Pence talks trade, Brexit with UK Prime Minister Johnson

Pence talks trade, Brexit with UK Prime Minister Johnson
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Vice President Pence on Thursday met with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London and discussed brokering a bilateral trade agreement between the United States and United Kingdom post-Brexit. 

Johnson said it would be “fantastic” to deepen economic ties between the two countries but noted that the National Health Service (NHS) would not be up for sale as part of a bilateral trade deal.

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Johnson also joked that the U.K. is not “keen on that chlorinated chicken” — referring to the American process of washing chicken in chemicals that is banned in the U.K. — and goaded opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn over his opposition to Britain’s plans to leave the European Union.

Pence offered support for Johnson’s plans to exit the EU and described the relationship between the two countries as “historic and special” and “embodied in the very warm and personal relationship that you have forged with President TrumpDonald John TrumpLawmakers release defense bill with parental leave-for-Space-Force deal House Democrats expected to unveil articles of impeachment Tuesday Houston police chief excoriates McConnell, Cornyn and Cruz on gun violence MORE, with myself, and with our administration."

Their meeting came after Johnson endured a setback. On Tuesday, he lost a vote on the exit plans when 21 members of his own party voted with other members of Parliament to delay the withdrawal.

"Again, to make it clear to you, that the United States supports the U.K.’s decision to leave the EU, and we’re ready to build this economic relationship immediately,” Pence told Johnson.

“Fantastic,” Johnson said. “We will make sure that we do everything to increase free trade. But there is the national health service — always worth saying, with U.K. media — the national health service is not on the table, as far as our negotiations go.”

“And nor — we’re not too keen on that chlorinated chicken, either. We have a gigantic chlorinated chicken of our own, here, on the opposition benches,” Johnson said.

It was an apparent reference to Corbyn, who Johnson described as a “chlorinated chicken” on Tuesday after he criticized plans to broker a trade deal with the U.S. over concerns it would result in the U.K. lowering its food standards.  

Pence said he spoke to Trump earlier Thursday and he wanted to “assure” Johnson that the U.S. stands with the U.K. in its plans to leave the EU. Pence emphasized the administration’s belief that a bilateral trade agreement with the U.K. would be beneficial.

Johnson also joked that Americans don’t eat enough British lamb and haggis and said he planned to work hard on brokering a trade deal that is fair for both sides.

“We think we could free up the U.S. market,” Johnson said. “I know that you guys are pretty tough negotiators, so we’re going to work very hard to make sure that that free trade deal is one that works for all sides.” 

Trump, who has spoken repeatedly of a warm relationship with Johnson, was asked to address the chaos over Brexit on Wednesday. He expressed confidence in Johnson, telling reporters, “Boris knows how to win. Don’t worry about him.”