LONDON – Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi has faced criticism from the leader of the largest trade union party in Northern Ireland after she said that Congress would not approve a trade agreement with Britain if Britain abandons the agreement governing Brexit trade after Brexit.
Transatlantic sparring after the government of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced its intention to introduce legislation that would allow it to unilaterally suspend the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol, an international agreement between Britain and the European Union.
Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that shares a land border with an EU member state – the Republic of Ireland – and requires special attention when the UK leaves the EU.
The protocol is intended to preserve the peace process in Northern Ireland, but unions complain that it has created a trade barrier between the province and the rest of the UK
Pelosi said Thursday that Britain’s actions threaten to undermine the Good Friday 1998 agreement, which ended decades of violence in Northern Ireland. She called for “good faith negotiations” to resolve any differences over the protocol.
“As I said in my talks with the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State and the House of Commons, if the United Kingdom decides to undermine the Good Friday agreement, Congress cannot and will not support a bilateral free trade agreement with the United Kingdom,” Pelosi said. .
Member of Parliament and leader of the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland Jeffrey Donaldson said the protocol itself undermined the peace process because it threatened key principles of the Good Friday agreement, also known as the Belfast agreement.
The agreement created a power-sharing agreement in Northern Ireland based on consensus between nationalist parties seeking closer ties with the Republic of Ireland and unionist parties seeking to maintain historical ties with the United Kingdom. This consensus no longer exists because the unions in the Northern Ireland Assembly oppose the protocol.
“If Nancy Pelosi wants the agreement to be protected, she must recognize that it is the protocol that harms and undermines the agreement,” Donaldson said. “And so we have to fight it.”
The DUP has refused to participate in the new government on the separation of powers until disagreements over the protocol are resolved. This month, the party took second place after the nationalist Sinn Fein party in the Northern Ireland Assembly elections.
The Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland Michael Martin is scheduled to hold talks with party leaders in Belfast on Friday.
Martin said the EU had taken “decisive action” in October to resolve issues over the protocol, but the British government could not respond.
“The idea that the European Union is somehow inflexible on this issue is simply not true, it is not true,” Martin told the BBC. “or you are not negotiating with the European Union on this basis, especially if you have signed an agreement that you do not like now.”
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