Trump's Trade Deal With U.K. Hit As Top Official Quits on Eve of Negotiations

Trade talks between the U.S. and the U.K. face disruption after the departure of a top official on the eve of fresh negotiations.

Conor Burns announced he had quit his role as minister of state for trade policy today, after he was found to have used his position as a member of parliament to "intimidate a member of the public".

This was in regards to a dispute between his father and an unnamed member of the public, a committee on standards found.

According to the U.K. Government website, Burns's remit had included being responsible for policy on future free trade agreements.

He said he left his role "with deep regret".

With deep regret I have decided to resign as Minister of State for International Trade. @BorisJohnson will continue to have my wholehearted support from the backbenches.

— Conor Burns (@ConorBurnsUK) May 4, 2020

Burns visited Houston, Texas, earlier this year to meet with business leaders and said: "Negotiating and signing a new ambitious free trade agreement with the U.S. is one of the government's top priorities."

A new round of U.S.-U.K. talks on a trade deal between the nations is due to begin tomorrow, with the U.K. looking to change the way it interacts with other countries now it has left the EU.

This week we will commence negotiations on a free trade agreement with our friends and allies the USA 🇬🇧🇺🇲.

We will be working to bring benefits to all parts of 🇬🇧 and boost our economies during #coronavirus recovery.


— Liz Truss (@trussliz) May 3, 2020

Donald Trump has also spoken of his desire to swiftly secure an agreement with the U.K. and discussed this with Prime Minister Boris Johnson last month.

After Johnson's election victory, Trump said the U.S. hoped to secure "a massive new Trade Deal" with the U.K. post-Brexit.

The U.K.'s prior membership of the EU prevented it from having a separate deal with the U.S., as it had to work on the terms agreed by the bloc.

The initial discussions tomorrow will be held between U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer and the U.K.'s international trade secretary Liz Truss.

It adds that some 200 officials are due to be involved in two weeks of talks, before further discussions are held every six weeks after that.

Truss is expected to lead the U.K. negotiating team throughout the talks.

donald trump boris johnson
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump onstage during the annual NATO heads of government summit on December 4, 2019 in Watford, England. Fresh trade talks between the U.S. and the U.K. are due to begin on Tuesday. Steve Parsons/WPA Pool/Getty Images

A Downing Street spokesman told Newsweek that a replacement for Burns will be announced "in due course."

A document detailing the U.S. trade negotiating objectives with the UK, released last February, said: "The United States seeks to support higher-paying jobs in the United States and to grow the U.S. economy by improving U.S. opportunities for trade and investment with the U.K."

"Our aim in negotiations with the U.K. is to address both tariff and non-tariff barriers and to achieve fairer and deeper trade."

Meanwhile, the U.K. spoke of the desire to "cut red tape" for smaller businesses trading with the U.S.

It also suggested a new deal could boost trade between the U.K. and U.S. by more than £15.3 billion ($18.7 billion).

Newsweek has contacted the U.K.'s Department for International Trade, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and Burns for comment.