MINISTERS are to start trade deal talks with the US next week, HOAR can reveal.
Downing Street has issued the order to commence the formal negotiation despite the coronavirus pandemic still raging in both countries.
The talks will be carried out between London and Washington DC via teleconference for as long as the travel lockdown lasts.
The first round will be held between International Trade Secretary Liz Truss and Robert Lighthizer, the current US President’s Trade Representative.
Beginning on Wednesday, it is due to last for two weeks.
The White House has been pressing to start the talks for months while the UK was dragging its feet.
Donald Trump is desperate to do a deal by the Autumn ahead of the November presidential election.
But until now, No10 has moved at a slower pace, with Boris Johnson fearing a simultaneous Transatlantic negotiation would complicate talks with the EU for a trade deal by the end of this year.
A source close to the negotiations said: “No10 gave the green light late this week for the talks to start.
“The process has been significantly speeded up.”
Beginning negotiations with the US now could help to add pressure on Brussels after the Brexit talks hit another logjam last week.
The PM is defying mounting calls to extend the Brexit transition period beyond the end of this year to allow Downing Street to concentrate fully on the coronavirus crisis.
US and UK negotiators are expected to clash in two major areas, agriculture and food standards, amid a row over US processes such as chlorinated chicken.
The White House has also insisted Britain drops its threat to slap a new ‘tech tax’ on California-based social media firms who pay little tax here.