Rishi Sunak has refused to accept the government’s failure to strike a trade deal with the US is a “broken promise”, blaming the pandemic and war in Ukraine on the “changing situation”.
During a visit to the US, the prime minister was asked if he accepted “as a matter of fact” the Conservatives have not met their 2019 manifesto ambition to strike a deal with Washington within the first three years of government.
He said: “I think you have to look at the macro economic situation. It’s evolved since then and it’s important the economic partnerships evolved to deal with the opportunities and threats of today.
“If you look at what’s happening now, we face more threats of our economic security. So it’s important that actually the UK and the US are talking about how do we strengthen our resilience, working together, improve the strength of our supply chains.”
Mr Sunak was pressed that this is still a “broken promise”.
He said: “Since then we’ve had a pandemic. We’ve had a war in Ukraine and that has changed the macro economic situation.
“The right response to that is ensure that we’re focusing our engagement economically on the things that will make the most difference to the British people.”
It was put to Mr Sunak that the war and pandemic had not stopped the UK from striking deals with other countries since Brexit.
He said the UK has “grown our trade with America by 20% last year” and also pointed to a £14bn investment from the US into British jobs.