MPs were left furious after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said a free trade agreement between the UK and America would not be supported by Congress if the Government carried out plans to overrule aspects of the Northern Ireland Protocol. Earlier this week Liz Truss vowed to introduce legislation to block customs checks in the province if the EU did not agree to renegotiate the terms of the 2019 withdrawal agreement.
Ministers have been left frustrated at the unwillingness of Brussels to compromise on the Protocol, which they argue is undermining the UK’s internal market.
Last night Ms Pelosi made clear the US was siding with the EU over the row as she threatened to block a trade deal with Britain.
Former Tory Cabinet minister Sir John Redwood hit back this morning, accusing the senior politician of “idle threats”.
“A majority of UK voters do not accept bullying from abroad,” he said.
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“Pelosi should talk to Unionists in Northern Ireland about the damage the EU is doing to the Northern Ireland Protocol.
“It is the EU not the UK that has undermined it and led to the break down of the Assembly.
“UK legislation is needed to repair the EU damage.”
Northern Ireland’s devolved government administration in Belfast has effectively been suspended over the Protocol row.
The complex political system of the province requires the two largest parties to enter a power-sharing agreement in government.
The Democratic Unionist Party has refused to join the executive with Sinn Fein until its concerns over the Protocol are addressed.
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They believe customs checks imposed on goods crossing the Irish Sea by the EU as part of 2019 deal undermine Northern Ireland’s place in the EU.
Following Ms Pelosi’s threats, senior DUP MP Sammy Wilson tweeted: “As far as people who understand Northern Ireland go, Speaker Pelosi is at the ‘back of the queue’.”
His remarks referred to comments made by Barack Obama during the Brexit referendum when the then President warned Britain would be at the back of the queue for a trade deal with the US if it left the EU.
Ms Truss argues the current impasse is impacting the Good Friday Agreement and unilateral action will be necessary to protect the peace process unless the EU agrees to renegotiate on customs checks.
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The Foreign Secretary has set out her intention to bring forward legislation within weeks, overwriting parts of the post-Brexit deal, freeing goods destined to stay within the UK from EU-level checks.
She told the Commons on Tuesday the move was needed to reduce “unnecessary bureaucracy” and to protect the Good Friday Agreement, arguing that the EU’s proposals “would go backwards from the situation we have today”.
She said the Bill would take measures to protect the EU single market by implementing “robust penalties” for those who “seek to abuse the new system”.
Ahead of a visit to the UK by a group of US Congressmen and women, Ms Pelosi urged Britain to abandon the legislative plans.
She warned: “It is deeply concerning that the United Kingdom is now seeking to unilaterally discard the Northern Ireland Protocol.
“Negotiated agreements like the Protocol preserve the important progress and stability forged by the Good Friday Accords, which continue to enjoy strong bipartisan and bicameral support in the United States Congress.
“As I have stated in my conversations with the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and Members of the House of Commons, if the United Kingdom chooses to undermine the Good Friday Accords, the Congress cannot and will not support a bilateral free trade agreement with the United Kingdom.”
She added: “Respectful of the will of the British people and of Brexit, I urge constructive, collaborative and good-faith negotiations to implement an agreement that upholds peace.
“The children of Northern Ireland, who have never known the bloody conflict and do not want to go back, deserve a future free of the violence where all may reach their fulfillment.”