House of Commons Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned on Wednesday that there would be “no chance” of a trade deal between the United States and the United Kingdom if the United Kingdom were to undermine the Irish Good Friday peace deal of 1998 as it battled with the European Union over the fallout from Brexit.
“Whatever form it takes, Brexit cannot be allowed to jeopardize the Good Friday Agreement, including the stability brought about by the invisible and frictionless border between the Republic of Ireland and the Northern Ireland, ”Pelosi said in a statement. “The UK must respect the Northern Ireland Protocol signed with the EU to ensure the free flow of goods across the border.”
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The Good Friday Agreement ended the “Troubles” that had plagued Ireland for decades and brought cooperation between Ireland and Northern Ireland closer – notably by allowing the people of Northern Ireland to s ‘identify as Irish, British or both.
Pelosi was reacting to an ongoing feud between British and European officials over Britain’s departure from the bloc. The UK officially left the EU in January after signing a Withdrawal Agreement which includes a complex arrangement for trade and movement between Ireland (an EU member) and Northern Ireland – so to avoid a “hard” border between the two.
Keeping the border open was a key issue in the 1998 agreement which brought peace to Northern Ireland after decades of violence between those who wanted a united Ireland and those who wanted it to remain part of the UK.
As negotiations for a free trade agreement between the EU and the UK stalled, Britain threatened to bypass parts of last year’s withdrawal agreement. A new bill introduced by the government would rewrite parts of the deal, though officials said the effect would be “limited.”
According to the BBC, the proposed new bill would result in no checks on goods from Ireland to the rest of the UK and would give ministers the power to change or ‘ignore’ the rules on the movement of goods by the absence of a free trade agreement. He says these powers apply even if they are incompatible with international law.
This raised fears that the 1998 deal could be threatened, fears echoed by Pelosi on Wednesday.
“If the UK violates this international treaty and Brexit undermines the Good Friday deal, there will be absolutely no chance that a trade deal between the US and UK will be passed by Congress She said. “The Good Friday Agreement is cherished by the American people and will be proudly defended in the United States Congress.”
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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, however, rebuffed similar claims on Wednesday, saying the move was aimed at protecting, not undermining, the deal from Brussels’ “extreme” interpretations.
“My job is to defend the integrity of the UK, but also to protect the peace process in Northern Ireland and the Good Friday agreement,” he told the House of Commons. “To do this, we need a legal safety net to protect our country from extreme or irrational interpretations of the protocol that could lead to a border along the Irish Sea in a way that I think, and I think members of the House think so, to be detrimental to the interests of the Good Friday Agreement and to the interests of peace in our country. ”
This isn’t the first time Pelosi has threatened to torpedo a trade deal between the US and UK – something many see as vitally important to Britain’s economic future after the EU.
Last year she made similar remarks in the Irish Parliament.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we need to make sure nothing happens in the Brexit talks that jeopardizes the Good Friday deal – including, but not limited to the border transparent between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, ”she said.
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“Let me be clear: if the Brexit deal undermines the Good Friday deals, there will be no chance of a trade deal between the US and UK,” he said. she declared.
This is in contrast to the stance of President Trump and many Republicans, who have been optimistic about the possibilities of a deal between the United States and the United Kingdom.