UK in 'front seat' for US trade deal, top Republican says

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image captionBoris Johnson has been meeting with top Republicans, including Bob Corker

Britain will be in the "front seat" to negotiate a new trade deal with the incoming Trump administration, a top Republican in the US Senate has said.

A US-UK trade deal would be a priority, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker said after meeting Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

Barack Obama warned in April that the UK would be at the back of the queue for trade deals if voters chose Brexit.

Mr Johnson has been meeting with top Republicans on Capitol Hill.

"We hear we are first in line to do a great free trade deal with the United States. So, it's going to be a very exciting year for both our countries," he said.

Those meeting with the foreign secretary included House speaker Paul Ryan and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. He travelled to Washington after meeting with Mr Trump's senior advisers in New York.

A Foreign Office source told the BBC the talks in Washington saw "seriously positive" discussions on the prospects for a future US-UK trade deal.

Mr Corker said Mr Johnson knows "full well" that "there is no way the United Kingdom is going to take a back seat".

"They will take a front seat and I think it will be our priority to make sure that we deal with them on a trade agreement initially but in all respects in a way that demonstrates the long-term friendship that we've had for so long," he said.

The senator, who had been a leading candidate for secretary of state, said he was sure Mr Trump would agree with him.

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Mr Johnson will not meet Mr Trump's choice for top diplomat, Rex Tillerson, while in Washington.

Protocol dictates that cannot happen until the businessman is confirmed as secretary of state.

Earlier, in New York, the foreign secretary met with Mr Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, who will serve as a senior adviser in the White House, and his chief strategist, Steve Bannon.

Officials said they discussed US foreign policy towards Syria, Russia and China in "positive but frank talks" held hours after Mr Trump tweeted he was "very much" looking forward to meeting Prime Minister Theresa May in the spring.

On Sunday, Mrs May had denounced the president-elect's previous comments about women as "unacceptable".

But she also said the relationship between the two countries is about "something much bigger" than the relationship between the leaders of their governments.

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