” on Iran strategy.

New Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is, one official said, more inclined to a hardline stance on Iran than his predecessor, Jeremy Hunt (Johnson’s vanquished leadership rival), but the overall direction of U.K. foreign policy — on this and much else — has not radically changed.

This much was clear from Johnson’s pre-summit statement.

“We face unprecedented global challenges at the very time when public trust in the institutions designed to address them risks being undermined,” he said. “International tensions and new trade barriers are threatening global growth. Violence and conflict are trapping countries in poverty, depriving children, and particularly girls, of the universal right to education. Climate change is accelerating the devastating and unprecedented loss of habitats and species.”

It’s not a pitch tailor-made to appeal to Donald Trump.

Nor will the two leaders necessarily find an easy path to a new trade deal between their countries. In private, U.K. officials recognize the difficulties involved in securing a post-Brexit trade deal with the U.S. — namely ensuring protection for U.K. farmers and the NHS, while persuading Washington to open up the U.S. market to the U.K.’s services firms.

Boris Johnson (L) and U.S. President Donald Trump greet before a meeting on United Nations Reform at UN headquarters in New York on September 18, 2017. | Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Talk of a series of mini-deals, promoted by Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton on a recent visit to London, is not considered viable in London, and Downing Street is downplaying any suggestion of a timetable for negotiations emerging from the Trump-Johnson meeting.

“The prime minister and president have both repeatedly expressed their commitment to delivering an ambitious U.K.-U.S. free-trade agreement and to starting negotiations as soon as possible,” a Downing Street spokesperson said.  “Of course we want to move quickly, but we want to get the right deal that works for both sides.”

Johnson’s real fight back home

And then, of course, there’s Brexit.

Angela Merkel’s suggestion on Wednesday of a 30-day timetable to find a solution briefly raised hopes in the U.K. that the EU might climb down from its refusal to countenance a re-opening of the legally binding Withdrawal Agreement struck with May.

However, EU officials have been clear that there has been no change of position and that it is still up to the U.K. to come up with what Tusk on Monday called “realistic alternatives” to the Northern Ireland backstop plan.

While Macron hinted on Thursday at more talks led by the EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, the EU has not dropped its insistence that the backstop stays in the Withdrawal Agreement.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson | Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

As Merkel in particular emphasized, the non-legally binding Political Declaration on the future relationship between the U.K. and the EU — the second element of the Brexit deal — can be changed, and Barnier is authorized to start talking about that. But without changes to the Withdrawal Agreement the U.K. won’t be at the table — so deadlock looks likely to persist.

EU leaders also have half an eye on Johnson’s home front. MPs return to parliament in little over a week’s time, and opposition parties and Conservative rebels are expected to fight tooth and nail to block Johnson from taking the U.K. out of the EU on October 31 without a deal. While it is not yet a public position, many government officials are convinced Johnson will seek an election to prevent the House of Commons — where he has a majority of one — standing in his way.

For now, that is where Johnson’s real fight lies, and until he wins it, his fellow G7 leaders will be justified in wondering how long his tenure as a member of their exclusive club will be.

David Herszenhorn and Gaby Orr contributed reporting for this article.

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Boris Johnson’s not-so-grand tour

LONDON — Boris Johnson is heading to Europe, but his officials are heading out.

The U.K. prime minister will touch down in Berlin on Wednesday for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel as part of his pledge to work with “energy and determination” to reach an agreement with the European Union before the Brexit date of October 31. He heads on to Paris to meet French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday.

But Johnson has hardly prepared the ground for smooth talks with his EU counterparts.

His call for the EU to drop the Irish border backstop from the Brexit deal agreed with his predecessor Theresa May was sharply rejected by European Council President Donald Tusk.

And on the eve of Johnson’s visit, Britain announced most U.K. officials will stop attending most EU meetings on the future of the Union from September 1. While the government insisted the move “is not intended in any way to frustrate the functioning of the EU,” the message to Brussels is clear: We have more important things to do.

“It is time to remove that backstop, get rid of it, have a total backstop-ectomy and I think then we can make progress” — Boris Johnson, British prime minister

“From now on we will only go to the meetings that really matter, reducing attendance by over half and saving hundreds of hours,” Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay declared. “This will free up time for Ministers and their officials to get on with preparing for our departure on October 31 and seizing the opportunities that lie ahead.”

Against that backdrop, the chances of the two sides bridging their differences look slim as Johnson prepares for a diplomatic blitz in Berlin and Paris, and at a summit of G7 countries in Biarritz at the weekend.

But the prime minister said he would not be put off by the EU’s stance.

“I saw what Donald Tusk had to say and it wasn’t redolent of a sense of optimism. But I think actually we will get there,” he said on Tuesday.

Johnson will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday | Halldor Kolbeins/AFP via Getty Images

“There is a real sense now that something needs to be done with this backstop. We can’t get it through Parliament as it is. So, I am going to go at it with a lot of oomph as you’d expect, and I hope we will be making some progress in the course of the next few weeks,” he told broadcasters.

“It is time to remove that backstop, get rid of it, have a total backstop-ectomy and I think then we can make progress,” he said in another interview, with Britain’s ITV.

He also risked riling the EU and members of the previous British government by declaring that ministers under his predecessor had been reconciled to remaining “within the empire of EU legislation.”

Demand for detail

His diplomatic statement of intent came after EU officials spent the day criticizing the lack of detail in a letter from Johnson to Tusk calling for the backstop to be dropped from the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated between the EU and the government of Theresa May.

Officials said there is no clear plan about what would happen if the so-called alternative arrangements to manage customs and regulatory differences as a result of Brexit on the Irish border are not in place at the end of a transition period.

“Replacing the backstop with something that isn’t defined gets rid of the guarantee the backstop was meant to provide. No checks, it’s a joke, it means that the U.K. would accept that products that don’t respect its rules enter its market without control? How long will that hold?” one French diplomatic official said.

European Council President Donald Tusk | Sergei Supinsky/AFP via Getty Images

Tusk took to Twitter to slam a lack of “realistic alternatives” on the backstop. And in a note to EU governments, seen by POLITICO, the European Commission’s task force dealing with Brexit described parts of Johnson’s letter as “inaccurate” and “misleading.”

Ahead of her dinner with Johnson on Wednesday, Merkel struck a constructive note but made clear the EU is not ready to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement.

While the EU would consider “practical” solutions for the Irish border after Brexit, that does not mean reopening the agreement, Merkel told a press conference on Tuesday.

One U.K. government official said that if EU leaders don’t change their position on the backstop, discussions in Berlin, France and Biarritz this week would focus on issues other than Brexit.

No watershed

A second U.K. official insisted the Tusk letter was never going to be a “watershed moment” and had simply set down the U.K. position in writing.

The official said that more specific proposals would first have to be aired in private talks with both EU leaders and the Commission. “The detail will come after those conversations,” the official suggested.

Some British government officials hope that the EU will shift its position if it becomes clear that the U.K. parliament can’t unite around a common position to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

“If I was the EU I would want to know if there is a real coalition to stop a no-deal Brexit,” a third U.K. government official said. “You need to get a majority of parliamentarians on the same page for something, and they aren’t yet.”

“The problem is that nothing has changed. What has it changed? A new government? That’s surely not enough, the approach is the same” — EU diplomat

The problem for Johnson’s government is that EU officials don’t believe he is strong enough politically to force through a no-deal outcome.

Johnson’s threats are not being taken seriously because of his thin majority, and the strength of opposition to no deal in the House of Commons, an EU diplomat said.

Another diplomat added that the EU has little reason to shift position when there was no evidence that any fundamental political realities in the U.K. had changed.

“The problem is that nothing has changed. What has it changed? A new government? That’s surely not enough, the approach is the same,” the diplomat said.

German unity

While EU governments are concerned about the impact of a no-deal Brexit, particularly after the German economy contracted in the second quarter, there is little pressure from industry or opposition politicians in European capitals to reopen the withdrawal text.

The Federation of German Industries, Germany’s leading business lobby group, said in a statement on Tuesday that threats from London of a disorderly exit were “irresponsible.” It was “reasonable” for the German federal government and the European Commission to “continue to stand by the negotiated deal,” the group added.

“It is also in the interest of the German economy that internal market rules are permanently observed at the Irish border. This will only succeed with the backstop,” the trade body said.

The noises from Germany were not supportive of Boris Johnson’s bid to strike a new Brexit deal | Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Franziska Brantner, the European affairs spokesperson for the opposition Green party in Germany, said new negotiations would be “completely unacceptable.”

“Irish peace and European principles prevail over the selfish interests of Boris Johnson and his chaotic Tory troupe,” she told POLITICO.

For Johnson, there is also little domestic incentive to compromise.

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, whose party crushed the Conservatives to emerge as the clear winner in the U.K.’s European election in May, criticized Johnson’s focus on the Irish backstop in his letter to Tusk.

“Even without the backstop, this is still the worst ‘deal’ in history,” he tweeted.

Letter reading

On the wing of the U.K. Conservative Party fighting against a no-deal Brexit, opinion was divided about Johnson’s letter to Tusk.

“It’s not a serious or credible negotiating position,” one Tory MP actively working to block no deal told POLITICO.

Former Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt, another opponent of no deal, warned that if the letter had been “designed largely to reinforce domestic understanding of the government’s current position,” it would not be helpful.

But Burt said it would be encouraging if, along with Johnson’s phone call to Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Monday night, it indicated there was “a willingness in setting out the PM’s lines, to engage and understand the position of others.”

Tory MP Alistair Burt, a staunch opponent of no-deal Brexit | Helene Wiesenhaan/Getty Images for IMCP

“After nearly a month of little direct communication it is an advance on that. I hope it prompts further efforts to reduce red lines, not reinforce them,” he added.

Another former Tory minister also hoped the letter was simply an “opening shot.”

If not, MPs fear things could turn nasty as Number 10 Downing Street looks to put the blame on the EU and Johnson’s domestic opponents.

“I fear hostile and combative discussions with aggressive language from No. 10 so opponents of no deal can be vilified,” the former minister said.

This article is part of POLITICO’s premium Brexit service for professionals: Brexit Pro. To test our our expert policy coverage of the implications and next steps per industry, email pro@politico.eu for a complimentary trial.

Lili Bayer, Jacopo Barigazzi, Rym Momtaz, Judith Mischke, Emma Anderson contributed reporting.

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UK officials to withdraw from EU meetings from September 1

LONDON — U.K. officials will only attend EU meetings with a “significant national interest,” Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay announced Tuesday.

Attendance will be reduced by more than half, freeing up officials to work on Brexit preparations and post-Brexit trade opportunities, he said.

Officials will start to withdraw from meetings from September 1, unless the U.K. has an interest in the outcome of discussions, such as security, sovereignty, Brexit, international relations and finance.

“An incredible amount of time and effort goes into EU meetings with attendance just the tip of the iceberg,” Barclay said in a statement issued by the Department for Exiting the EU on Tuesday. “From now on we will only go to the meetings that really matter, reducing attendance by over half and saving hundreds of hours. This will free up time for Ministers and their officials to get on with preparing for our departure on October 31 and seizing the opportunities that lie ahead.”

The move comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to “unshackle” officials from EU meetings in the House of Commons in July. He will attend the October European Council meeting.

The Brexit department said the U.K.’s vote would be delegated in a way that “does not obstruct the ongoing business of the remaining 27 EU members, and a decision about which meetings to attend would be made on a “case by case” basis.

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Nancy Pelosi says no UK-US trade deal if Brexit risks Irish peace

LONDON — Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, warned Boris Johnson and Donald Trump that Congress will block any trade deal between the U.K. and U.S. that threatens peace in Northern Ireland.

According to a statement from her office, Pelosi said Brexit “cannot be allowed to imperil” the Good Friday Agreement that ended decades of conflict.

British Prime Minister Johnson has demanded the EU scrap the backstop plan to keep the Northern Irish border open, which was negotiated by his predecessor Theresa May. But Brussels has refused to budge, increasing the possibility of a no-deal Brexit and border checks.

Pelosi, a Democrat, issued her warning after U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said during a visit to the U.K. on Tuesday that Britain would be at the “front of the trade queue” with Washington after Brexit.

She said in a statement: “Whatever form it takes, Brexit cannot be allowed to imperil the Good Friday Agreement, including the seamless border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland, especially now, as the first generation born into the hope of Good Friday 21 years ago comes into adulthood. We cannot go back.”

She added: “If Brexit undermines the Good Friday accord, there will be no chance of a U.S.-U.K. trade agreement passing the Congress.

“The peace of the Good Friday Agreement is treasured by the American people and will be fiercely defended on a bicameral and bipartisan basis in the United States Congress.”

It comes after senior members of Congress vowed to block any trade deal between the U.K. and U.S. that jeopardizes the 1998 pact.

Bolton also said during his U.K. visit that the Trump administration would “enthusiastically” support a no-deal Brexit.

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The insecurity of a new no-deal Brexit Prime Minister

The economic consequences of the UK leaving the European Union without a deal have received significant attention, but a no-deal Brexit would also have important security implications. Helena Farrand Carrapico, Jocelyn Mawdsley and Richard G. Whitman explain what leaving the EU without a deal might mean for the UK’s internal and external security, as well as the country’s future security relationship with the EU.

The Conservative leadership race seems to be increasing the likelihood of a no deal Brexit. Both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have made clear they are willing to contemplate a no deal Brexit on 31 October if a revised agreement cannot be reached with the EU on the terms of the UK’s withdrawal. And the EU’s member states have made clear that they are unwilling to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement reached with Theresa May’s Government.

The likely impacts of a no deal Brexit on the EU-UK economic relationship have been given significant attention with hair raising accounts of the probable effects on trade, borders, travel and UK manufacturing and services. However, the effects on the security interrelationship between the EU and the UK have been given much less prominence. Currently, as a member state, the UK is connected to the other EU member states through a variety of cooperation arrangements for internal security (on borders, policing and criminal justice) and external security (managing security threats from outside Europe and which include cooperation on conflict management and defence). A no deal Brexit means that this cooperation would be thrown into uncertainty.

Internal security

A no deal Brexit would have considerable impact on the UK’s internal security, in particular on police and judicial authorities’ capacity to address issues such as organised crime and terrorism, and on the UK’s role as a leading country in the area of security, including its ability to propose new instruments and shape EU decisions so as to align them with its national interests. In fact, one could even go as far as to say that a no deal Brexit constitutes a substantial threat to UK security given the current critical and unprecedented levels of organised crime activities, as well as the continued severe level of international and domestic terrorism.

Against a background of wide-ranging police cuts (namely the loss of 44,000 police officer jobs since 2010) and the accumulation of austerity effects, the rapidly growing levels of insecurity are having a clear impact on the everyday safety of the UK population, with serious and organised crime currently endangering more lives than any other national security threat. Given that these problems are transnational in nature, the key to addressing them lies on intelligence and information exchange, rather than on the reinforcement of borders as has been occasionally expressed.

The UK currently has access to a large number of EU instruments, databases and agencies that allow it to have direct access to crucial information, to exchange best practices and to coordinate strategies and operations with other EU member states. The most important instruments include, for instance, the European Arrest Warrant, the Schengen Information System, the European Criminal Record System, Europol and Eurojust, whose access is part of a carefully designed relationship that the UK has negotiated with the EU since the early 90s and which has allowed it to adopt a selective participation in the area of internal security.

Within this model, the UK has been able to take part in instruments that are aligned with its national interests, at the same time as it has been allowed to opt out from others it considers less useful (for a complete list of UK opt-ins and opt-outs from this area, please visit the UK Governments’ dedicated website). As the UK progressed through the negotiation of the Withdrawal Agreement, its future security negotiation position also became clearer: it wishes to find alternatives to EU instruments that are capable of maintaining the same level of cooperation, in particular regarding data-driven law enforcement, practical assistance to operations, and multilateral cooperation through agencies.

A no deal scenario creates considerable uncertainty regarding the future UK-EU relationship as it implies a sudden loss of access to data and EU instruments, an abrupt interruption in cooperation, a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and a decrease in the levels of trust between the two sides.

Defence and security

As far as external security and defence consequences go, the immediate consequences of a no deal Brexit are less serious than the internal security ones. This is because the UK has already retreated from an active role in the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) in preparation for Brexit, for example handing over the operational command of Operation Atalanta (that deals with the piracy threat in the Horn of Africa) and leaving the roster of EU Battlegroups (standby military forces that the EU keeps available for conflict management). Most military operational activity now is either bilateral with other member states or through NATO.

Helicopter refuelling at sea as part of Operation Atalanta, Credit: European Union Naval Force Somalia Operation Atalanta (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

However, anticipating Brexit the other EU member states have set an ambitious agenda for EU defence policy and with the UK having little say in its objectives. There are now well-advanced plans to develop more shared military research and development, defence industry collaboration and common defence procurement. All of these are for the purpose of giving the EU a greater military capability to act independently of other countries such as the U.S.

The foreign and trade policy consequences of a no deal Brexit have significant knock-on consequences for defence too. As far as trade policy is concerned, a no deal Brexit will have negative consequences for British manufacturing, including the space, aerospace and defence industries. Delays and additional costs to exports may endanger British firms’ participation in major international supply chains. This coupled with a significant gap between UK defence policy commitments and budgetary allocations makes the UK a less desirable and reliable partner for future multinational procurement projects as the FCAS developments have shown.

Indeed, the recklessness of a no deal Brexit, after three years of political turmoil, would send a bad signal to the UK’s partners about its reliability in security and defence matters. Already there seems to have been a cooling off of UK-French defence cooperation because of French concerns about UK reliability both in operational participation and defence industry cooperation.

Brussels re-set

A no deal Brexit has broader foreign and security policy consequences for the UK’s relationship with the EU. The UK’s internal security relationship with the EU’s member states would be thrown into significant uncertainly and with dislocating effects for the policing, information sharing and judicial cooperation relationships that are currently in place.

Even without a no deal Brexit EU member states have already created a blueprint for further security and defence integration that do not anticipate a significant role for the UK as a non-member state. The agenda for close and special partnership, provided for under the current Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration, would be in tatters. And the UK would be seen as unreliable partner unable and unwilling to deliver on security and defence cooperation.

A new EU leadership coming into office and coinciding with an October no deal Brexit may have no lived experience of the extensive contribution that the UK made to existing EU security and defence policies and capabilities. Their formative impression of the UK could be as a security challenge to be managed rather than an indispensable partner for security cooperation.

This article gives the views of the authors, not the position of LSE Brexit or the London School of Economics. It first appeared on our sister site EUROPP – European Politics and Policy.

Helena Farrand Carrapico is an Associate Professor in Criminology and International Relations at Northumbria University. She is on Twitter @hcarrapico

Jocelyn Mawdsley is a Senior Lecturer in European Politics at Newcastle University. She is on Twitter @JocelynMawdsley

Richard G. Whitman is Professor of Politics and International Relations at the University of Kent. He is on Twitter @RGWhitman

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Boris Johnson: UK-US trade deal will be a ‘tough old haggle’

Brokering a transatlantic trade deal won’t be easy but can be done, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Tuesday.

“It will be a tough old haggle, but we’ll get there,” Johnson told Sky News.

“In my experience, the Americans are very tough negotiators indeed,” he said, adding that the U.S. market “is growing very fast for the U.K., but they still ban haggis, for heaven’s sake.”

Johnson also said reaching a post-Brexit deal with the EU will be most important.

“The single biggest deal that we need to do is a free trade agreement with our friends and partners over the Channel.”

Johnson’s comments come a day after John Bolton, U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, said during a visit to the U.K. that the two countries could broker sector-by-sector deals to reach bilateral agreements “very quickly, very straightforwardly.”

Bolton’s comments have been dismissed by trade experts, who say piecemeal deals based on tariff reductions in one sector would not comply with World Trade Organization rules.

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Trump envoy: US would ‘enthusiastically’ back no-deal Brexit

America would “enthusiastically” support a no-deal Brexit, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said on Monday during a visit to London.

“If that’s the decision of the British government, we will support it enthusiastically, and that’s what I’m trying to convey,” Bolton told reporters on the first day of his two-day visit to the British capital, according to the Guardian. “We’re with you, we’re with you.”

He said the U.S. would consider striking sector-specific deals ahead of a full-scale trade pact.

“The ultimate end result is a comprehensive trade agreement covering all trading goods and services,” Bolton said. “But to get to that you could do it sector by sector, and you can do it in a modular fashion. In other words, you can carve out some areas where it might be possible to reach a bilateral agreement very quickly, very straightforwardly.”

Bolton also took aim at Brussels, saying: “The fashion in the European Union is when the people vote the wrong way from the way the elites want to go, is to make the peasants vote again and again until they get it right. There was a vote — everyone knew what the issues were. It is hard to imagine that anyone in this country did not know what was at stake. The result is the way it was. That’s democracy.”

He added: “Britain’s success in successfully exiting the European Union will be a statement about democratic rule and constitutional government. That’s important for Britain. But it’s important for the United States, too. So we see a successful exit as being very much in our interest, and there’s no quid pro quo on any of these issues.”

Bolton also said he couldn’t see a threat to the Good Friday Agreement as a result of Brexit, the Guardian wrote.

Bolton was expected to urge Britain to align more closely with America’s stance on Iran and on Huawei’s involvement in 5G telecoms networks, but he told reporters that Washington understood Brexit was the priority, given Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson had promised to exit the EU by October 31.

“The U.S. government fully understands that in the next 80 days the U.K. government has a singular focus on the Brexit issue, so that we’re not pushing for anything on these broad and complex questions,” he told reporters.

The comments came after Johnson joined a meeting with Bolton and senior officials on Monday.

Bolton said Johnson’s relationship with U.S. President Donald Trump had “got off to a roaring start,” with the two having shared multiple phone calls since he assumed the British prime ministership. Their most recent conversation was on Monday, when Trump “expressed his appreciation for the United Kingdom’s steadfast partnership in addressing global challenges,” according to the White House readout of the call, and said he “looks forward” to meeting Johnson “personally in the near future.” Trump and Johnson are both expected to attend the G7 summit in Biarritz, France at the end of the month.

This article is from POLITICO Pro: POLITICO’s premium policy service. To discover why thousands of professionals rely on Pro every day, email pro@politico.eu for a complimentary trial.

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