Trade deals are unpopular. Lurking beneath the froth is a bunch of special pleading for industries that are worried about competition. The froth is mostly comprised of claims that pertain more to capitalism in general than to international trade. For example, what Paul Krugman calls the “sweatshop fallacy”: we hear a lot about how bad conditions are in “sweatshops” but little about how worse those workers are before the work.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t problems with capitalism. Of course there are and they require the presence of a meaningful social safety net. And of course there are problems with trade. Also, there is nothing wrong in politics with special pleading for industry. It just doesn’t need to be cloaked in the bleeding heart language of the sweatshop fallacy.
That particular problem doesn’t apply much to trade between developed countries. There, it pretty much does come down to protecting your special interests.
So, why not go all in for a free trade pact with the UK right now? or if not immediately, as soon as they invoke Article 50 of the EU treaty? It would give them leverage in their negotiations with the EU which would be a nice carrot, and the fact that they need to do something about their loss of status with the EU is also the stick.
I wouldn’t even mind seeing the UK join NAFTA.