Theresa May’s Trade Talk With Trump Gets Mild Reception in EU

  • British prime minister can talk ‘to whoever she wants’
  • May due in White House on Friday to discuss future U.S. pact

Do Trump and May Have Mutual Interests on Trade?

European Union finance chiefs said they’re not troubled by U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s meeting with President Donald Trump over a future U.S. trade pact, easing fears her trip could harm her Brexit negotiating position.

“Mrs. May can go and see whoever she wants,” French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said in an interview with Bloomberg before a meeting of his euro-area counterparts on Thursday in Brussels. ‘‘She is not going there to negotiate.’’

May flew to the U.S. on Thursday and is expected to hold preliminary discussions on a trade accord with Trump in the White House on Friday. She’s looking for a quick deal with America to bolster exports and boost British jobs as she prepares to enter negotiations with the EU on Britain’s withdrawal from the bloc, which are due to start when she triggers Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty in March.

With EU members prohibited from negotiating bilateral trade deals, the European Commission has said the U.K. cannot enter into formal talks with the U.S. or any other country until it leaves the bloc. While the EU is unlikely to sanction the U.K. if it deems it to be in breach of its rules, any attempt by the British government to start official trade talks could create bad feeling when the Brexit negotiations begin.

May’s visit to talk trade with Trump is “just what one would expect,” Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan told reporters before the Brussels meeting. “She wants to negotiate free-trade agreements with all the other big trading blocs.”

— With assistance by Rainer Buergin, Nikos Chrysoloras, Chiara Albanese, Jonathan Stearns, Kevin Costelloe, Jones Hayden, Richard Bravo, Karl Stagno Navarra, Corina Ruhe, and Dara Doyle

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