Talks between the US and the UK on a post-Brexit free trade deal are not expected to resume until 2025, according to reports.
Prime minister Rishi Sunak and US president Joe Biden are not said to have discussed the matter during a visit to Northern Ireland to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement today.
Ahead of Biden’s trip, which saw him fly into Belfast, meet with Sunak, and deliver a keynote speech at Ulster University, a White House spokesperson confirmed no “active” negotiations were taking place.
However, some progress is reported to be taking place on a narrower agreement on critical minerals, following the recent deal signed by Washington with Japan.
Just days ago Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen began negotiations on the use of European minerals for producing electric vehicle batteries that are eligible for US tax credits, under the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) subsidy scheme.
Ministers have highlighted the need to avoid relying on Chinese extraction, with foreign secretary James Cleverly stressing that the UK’s critical minerals strategy will be updated.
Biden’s visit sparked controversy as the White House was forced to refute former DUP first minister Baroness Arlene Foster’s claim that the proudly Irish Biden “hates the UK”.
Amanda Sloat, senior director for Europe at the US National Security Council, rejected the suggestion the president was anti-British as “simply untrue”.
Trade discussions between the two nations on seeking a full bilateral agreement were put on pause when president Biden took office after his 2020 election victory for the Democrats.
The US leader has taken a cooler approach to negotiations than his predecessor, Donald Trump. The two leaders also refrained from discussing a deal at the G20 in Bali last year.
No10 played down focus on a free trade deal ahead of the Northern Ireland visit.
The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “A free trade agreement is not the only way of strengthening the UK-US trade relationship.”
A government spokesperson said: “We are working with the US to develop meaningful solutions that support our supply chains and benefit UK industry, including further cooperation on critical minerals.
“The prime minister and President Biden committed last month to accelerate work on this ahead of the G7, with the UK and US working closely together and with international partners to strengthen and diversify critical supply chains.
“The UK has also recently signed several critical mineral agreements with key countries, including Canada and Australia, and our accession to CPTPP will help improve the resilience of our supply chains further.”