British and Yorkshire companies have nothing to fear from a potential post-Brexit trade deal with the United States as they can compete in any market, the American ambassador has said.
Speaking during a visit to Leeds yesterday, Woody Johnson said the UK brand was strong enough to make the country’s products “extremely attractive” as he dismissed concerns that a trade deal with the US would lead to lower standards.
He told The Yorkshire Post: “If we get it on an even keel I have no doubt that the Brits can compete in any market they want to compete in, they’ve done it historically, for hundreds of years, centuries, and they’ve gone through a transformation from wool - everything was wool, wool wool - and now they’re doing something else.
“You have an ability to brand your products and brand them in a way that will make them extremely attractive to markets all around the world, including the US, because they are from Yorkshire or wherever it is.
“And you’ll brand it and you’ll market it, it’s not a commodity necessarily, it could be a specific product you are proud of.
“Whatever Brexit occurs you will have the ability to really think differently about what you do rather than being a part of this giant enterprise.”
Mr Johnson, a businessman appointed as ambassador last August, also praised the “important city” of Leeds. He urged American companies to invest in Leeds and Yorkshire as well as for firms in the region to expand into the US, singling out the city’s tech, medical and education sectors for praise.
“The business relationship that Leeds has with the US, fin-tech, hi-tech, medical tech, you have a fabulous, world-class teaching hospital here and four universities. It’s a blossoming community in a very nice setting.
“I haven’t met that many people but I suspect they are a very well-educated workforce, hard workers, perfect place for Americans to invest and to encourage local people to explore expanding into the US, because the US is exploding with prosperity now. The stock markets, consumer confidence are off the charts now.”
He went on: “I was very impressed with Leeds, I think this city has so much to offer with the university, the people here and the diversity of the community, so you can solve problems in a really, really interesting way.The only way I see is up, this community is going to do really, really well, and particularly when we stop talking about Brexit and start talking about prosperity for everybody.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Theresa May says the British public should take “reassurance and comfort” from Government preparations for a no-deal Brexit, after Ministers suggested food and medicines would be stockpiled in case of shortages.
In an interview with 5 News, the Prime Minister did not deny stockpiling is happening, but said the Government is being “responsible and sensible” while still trying to get a good deal with the European Union. It came after Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs he had asked officials to “work up options for stockpiling” by the pharmaceutical industry, and Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab said the Government would also take steps to ensure an “adequate food supply”.
Irish deputy prime minister Simon Coveney had earlier said he does not “believe that Britain can afford a no-deal Brexit”, and he hit out at “bravado” from Brexiteers who claim it would be acceptable.
Mrs May said: “Far from being worried about preparations that we are making, I would say that people should take reassurance and comfort from the fact that the Government is saying we are in a negotiation, we are working for a good deal - I believe we can get a good deal - but... because we don’t know what the outcome is going to be... let’s prepare for every eventuality.
Talks continue in Brussels, with a meeting between EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and Mr Raab scheduled for today.