US wades into Northern Ireland Brexit rules row with warning to Boris

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Unionists lashed back today after the US waded into the Northern Ireland Brexit rules row – warning that all hopes of a Transatlantic trade deal will be off if Boris Johnson puts peace at risk.

In a stark message, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi branded the PM’s threat to axe the protocol ‘deeply concerning’.

And she insisted there is no chance of the US Congress support a free trade pact with the UK if the Good Friday Agreement is undermined.

The intervention will set alarm bells ringing in Downing Street after months of efforts to convince Joe Biden‘s White House that the protocol is the source of rising sectarian tensions in the province. 

But unionists vented fury at Ms Pelosi’s ‘interfering’, saying she was ‘entirely unhelpful’ and ‘hopelessly out of date’.  

Ms Pelosi said in her statement: ‘The Good Friday Accords are the bedrock of peace in Northern Ireland and a beacon of hope for the entire world.

‘Ensuring there remains no physical border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland is absolutely necessary for upholding this landmark agreement, which has transformed Northern Ireland.’

US wades into Northern Ireland Brexit rules row with warning to Boris

In a stark message, House speaker Nancy Pelosi branded the PM’s threat to axe the protocol ‘deeply concerning’

The intervention will set alarm bells ringing in Downing Street after months of efforts to convince the White House the protocol is the source of rising sectarian tensions in the province (pictured)

The intervention will set alarm bells ringing in Downing Street after months of efforts to convince the White House the protocol is the source of rising sectarian tensions in the province (pictured)

Sinn Fein won Stormont elections earlier this month, but no executive has been formed because the DUP will not nominate a deputy first minister unless the protocol is fundamentally overhauled.

They insist that the rules effectively create a border in the Irish Sea, and separate Northern Ireland from mainland Britain. 

Power-sharing rules in the peace agreement mean that both unionists and republicans must participate in order for the administration to function.

This week, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss announced plans to legislate to override parts of the Brexit withdrawal treaty the UK struck with the EU.

However, the government has stopped short of publishing the law and appears to be taking a softer approach to the crisis. 

The EU has said that the wider post-Brexit trade deal could be at risk if Mr Johnson follows through on scrapping the protocol – a move which he says might be necessary to maintain peace. The PM signed up to the post-Brexit arrangements but says they are being applied too harshly by the EU.

Ms Pelosi said on Twitter: ‘It is deeply concerning that the United Kingdom is now seeking to unilaterally discard the Northern Ireland Protocol. 

Negotiated agreements like the Protocol preserve the important progress and stability forged by the Good Friday Accords, which continue to enjoy strong bipartisan and bicameral support in the United States Congress.

‘As I have stated in my conversations with the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and Members of the House of Commons, if the United Kingdom chooses to undermine the Good Friday Accords, the Congress cannot and will not support a bilateral free trade agreement with the United Kingdom.

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‘Respectful of the will of the British people and of Brexit, I urge constructive, collaborative and good-faith negotiations to implement an agreement that upholds peace.

‘The children of Northern Ireland, who have never known the bloody conflict and do not want to go back, deserve a future free of the violence where all may reach their fulfillment.’

Ms Pelosi branded the PM's (pictured in Westminster yesterday) threat to axe the protocol 'deeply concerning'

Ms Pelosi branded the PM’s (pictured in Westminster yesterday) threat to axe the protocol ‘deeply concerning’

But Sir Jeffrey slammed Ms Pelosi’s intervention as ‘entirely unhelpful’.

‘I noted that Speaker Pelosi talked about the lack of bipartisan approach or agreement on what the UK government are doing,’ he said.

‘The problem for Speaker Pelosi is that there is not bipartisan or cross-community support for the protocol in Northern Ireland, it is undermining the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, it is undermining the political institutions that were established under that agreement, it undermines the principle of consent.

‘You cannot have powersharing without consensus in Northern Ireland so the bipartisanship or the consensus that is required is not won in the US congress, it’s won in the Northern Ireland Assembly and I would urge Speaker Pelosi to understand that because I think that her contributions are entirely unhelpful, offer no solution, offer no help and merely repeat a mantra that frankly is hopelessly out of date.’

The Traditional Unionist Voice party in Northern Ireland was also critical of Ms Pelosi, adding ‘the interference of foreign figures in what are internal UK matters is unwelcome and inappropriate’.

TUV representative Stephen Cooper also said Irish premier Micheal Martin, who met the Stormont parties in Belfast on Friday, ‘has no business lecturing Unionists on what they can and cannot do’.

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‘His belligerent meddling should be met with the contempt it deserves and frankly Unionists should not even be meeting him,’ he said.

However, Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill said she ‘very much welcomes’ the Ms Pelosi’s intervention.

‘They’ve [US Congress] made it very clear that there will be no trade deal with Britain if they undermine the Good Friday Agreement,’ the Sinn Fein vice-president said as she visited Scotland’s First Minister in Edinburgh on Friday.

‘Those statements are very, very important because we have to protect the Good Friday Agreement.

‘The protocol provides us some mitigation against the worst impact of Brexit – the hardest possible Brexit that’s been delivered by Boris Johnson in London and the DUP partners in Belfast.’

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