Top US Democrat says Congress could block UK trade deal if Brexit threatens 'precious' Good Friday Agreement

Posted On: 
20th August 2019

A senior US politician has warned Donald Trump’s administration that a future trade deal between Britain and the US could be blocked if the "precious" Good Friday peace agreement is threatened by Brexit.

Boris Johnson and Donald Trump discussed Brexit and trade in a phone call on Monday.
Credit: 
PA

In a strongly-worded letter also sent to UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer accused the Trump White House of “over-promising an unconditional and unrealistic” post-Brexit trade tie-up with the UK.

And the senior Democrat told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Congress could block any plan that tried to "shirk" America's historic role in maintaining peace in Northern Ireland.

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The intervention follows similar warnings from US House of Representatives’ speaker Nancy Pelosi, and comes after senior Trump aide John Bolton insisted Britain would be "first in line" for a trade deal with the United States after Brexit.

Mr Schumer said: "While Britain is a unique and valued ally of our nation, as the Democratic Leader of the United States Senate, which would consider prospective new bilateral trade agreements, I write to express my inveterate opposition to any prospective trade deal with UK that either undermines the landmark Good Friday Agreement or facilitates a return to a hard border."

The Senate minority leader urged those involved in the Brexit process to "reflect on the hate, violence, injustice, lawlessness and societal upheaval" of The Troubles, as well as the "extraordinary transformation ushered in by the Good Friday Agreement", in which American played a "proud role" and "remains a vital guarantor" of.

He added: "The free and demilitarised border on the island of Ireland between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland is one of the precious products of that framework.

"Currently, upwards of 35,000 people commute daily over this now-invisible line that was once covered with razor wire and armoured cars. This radical change has unleashed significant economic energy and facilitated deep societal interconnection.

"It is not surprising, then, that 56% of the people of Northern Ireland voted against Brexit.

"The Good Friday Agreement is a towering achievement of diplomacy and it planted the seeds of a society based on mutual respect and equality, rather than one based on distrust and discrimination."

Mr Schumer said: "The notion that America would now endorse a policy or agreement that undermines the success of the Good Friday Agreement is profoundly counterproductive and risks exacerbating sectarian polarisation and eroding self-determination - and unleashing the potential for violence that comes with that reality. This cannot be allowed to happen.

"Plainly stated, America should not be in the business of handing out a blank cheque that bankrupts the peace, security, self-determination and shared prosperity precipitated by the Good Friday Agreement.

"America's policy should be to realise the full potential of the Good Friday Agreement, not to erode it or entertain the possibility of a return of a hard border or direct rule."

'MOVE RAPIDLY'

The intervention came as President Trump said he had discussed moving "rapidly on a US-UK free trade deal" in a call with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The US commander-in-chief tweeted: "Great discussion with Prime Minister @BorisJohnson today. We talked about Brexit and how we can move rapidly on a US-UK free trade deal."

The pair will meet at the G7 summit in France later this week, and Downing Street said they had "discussed economic issues and our trading relationship", while Mr Johnson also "updated the President on Brexit".

Number 10 added: "The leaders looked forward to seeing each other at the Summit this weekend."

A White House spokesperson said: "The President expressed great enthusiasm for his upcoming meeting with the Prime Minister at the G7 Summit in Biarritz, France."