U.S.-U.K. Free Trade Resolution

March 28, 2019

Mr./Madam President,

For the past three years, the world has watched the United Kingdom debate and negotiate their exit from the European Union after the historic “Brexit” vote in June of 2016. There have been multiple deals proposed since then, and now the deadline for withdrawal fast approaches this Friday.

As the special ally of Britain for more than 100 years, this is – and ought to be – of special interest to the United States.

Throughout times of change and tumult, the U.K. has been one of our staunchest and most loyal allies. We have stood beside each other through two world wars, the Cold War. Now in the 21st centuries, the U.S. and U.K. have become even stronger friends and partners, both in the fight against global terrorism and for freedom, peace, and prosperity.

The U.K. is the 7th largest trading partner of the U.S. In 2017 alone, $232 billion in goods were traded between our two countries.

Now, Britain’s impending exit from the European Union presents an enormous opportunity to strengthen and preserve our special relationship.

As the Brexit deadline approaches, the United States should stand ready and willing to negotiate a free trade agreement with the U.K. – which is the purpose of the resolution before us today.

Prior to this, we have not been able to have true free trade with Britain precisely because it was a member of the EU and had to play by its rules. But once it leaves, it will reclaim the authority to make its own trade agreements, opening up a window of opportunity for genuine, bilateral free trade with our own country.

And such an agreement would advance prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic as an engine of economic liberty.

This is a no brainer, Mr. President. In fact, most Americans would probably be surprised to find out that we don’t already have a free trade agreement with our friends across the pond.

And yet, there are some objections to this resolution.

Some of my colleagues have argued that by encouraging a free trade agreement with Britain, we would be “meddling” in this affair, or “picking sides.” Or that we would be somehow “affirming” Brexit.

But Mr. President, this resolution says nothing about whether or not Brexit should or should not happen. That is not the decision of this body. It is the decision of the British people to make, however, and they made it.

They have decided to stand on their own; we should stand with them.

Others have claimed that the point of this measure is to “lambast” the EU. But this too misses the point, which is simply to preserve a unique and important alliance, and to promote America’s interests in the world.

Finally, some have objected that this resolution did not go through the Finance Committee.

First, this is not a complicated resolution. It is a simple, straightforward, 2-page resolution declaring the sense of the Senate that: The United States has and should have a close and mutually beneficial trading and economic partnership with the UK, without interruption; and that the President, with the support of Congress, should lay the groundwork for a future trade agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom.

Second, the vast majority of resolutions that simply specify a general sense of the Senate do not normally go through the formal committee process. A straightforward assertion of friendship, support, and economic partnership with one of our oldest and closest allies should not be controversial.

America’s special relationship with the U.K. is special because we make it so. Our two peoples, our two governments. It’s not our job to decide whether the U.K. stays in the E.U. It’s up the British to decide whether to stick with the E.U. or not; but it’s up to us to decide whether to stick with the British.

And we should, by supporting this resolution today.

I yield the floor.