US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has cautioned the United Kingdom that there could be no post-Brexit trade deal with the United States unless the Northern Ireland peace agreement is saved.
Washington is concerned that a disagreement between London and Brussels over the implementation of the 2020 Brexit treaty could undercut the Good Friday accord, which effectively put an end to three decades of violence.
Pelosi said Friday she felt it would be “very unlikely” for the US and the UK to agree on the fresh trade terms coveted by the British government “if there is destruction of the Good Friday accords”.
Since the UK left the EU on Jan. 1, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has unilaterally delayed the implementation of some provisions of the Northern Ireland Protocol, with his top negotiator saying it is unsustainable.
The 1998 peace deal largely brought to halt the "Troubles" - three decades of conflict between Irish Catholic nationalist militants and pro-British Protestant "loyalist" paramilitaries which left 3,600 people dead.
The British-run region remains deeply split along sectarian lines 23 years after the US brokered the deal. While many Catholic nationalists favor unification with Ireland, Protestant unionists prefer to stay part of the UK.
The Northern Ireland Protocol, an integral part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, is aimed at keeping the province, which borders EU member Ireland, in both the UK's customs territory and the bloc’s single market.
The EU seeks to protect its single market, however, an effective border in the Irish Sea created by the protocol cuts off Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, angering Protestant unionists.
Some unionists argue the protocol contravenes the 1998 peace deal.
Pelosi, who has been critical of Johnson’s approach to Northern Ireland following Brexit, discussed the issue with the premier in Downing Street on Thursday.
She expanded on her views about the talks currently underway between London and Brussels to resolve issues surrounding the implementation of the protocol.
Speaking at a Chatham House event on Friday, Pelosi said she was “glad that more time” had been afforded for negotiations between the UK and the EU on how to operate the protocol.
However, she added there “has to be an agreement” that respects the terms of the peace deal in Northern Ireland or transatlantic relations and the prospect of a trade concord could suffer.
“If it takes a little more time, then so be it,” she said. “This is not said as any threat, it is a prediction: if there is destruction of the Good Friday accords, it would be very unlikely to have a UK-US bilateral.”