Britain to the Back of the Queue? Maybe Not

Perhaps America and Britain could use a doomed transatlantic trade pact as a template for their own treaty?

American president Barack Obama and British prime minister David Cameron walk to 10 Downing Street in London, England, April 22, 2016
American president Barack Obama and British prime minister David Cameron walk to 10 Downing Street in London, England, April 22, 2016 (White House/Pete Souza)

Before Britain voted to withdraw from the European Union last month, American president Barack Obama warned it would have to join at the “back of the queue” to get a bilateral trade deal.

Now that Britain has defied the president’s advice to stay in the EU, it seems the Americans are rethinking their approach. The Financial Times reports that representatives of the United Kingdom and the United States have already met to test the waters for a trade accord.

Wolfgang Münchau makes a tantalizing suggestion in the same newspaper: If the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership isn’t going anywhere — and with Germany’s Social Democrats joining the opposition to the pact, it’s starting to look like a lost cause — why not use it as a template for an Anglo-American treaty?

Britain could end up with the best of both worlds, argues Münchau: “access to the EU single market and deeper economic integration with the US.”

It’s a best-case outcome. A lot hinges on what exactly “access” to the European single market means. But it’s heartening that America — Britain’s number-one trading partner — is more open to a deal than Obama let on three months ago.