This was as clear a message as there could be. We want to negotiate but there are other options.Nick Faith, director at WPI
The Prime Minister must play a complex game of brinkmanship with the EU and the US, as well as the UK public, in order to come back with the best deal, according to WPI, an agency comprised of former Downing Street and Treasury officials.
May visited President Trump on Friday to discuss, among other things, a new bilateral trade deal with the US.
Although no details emerged of what a US-UK trade deal could look like following the meeting, May was already setting the scene for Trump that the US was not the only show in town, according to Nick Faith, a director at WPI.
Faith said: "The benefits to the UK economy [of a trade deal] could be enormous but given President Trump has already shown he is willing to pull out of deals and has even threatened to break up NAFTA, the Prime Minister needs to ensure she makes it clear to the US that they are not the only game in town. It was therefore no surprise that the week before her visit to the US, May gave an interview to the Financial Times, in which she announced that she would be leading a trade mission to China "relatively soon". This was as clear a message as there could be. We want to negotiate but there are other options."
WPI Economics, a division of the agency, has ranked the US, Brazil and South Korea as the nations most likely to yield free trade deals with the UK, ahead of the 2020 General Election.
Faith said it was conceivable - if negotiations began this year - that the UK could announce a deal with at least one of these three by 2020.
Meanwhile, May’s negotiating tactics with world nations are seen as sending a bullish message to her counterparts in the EU.
Faith said: "May has made it clear that there will be ‘a good deal or no deal’ when it comes to Brexit. Falling back on WTO rules is widely seen as bad news so she has to present a counter argument to her European counterparts and the British public."
May could achieve this by announcing the start of formal negotiations with countries that offer the best trading opportunities - at the same time as triggering Article 50.
The Prime Minister’s efforts to secure a deal will be a breach of EU rules, which forbid members from negotiating bilateral deals while still in the bloc, but this will do her no harm at home.
Faith concluded: "It would reinforce Mrs May’s credentials as a hard-nosed negotiator, standing up for the best interests of Britain."