Following historic White House talks, Boris Johnson and Joe Biden teamed up to call on fellow world leaders to live up to commitments to fight against global warming.
The prime minister insisted that Britain was “first in line” for an agreement after Donald Trump took office.
But asked whether that was still the case, Mr. Biden told reporters tonight: “We’re going to talk about trade a little bit today, and we’re gonna have to work that through.”
Ahead of his arrival in Washington, the PM admitted the US President had “a lot of fish to fry” other than striking deals.
Government insiders suggested Britain would look at other options, including joining the existing US-Mexico-Canada agreement instead.
Boris Johnson had previously said Britain was “first in line” for an agreement.
A diplomatic source said: “There are a variety of different ways to do this. The question is whether the US administration is ready.
“The ball is in the US’s court. It takes two to tango.”
The PM sought to mend the rift with Mr. Biden over the Northern Ireland border amid American fears the PM is putting peace in the province at risk.
The PM was seeking to mend the rift with Mr. Biden over the Northern Ireland border.
But Mr. Biden said he feels “very strongly” that he does not want a change to the “Irish accords,” resulting in “a closed border.”
He said: “On the protocols, I feel very strongly on those. We spent an enormous amount of time and effort; the United States, it was a significant bipartisan effort made.
“And I would not at all like to see, nor I might add would many of my Republican colleagues like to see, a change in the Irish accords, the result having a closed border in Ireland.”
A trade deal with America was billed as one of the prizes of Brexit, and Mr. Johnson is under pressure to prove the most significant upheaval in British foreign policy in decades was worth it.
As far back as 2016, then-President Barack Obama had cautioned Britain to be “at the back of the queue” for an agreement.
But Donald Trump was much keener to strike a trade deal with Britain than his successor, boasting that it would be “fantastic and big” once signed.
Earlier, the PM had indicated that he did not expect to secure a free trade agreement with the US before the next election in 2024.
He said he has “plenty of reason to be optimistic” about getting the FTA touted by Leave supporters as a significant prize for leaving the EU.
Mr. Johnson, one of the architects of Vote Leave, raised the possibility that he could leave Downing Street without achieving a key ambition for the post-Brexit era.
Asked if he would get the deal by 2024, the Prime Minister told Sky News: “We will keep going with free trade deals worldwide, including in the United States.
“I have plenty of reason to be optimistic about that. But the Americans do negotiate very hard.”
The UK currently has a deeper trading relationship with Canada and Mexico than with the US.
Other options would be for the UK to agree on a series of smaller sectoral deals or trade with America through an agreement operating with countries around the Pacific rim.
Ministers hope that China’s economy could encourage the States to push trade deals back up the agenda.