US ambassador emphasises close ties on Teesside visit

Ben Houchen and Woody Johnson Image copyright Tees Valley Combined Authority
Image caption Ben Houchen (left) said he was "honoured" by Woody Johnson's visit

The US Ambassador to the UK has used a visit to Teesside to emphasise the close ties between the two countries.

Woody Johnson toured industrial sites and US firms with a Teesside base.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen had invited Donald Trump to visit to help bring a "major US investor" to the former Redcar Steelworks site.

The president promised a "VIP" in his place and Mr Houchen said he was "honoured" by the ambassador's arrival.

After a briefing at Middlesbrough Town Hall, the ambassador's programme also included visits to the Venator Innovation Centre at Wynyard Park near Billingham and the Conoco Phillips Teesside oil terminal at Seal Sands.

Mr Houchen said the main reason for the visit was to get the ambassador to talk to a "major investor" lined up for the former Redcar Steelworks site, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

Image caption The US ambassador visited a number of businesses and industrial sites

Mr Johnson said the US firm was "excited" but still waiting to see what would happen with Brexit in the next 90 to 100 days. 

Leaving the EU would enable Britain to strike a better trans-Atlantic trade deal, leading to major new investment, he said.

"If I'm an American business and I'm looking for the kind of things you do here - and the expertise that's overflowing here -  take a look at this.

"Talk to the mayor, join the club because this is going to be a total winner."

Mr Houchen said: "As we leave the European Union and step out into the world forging our own independent trading policy, our relationship with the US will become even more important in years to come".

But Stockton South Labour MP Dr Paul Williams warned a "swap" of close ties with the EU for a new relationship with America could "reduce worker's pensions rights, consumer protection and hit the environment". 

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