LONDON — Boris Johnson could not say Friday how many trade deals his government is ready to conclude after Brexit.
“We’ve got talks underway with many countries,” Johnson said in an LBC Radio interview ahead of the U.K.’s upcoming general election. “I can’t give the answer as to how many deals are actually formalized.”
Pressed further, the prime minister said: “There are a number that are virtually ready to go,” and added: “I imagine we have about a dozen that we’re currently working on.”
He named India, China, Australia and New Zealand as countries that the U.K. is in discussions with over future agreements.
“I’m not going to say they are oven-ready because obviously they will need to be concluded,” Johnson said. “Because of the duty of sincere cooperation that we have with the EU, we cannot now conclude those deals because we’re still members.”
Johnson singled out China, saying: “The U.K. is geographically closer to China than New Zealand is to Beijing, and yet we export hardly any, if any, lamb.”
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said in October that the government would prioritize trade deals with countries that share U.K. values. So far, the government has signed 19 “continuity” trade deals — which roll over agreements that already exist between third countries and the EU — with nations including Israel, Chile, Switzerland, South Korea and Morocco.
The prime minister was also asked about the public’s lack of trust in him. “The reason trust has been eroded is because 17.4 million people voted to leave the EU, and for three and a half years parliament has been paralyzed,” Johnson said. On Thursday night, the prime minister told ITV News he has never told a lie in his political career.
“I’m a very energetic, hardworking guy,” he added Friday. “When I say I’m going to do something in politics and I pledge to get on and do it, I achieve overwhelmingly what I set down to do.”
The prime minister refused to answer when asked how many children he has, and whether he is fully involved in all their lives. “I’m not going to put them onto the pitch in this election campaign,” he said.
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Asked whether U.S. President Donald Trump’s endorsement of him was welcome, Johnson said: “We have very close relationships and friendships with the United States at every level of government. What we don’t do traditionally is get involved in each other’s election campaigns.”
Last month, Trump said Johnson is “exactly the right guy for the times.”
The U.S. president is due to visit the U.K. next week for the NATO summit in London.
Johnson was also questioned on his refusal to compensate women born in the 1950s and 1960s who were hit by changes in the pension age, and his promises to recruit more nurses and build more hospitals.
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