Britain will not get its free trade deal with America passed in the US Congress if Brexit undermines the Good Friday Agreement, the most senior Democrat in the House of Representatives has said.
Nancy Pelosi released a statement on Wednesday reiterating that there will be “no chance” of a deal getting the congressional approval it needs unless the Irish border remains “seamless”.
The warning carries bite given that Ms Pelosi’s party, the opponents of Donald Trump’s Republican Party, holds the majority in the House.
Both the House and the Senate, the two chambers of the US Congress, must vote through any deal struck between Britain and America for it to come into effect.
The intervention, which underlines a position Ms Pelosi made clear in public earlier this year, comes after a trip to Britain by John Bolton, the White House national security adviser.
During the visit Mr Bolton repeatedly talked up the prospect of a deal, floating the idea of smaller sector-by-sector agreements that could be struck rather than a single all-encompassing one.
Mr Bolton, who met Boris Johnson and the Chancellor Sajid Javid during his visit, also said the Trump administration would “enthusiastically” support a no deal Brexit.
The question over what changes at the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland once Britain leaves the European Union remains the thorniest part of Brexit negotiations, which have stalled in recent months.
Mr Johnson is demanding the so-called Irish backstop, which ensures an open border whatever future UK-EU trading arrangement is agreed, is dropped from the withdrawal agreement struck by Theresa May.
He has also said Brexit will happen on October 31 with or without a new deal.
In her statement Ms Pelosi, who is the House speaker, said that the Good Friday Agreement struck during Tony Blair’s premiership is “the bedrock of peace in Northern Ireland and as a beacon of hope for the entire world”.
She added: “Whatever form it takes, Brexit cannot be allowed to imperil the Good Friday Agreement, including the seamless border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland, especially now, as the first generation born into the hope of Good Friday 21 years ago comes into adulthood. We cannot go back.
“If Brexit undermines the Good Friday accord, there will be no chance of a US-UK trade agreement passing the Congress. 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 United States Congress.”
#Brexit cannot be allowed to imperil the Good Friday Agreement. 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. https://t.co/zfRpcGnWXv— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) August 14, 2019
Both the Trump administration and the Johnson government have talked up hopes for a speedy UK-US trade deal after Brexit in the last fortnight as they seek to cement good relations.
But significant hurdles stand in the way of progress for a speedy trade deal, putting aside the clashing priorities for what both sides want out of a deal.
Britain cannot formally negotiate until it is outside of the EU, which at its earliest point will be November 2019.
An agreement of the terms of trade between Britain and America is reliant on knowing the post-Brexit terms of trade between Britain and the EU, which may not emerge until during any transition period.
The added challenges of Mr Trump’s re-election being in the balance in November 2020 and the fact that the US president must return trade negotiating powers to Congress in July 2021 are also factors.