Trade

Boris Johnson struggles with questions on trade deals and trust

LONDON — Boris Johnson could not say Friday how many trade deals his government is ready to conclude after Brexit.

“Weve got talks underway with many countries,” Johnson said in an LBC Radio interview ahead of the U.K.s upcoming general election. “I cant give the answer as to how many deals are actually formalized.”

Pressed further, the prime minister said: “There are a number that are virtually ready to go,” and added: “I imagine we have about a dozen that were currently working on.”

He named India, China, Australia and New Zealand as countries that the U.K. is in discussions with over future agreements.

“Im not going to say they are oven-ready because obviously they will need to be concluded,” Johnson said. “Because of the duty of sincere cooperation that we have with the EU, we cannot now conclude those deals because were still members.”

Johnson singled out China, saying: “The U.K. is geographically closer to China than New Zealand is to Beijing, and yet we export hardly any, if any, lamb.”

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said in October that the government would prioritize trade deals with countries that share U.K. values. So far, the government has signed 19 “continuity” trade deals — which roll over agreements that already exist between third countries and the EU — with nations including Israel, Chile, Switzerland, South Korea and Morocco.

The prime minister was also asked about the publics lack of trust in him. “The reason trust has been eroded is because 17.4 million people voted to leave the EU, and for three and a half years parliament has been paralyzed,” Johnson said. On Thursday night, the prime minister told ITV News he has never told a lie in his political career.

“Im a very energetic, hardworking guy,” he added Friday. “When I say Im going to do something in politics and I pledge to get on and do it, I achieve overwhelmingly what I set down to do.”

The prime minister refused to answer when asked how many children he has, and whether he is fully involved in all their lives. “Im not going to put them onto the pitch in this election campaign,” he said.

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