VP Mile Pence tells PM Boris Johnson that the U.S. is ready to make a trade deal with Britain.
VPOTUS left 10 Downing Street at 1:30 p.m. sharp. Did not take questions. Waved. He is now headed to U.S. Embassy, per WH official. His motorcade has broken from the pool. We are scheduled to see him again in the late afternoon ahead of dinner.
VPOTUS and PM Boris Johnson had a spray before their meeting, upstairs at Number 10. Sat next to each other in plush white armchairs. PM was quite at ease, with a winking smile toward reporters as he took a seat. VPOTUS in good spirits, but more formal in his manner.
PM began by welcoming VPOTUS and noted he enjoyed being at the G-7. VPOTUS said he appreciated the welcome at a “very busy time,” without mentioning Britain’s raging debate on Brexit by name.
They both made remarks, took no questions.
VPOTUS said, “I spoke to President Trump this morning” and he sends “his very best greetings.” POTUS wanted VPOTUS to “assure you” that the U.S. stands with the U.K. on its decision to leave the E.U.
Added that the U.S. is “ready, willing, and able to immediately negotiate a free trade agreement with the U.K.”
VPOTUS then touted the U.S. economy and said the administration firmly believes such a trade deal would be beneficial. “We’re anxious to do that. We’re anxious to stand with you.”
Called the U.S.-U.K. relationship “historic and special,” and “embodied in the very warm and personal relationship that you have forged with President Trump, with myself, and with our administration.”
JOHNSON: “Mike, fantastic to have you here.”
Then some wry, but notable comments, on trade by the PM: “It is still the case that, you know, the United States of America, the people of the United States of America, don’t eat any British lamb or beef or haggis from Scotland. I think there are still barriers to trade in shower trays.”
(Johnson has long advocated for freer trade with the U.S. on several products, including shower trays.)
“We think we could free up the U.S. market,” Johnson said in those areas and others. “I know that you guys are pretty tough negotiators, so we’re going to work very hard to make sure that that free trade deal is one that works for all sides.”
VPOTUS sat still as PM talked about “shower trays” and haggis. But then, for a moment, he turned to his right and glanced at the U.S. pool, his tight smile turning into a grin with a slight raise of the eyebrow as he listened to the PM. He appeared to find Johnson friendly and humorous.
VPOTUS then responded to Johnson’s talk of haggis and shower trays: POTUS “told me this morning, he said, ‘You tell my friend, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, that we’re ready to go to work on that free trade agreement, just as soon as you’re ready.”
“Again, to make it clear to you, that the United States supports the U.K.’s decision to leave the E.U., and we’re ready to build this economic relationship immediately.”
JOHNSON: “Fantastic.” He added, “We will make sure that we do everything to increase free trade. But there is the national health service — always worth saying, with U.K. media — the national health service is not on the table, as far as our negotiations go. And nor — we’re not too keen on that chlorinated chicken, either. We have a gigantic chlorinated chicken of our own, here, on the opposition benches.”
VPOTUS seemed to chuckle at that.
FYI: It was a political reference. As the AP notes, “During a testy House of Commons debate Wednesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson accused Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn of ducking an election and being ‘a chlorinated chicken’ — a reference to claims the U.K. will have to lower its food safety standards to get a post-Brexit trade deal with the United States.”