Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday warned that there was “no chance” of a US-UK trade deal passing through US congress if Brexit undermined the 1998 Good Friday agreement that ushered peace into Northern Ireland.
“Whatever form it takes, Brexit cannot be allowed to imperil the Good Friday Agreement,” she said, noting that this included the “seamless border” between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The remarks made by the highest-ranking Democrat throw cold water on the notion that a trade deal with the US could come into force the day after a no-deal Brexit.
On Tuesday, US national security advisor John Bolton said that the UK would be “first in line” for a trade deal with the US in a no-deal scenario, an outcome that he said the US supported.
He said a series of accelerated agreements could be signed “very quickly, very straightforwardly.”
But any trade deal would have to make its way through both houses of US congress, with Pelosi warning: “If Brexit undermines the Good Friday accord, there will be no chance of a US-UK trade agreement passing the congress.”
Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, noted that the Good Friday agreement would be “fiercely defended on a bicameral and bipartisan basis”.
She said that the agreement “serves as the bedrock of peace in Northern Ireland and as a beacon of hope for the entire world.”
“After centuries of conflict and bloodshed, the world has witnessed a miracle of reconciliation and progress made possible because of this transformative accord.”
“We cannot go back,” she said.
The 1998 agreement ushered in some 20 years of relative stability in Northern Ireland, following three decades of clashes between unionist and republicans — known simply as the Troubles — that took the lives of more than 3,600 people.
Northern Ireland has become central to the Brexit process. Former prime minister Theresa May was unable to get her deal approved by parliament in large part because of the Northern Ireland backstop.
The backstop as negotiated would see the UK forced to align itself with European Union rules and regulations if both sides can’t come to an agreement on a future trade deal.
Both the EU and Ireland routinely insist that the backstop is the only way to avoid a post-Brexit hard border in Northern Ireland.