The U.S. will rapidly seek a new free trade deal with London after the United Kingdom formally exits the European Union, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday.
"We support the United Kingdom's sovereign choice, however Brexit ultimately shakes out, and we'll be on the doorstep, pen in hand, ready to sign a new free trade agreement at the earliest possible time," Pompeo said while hosting British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab at the State Department.
Raab later added that recently-seated British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is "resolved" to leave the EU by the end of October, but said the U.K. will remain "good friends, and good neighbors" with Europe. He stressed that the British government wants to broker a free trade agreement with the U.S. "as soon as possible" after the exit.
In the two weeks since Johnson took office, the prospect of a no-deal Brexit has markedly risen. Johnson has said he prefers to leave the EU with an agreement but that a new withdrawal deal must not include the Irish backstop, and that the U.K. would leave the EU on Oct. 31 with or without an agreement.
The backstop is a safety measure that ensures open borders between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland if the U.K. leaves the EU without a deal.
The EU has repeatedly stated that the withdrawal agreement signed by Johnson’s predecessor would not be re-opened for negotiation and the Irish backstop was an insurance policy that Brussels could not get rid of. Johnson has said that a no-deal Brexit would be the fault of the EU.
The U.K. is scheduled to leave the EU on Oct. 31.
By Michael Hernandez in Washington