(Bloomberg) — Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said a U.K.-U.S. trade agreement depends on the continued respect for the Northern Ireland peace process, a warning to Boris Johnson as he moves to break international law over Brexit and the province.
“We can’t allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit,” Biden said on Twitter. “Any trade deal between the U.S. and U.K. must be contingent upon respect for the Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period.”
Biden’s intervention shows how Johnson’s proposal to unilaterally override the Brexit divorce treaty signed with the EU is having international repercussions, and making a transatlantic free-trade agreement politically more tricky. Biden shared a strongly-worded letter signed by four senior members of Congress, which urged Johnson to “abandon any and all legally questionable and unfair efforts” to breach its agreement with the EU.
“The United States Congress will not support any free trade agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom if the United Kingdom fails to preserve the gains of the Good Friday Agreement and broader peace process,” the letter said. “If these reported plans were to go forward, it would be difficult to see how these conditions could be met.”
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Nevertheless, at a press conference with Britain’s foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, on Wednesday in Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said trade talks with the U.K. were progressing well. He also said he backed the U.K. as a trustworthy partner, despite the row over Johnson’s plan to rip up the Brexit deal.
“I am confident they’ll get it right,” Pompeo said. “We know the complexity of the situation.”
The British government hasn’t put a firm timetable on securing a free-trade agreement with the U.S., which has been touted as a key post-Brexit prize. The U.S. is already the largest destination for British exports outside the EU, and trade between the two countries amounted to $270 billion in 2019. A free-trade agreement with the U.S. would be expected to boost Britain’s GDP by 0.16% over the long run, according to a U.K. government estimate published in March.
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