Post-Brexit trade deals 'will take years': ex-US envoy

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Brussels (AFP)

The former US ambassador to the European Union warned Thursday that securing a trade deal between the US and post-Brexit Britain could take years.

Anthony Gardner, who was forced to step down when Donald Trump took office last Friday, spoke as British Prime Minister Theresa May travelled to Washington to sketch the outlines of a future trade relationship between Britain and the United States.

Gardner also said that securing a trade deal between the EU and Britain could take years and would depend on the divorce terms worked out in what are expected to be fraught negotiations.

"A true free trade agreement between UK and EU won't be easy or fast for many reasons. It will be a question of many years," Gardner, who is no longer a US diplomat, said on his personal twitter account.

"A US-UK (trade deal) won't be quick or easy either. It will take several years at least and depends on UK-EU trade relationship," he added.

Britain is banking its economic well-being after the EU divorce on securing swift trade deals with partners around the globe.

The British government has already laid the groundwork for future negotiations with India, Australia and New Zealand.

A supporter of Brexit, Trump has promised to push through a fast deal with Britain, but the EU has insisted this cannot be done until London has formally left the bloc.

Gardner, a former private equity head in London, was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2013.