Donald Trump has put the European Union ahead of Britain in the queue for a free-trade deal with the US, according to American officials.
A conversation with German chancellor Angela Merkel last month led president Trump to the “realisation” that a free-trade deal with Europe would be worth more to the US than an agreement with the UK, The Times reported.
During the meeting Trump told Merkel that arranging a US-EU trade deal would be “simpler than he thought”, according to American officials quoted by the paper.
Though Trump has said that he would prioritise a trade agreement with the UK after Brexit, the famously mercurial president has a history of making contradictory and unreliable statements.
Despite the so-called “special relationship” between the US and Britain, the US has a much bigger trading relationship with the EU – a factor that is likely to influence Trump’s “America first” policy decisions.
Last year, US exports to the EU were worth $270bn, while US exports to the UK were worth just $55bn.
A quick deal between the US and Europe would be a blow to Theresa May, who had hoped to win deeper trading ties with America after she became the first foreign leader to visit the Brexit-supporting president when he took office in January.