Nancy Pelosi. Picture: REUTERS/LEAH MILLIS
Nancy Pelosi. Picture: REUTERS/LEAH MILLIS

Washington — US House speaker Nancy Pelosi threatened on Wednesday to block any future bilateral trade agreement between the US and the UK if Brexit puts at risk the accord that brought an end to the conflict in Northern Ireland.

“If Brexit undermines the Good Friday accord, there will be no chance of a US-UK trade agreement passing the Congress,” Pelosi said in a statement. “The peace of the Good Friday agreement is treasured by the American people and will be fiercely defended on a bicameral and bipartisan basis in the US Congress.”

Pelosi’s bid to influence Brexit follows remarks in London by President Donald Trump’s top national security adviser, John Bolton, who said a bilateral trade agreement would be a top priority for the administration after the UK exits the EU and would get “overwhelming” support in the US Congress.

“To be clear, in the Trump administration, Britain is at the front of the trade queue — or ‘line,’ as we say,” Bolton said on Monday after meeting with new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. He said Brexit would not threaten the Good Friday Agreement.

Brexit talks between the UK and the EU are currently at an impasse. If that continues, Britain will leave the EU without a deal on October 31, something that economists and government officials warn could cause severe economic damage.

Though Ireland and the UK have promised not to put physical infrastructure on the border in the event of a no-deal Brexit, in reality there will need to be some kind of customs checks at or near what will be the external frontier for the EU’s single market.

The removal of checks formed a key part of the commitment to cross-border co-operation in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which ended decades of violence, particularly in Northern Ireland. Opponents of Brexit argue that any physical infrastructure at the border risks a return to the unrest of the past.

“The administration remains a strong supporter of the Good Friday Agreement,” Bolton said. “And we don’t see what the problem is.”

Johnson has promised to leave the EU by October 31 “come what may” and on Wednesday accused the EU of “not compromising at all”.

Bolton said Trump backs a “successful” exit for the UK and that the US is ready to offer Britain sector-by-sector trade deals to help the country if there’s a no-deal Brexit.