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Raab insists UK-US relationship will remain strong whoever is in White House

REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/Pool

By David Hughes, Catherine Wylie and Patrick Daly, PA

The UK Government has insisted the special relationship with the US will endure whoever wins the bitterly contested American election.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the “bedrock” of the relationship was based on strong economic, security and cultural ties, although he acknowledged the “contours” would be different depending on whether Joe Biden or Donald Trump won the election.

Mr Raab was also asked a number of times during interviews on Tuesday about Mr Trump – who has falsely claimed victory and called for the counting of votes to stop – but the Cabinet minister said he would not be “sucked in” to the debate.

Republican incumbent Mr Trump has been a staunch supporter of Brexit and a UK-US trade deal, but a Biden administration is expected to be cooler on the idea.

Mr Biden, who has Irish ancestry, has publicly criticised the Government over its plan to tear up the Brexit divorce deal and break international law over the Northern Ireland protocol.

Mr Raab sought to play down the prospect of a strained relationship under a Biden administration and stressed that the US election was still too close to call.

He told Sky News: “I’m not worried about the relationship. The contours of the opportunities and the risks always shift a little bit, but that needs to be set against the context of this bedrock and this wider set of interests which are so strong.”

He said he was “very confident that regardless of whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat win, the British-US relationship is in great shape”.

Mr Trump has claimed victory despite the election process being far from over and accused opponents of being involved in a “major fraud on our nation”.

Asked about the president’s outburst on postal ballots and decision to go to the US Supreme Court to stop votes being counted, Mr Raab told Times Radio: “I know that there is obviously a heated debate about the balance and the propriety of posted votes versus votes cast in the ballot box in a polling station – I’m just not getting drawn into that.

“We are right in the heated aftermath where both candidates are making statements … I’m not getting sucked in at all into that debate.”

Pressed on whether it would be good to “call your close friend out”, Mr Raab told the BBC: “Well I think that you’re now engaging in the campaign rather than just reporting on it.

“But the truth is, I think what’s really important now is we wait and see how this uncertainty unfolds.”

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy, Mr Raab’s counterpart, was more forthright in condemning Mr Trump’s remarks, branding them “shocking”.

The Labour politician said it is “absolutely essential” every vote is counted in the poll to ensure a “definitive” result.

“What matters most of all for the world is that America gets a definitive result in this election – it is in nobody’s interest to have civil unrest and months of ongoing instability in the middle of a global pandemic,” she told LBC radio.

On the row with the European Union about the Internal Market Bill overriding elements of the Withdrawal Agreement in relation to Northern Ireland, Mr Raab said he had met Democrats and “explained the UK position and that actually we have been clear all along that there is no threat to the Good Friday Agreement”.

Mr Biden treasures his Irish heritage and has warned that a UK-US trade deal is “contingent” on respect for the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to the island and the prevention of a return to a hard border.

“We can’t allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit,” the Democratic candidate warned in September.

The Foreign Secretary said Democrats take a “very close interest” in the Good Friday Agreement, which was signed while Bill Clinton was in the White House.

Former prime minister Theresa May said whoever won the election had to tackle climate change – on the day Mr Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Paris accord took effect.

She said: “We will soon know who will be the next US president. But, sadly, today also marks the US leaving the Paris accord — the world’s foremost attempt to build consensus on climate change.

“Whoever is elected has an immense responsibility to help tackle our planet’s greatest challenge.”