- Senior Democrats have warned that there will be no US trade deal with the UK if Boris Johnson does not uphold the Brexit protocol for Northern Ireland.
- Prime Minister Johnson has caused outraged at home and in Europe over plans to potentially disapply parts of the agreement with the EU covering Northern Ireland.
- His government admitted that the plan would break international law.
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has warned Johnson that there will be “absolutely no chance” of a US-UK free trade deal if he goes ahead with his plan.
- She was echoed by Ways and Means Committee chair Richard Neal and Joe Biden’s foreign policy adviser, Anthony Blinken.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Senior Democrats have warned UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson that there is “absolutely no chance” of a free trade agreement with the US if he goes ahead with plans to rewrite his Brexit deal with the EU.
Johnson’s government has this week caused consternation in UK and in Brussels after revealing an explosive plan to unilaterally determine elements of Northern Ireland’s trade with Great Britain from next year.
Details of how the Northern Ireland protocol will work are currently being negotiated by UK and European Union officials and Brandon Lewis, the UK Secretary of State of Northern Ireland, admitted on Tuesday that the UK’s plan to implement its own rules for trade across the Irish Sea would break international law.
Several members of Parliament of Johnson’s Conservative party, including former UK prime minister Theresa May, have publicly criticised the move. Jonathan Jones quit as the head of the UK government’s legal department in protest against the plan. Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, will hold emergency talks with his European counterparts on Thursday after EU leaders accused Johnson of planning to break international law.
Now key Democrats in the US are warning Prime Minister Johnson that Congress will not approve a post-Brexit free trade deal with the UK if it does not uphold the Northern Ireland protocol as agreed with the EU last year.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a statement on Thursday warned the UK prime minister: “If the U.K. violates that international treaty and Brexit undermines the Good Friday accord, there will be absolutely no chance of a U.S.-U.K. trade agreement passing the Congress.
“The Good Friday Agreement is treasured by the American people and will be proudly defended in the United States Congress.”
She was echoed by Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal, who told the BBC: “There will be no trade agreement on a bilateral basis with the UK if they re-establish a hard border. Speaker Pelosi and I are determined that that will not happen.
“We feel very strongly that the American dimension to the Good Friday Agreement was very helpful. That is a role that has been acknowledged by successive prime ministers of the UK since Tony Blair and we were an honest broker in bringing about the end of the longest political dispute in the history of the western world.
“So this idea that you could arbitrarily determine that you could re-establish the border after giving repeated assurances that that would not happen is a violation, I think, of the good faith that we all entered into in negotiations that brought about this remarkable achievement called the Good Friday Agreement.”
Neale articulated widespread concern that Prime Minister Johnson’s plan to potentially disapply parts of the Northern Ireland protocol would lead to the return of checks and infrastructure on the island of Ireland.
The Northern Ireland protocol agreed with the EU states that the province will continue to follow the bloc’s trading rules in order to avoid a controversial hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
In an indication that opposition to Johnson’s plan could soon go right to the top of White House, Anthony Blinken, the foreign policy adviser to Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, tweeted that Biden “is committed to preserving the hard-earned peace & stability in Northern Ireland. As the UK and EU work out their relationship, any arrangements must protect the Good Friday Agreement and prevent the return of a hard border.”
Johnson and other pro-Brexit MPs argue that a free trade deal with the US will one of the biggest prizes of leaving the EU. Talks over a deal got underway earlier this year.
However, the UK prime minister’s controversial plans for Northern Ireland, contained in two pieces of legislation called the International Market Bill and Finance Bill, look set to jeopardize any potential trade deal, particularly if Biden wins the presidential election in November.
Responding to Pelosi’s remarks, a spokesperson for Johnson on Thursday said: “She was obviously reflecting on the importance of the Northern Ireland peace process and if you look at prime minister’s words yesterday, what he said was that his job as prime minister of the UK was to protect the Northern Ireland peace process and Good Friday Agreement and that is why are taking these steps to introduce this safety net.”
The latest round of talks between UK and EU negotiators over a free trade deal is set to conclude today amid growing fears that Britain is heading for a chaotic and acrimonious departure from the bloc on December 31. The UK’s chief negotiator David Frost will meet with his EU counterpart Michel Barnier before making statements on the state of talks.
Prime Minister Johnson last week insisted that leaving without a trade deal would be a “good outcome” for the UK, despite widespread warnings about queues at the border, food shortages, and costly tariffs on a range of goods sold to the EU.