Nancy Pelosi Meets U.K. Officials to Voice Brexit Concerns

Dominic Raab, the U.K. foreign secretary, has arrived in Washington D.C. to hold crucial trade deal talks with U.S. officials after Nancy Pelosi warned there was "absolutely no chance of a U.S.-U.K. trade agreement passing the Congress" if Britain undermined the Northern Ireland peace agreement.

Boris Johnson's British government has voted in favor of a bill that would give it powers to override parts of the Brexit agreement with the European Union (E.U.), which his own government negotiated and is legally binding. This amendment is to prevent, Johnson said, the E.U. being able to dictate where British borders were.

Critics say that this harms the Good Friday Agreement which brokered peace between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Raab will meet with Pelosi today in a bid to reassure her that the U.K. government intends to uphold the 1998 Good Friday Agreement in all circumstances. He is expected to tell U.S. officials that the government's plans are only an insurance policy and are proportionate to what the government says are threats from the E.U. to block food imports.

Nancy Pelosi has said: "The Good Friday Agreement is the bedrock of peace in Northern Ireland and an inspiration for the whole world. Whatever form it takes, Brexit cannot be allowed to imperil the Good Friday Agreement, including the stability brought by the invisible and frictionless border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.

"The U.K. must respect the Northern Ireland Protocol as signed with the E.U. to ensure the free flow of goods across the border. If the U.K. violates that international treaty and Brexit undermines the Good Friday accord, there will be absolutely no chance of a US-UK trade agreement passing the Congress."

On Tuesday evening, four senior members of Congress wrote a letter to Johnson outlining a similar warning, saying a trade deal could be blocked.

The letter, starting by outlining how close the U.S.-U.K. relationship was, was signed by Democratic congressmen Eliot Engel, Richard Neal, and Bill Keating and Republican Congressman Peter King.

"We were so disturbed by the reports about your government's efforts to undermine the Northern Ireland protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement that, if true, could have disastrous consequences for the Good Friday Agreement and broader process to maintain peace on the island of Ireland," the letter read.

"It is necessary for us to emphasize how this issue could directly affect the U.S.-U.K. bilateral relationship even beyond the broad, bipartisan support for the people of Northern Ireland. Many in the United States and in Congress consider the issues of the Good Friday Agreement and a potential U.S.-U.K. Free Trade Agreement inextricably linked.

"We therefore urge you to abandon any and all legally questionable and unfair efforts to flout the Northern Ireland protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement and look to ensure that Brexit negotiations do not undermine the decades of progress to bring peace to Northern Ireland and future options for the bilateral relationship between our two countries."

Downing Street said that Good Friday Agreement would be upheld in all circumstances and will ensure "harmful defaults do not inadvertently come into play which could jeopardize the huge gains of the peace process."

Dominic Raab
U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is meeting U.S. officials today Getty

With devolved administrations no longer bound by common E.U. law after the end of the Brexit transition period in December, it gives rise to the possibility that different parts of the U.K. could devise different rules in the future, potentially setting up barriers to trade.

The bill would also allow the government to disapply previous agreements relating to the movement of goods including those applying to Northern Ireland, which it was agreed during the Brexit agreement, would stay closely aligned to the single market to avoid a barrier between itself and the Republic of Ireland which will still be the E.U. single market.

The government's plans also run contrary to the Northern Ireland protocol contained within the Withdrawal agreement signed between the U.K. and E.U., which exists to prevent a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, in line with the 1998 Good Friday agreement which former President Bill Clinton played an instrumental role in helping to forge.

The decision to override the Withdrawal Agreement that the U.K. struck with the E.U. had led to a warning from U.S. House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi who said that Britain might be unable to secure a post-Brexit trade deal with the U.S. if it does anything to undermine the treaty that brought peace to Northern Ireland after decades of violence.