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Irish border could cost Brexiters their US trade fantasy

by Luke Lythgoe | 16.04.2019

Brexiters have been blasé about the Irish border since the 2016 referendum, and quick to dismiss the concerns of communities who rely on its openness for their peace and prosperity. However, yesterday the speaker of the House of Representatives warned that any disruption to Northern Ireland’s peace settlement will make the Brexiters’ dream of a US-UK trade deal a “non starter”.

“If there were to be any weakening of the Good Friday accords then there would be no chance whatsoever, a non starter, for a US-UK trade agreement,” said Nancy Pelosi. In the US, the president’s team negotiates trade deals, but Congress plays a role throughout and both the House and Senate must approve the final deal.

As a collision of Brexit fantasies it’s pretty poetic, highlighting the trail of broken promises since 2016.

Free trade enthusiasts like Boris Johnson have put a trade deal with America at the heart of their Brexit vision for a long time. Back in January 2017, then foreign secretary Johnson claimed the UK would be “first in line to do a great free trade deal” with the Trump administration.

But Brexiters’ disregard for the problems Brexit might cause the peace process goes back even further. In February 2016, Johnson insisted that the operation of the border would remain “absolutely unchanged” if the UK left the EU. His fellow Brexiter, Theresa Villiers, who was Northern Ireland secretary at the time, denounced concerns about the border as “scaremongering”.

Since then Brexiters have consistently over-simplified the problem of keeping trade flowing freely across the border if the UK left the EU’s single market and customs union. Their typical answer is vague “technical solutions” which, when probed further, rely on technology that has not been invented yet.

Even less thought is given to the potential damage to the peace process, despite the Good Friday Agreement having been written on the assumption that both the UK and the Republic of Ireland would remain EU members. Last summer Johnson complained that it was “beyond belief” that the UK’s Brexit policy should be “dictated by this folly”.

Pelosi’s comments show that enough politicians in Washington consider Northern Ireland peace anything but folly. “[The Good Friday Agreement] was hard. But it was a model. And other people have used it as a model. And we don’t want that model to be something that can be bargained away in some other agreement,” she said.

The speaker also blew apart another Brexiter fantasy: that a US trade deal can be quickly struck between Brexiters and Donald Trump. “It’s very hard to pass a trade bill in the Congress of the United States,” Pelosi warned.

Piling Brexit fantasy on Brexit fantasy is how we got into this mess. It is therefore fitting that the Brexiters’ flippant treatment of the Irish border looks set to nix their fanciful trade dreams. The real folly here is Brexit itself.

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Edited by Hugo Dixon

7 Responses to “Irish border could cost Brexiters their US trade fantasy”

  • Proof upon proof arrives everyday to demonstrate the sheer idiocy of Brexit. It will be interesting to see what coverage Nancy’s Pelosi’s statement receives in the UK.

    But control of the press and indeed of the BBC seems to be in the hands of the Brexiters. How has this happened ?

  • There is no doubt that Brexit will threaten peace in N Ireland and this in itself should make the government revoke Article 50. Who in their right mind would want a return of the dark days of the troubles? And Brexit could also lead to moves to unite the two parts of the island of Ireland. This crazy government is out to wreck our peace, security and prosperity.
    The BBC is behaving irresponsibly over Brexit and I believe that many presenters do not have a grasp of the issues. Hence, they allow leavers to tell lies that go unchallenged. Some of the coverage is amateurish.
    Keep up the fight.

  • If it wasn’t so gut-wrenching serious you’d have to laugh. Half a national population living in Cloud-Cuckooland believing the tall tales of a caste of Medicine Men. The way the belief in progress of Western European (and, in fact, US) populations has been blown to powder is nothing short of spectacular. And frightening at the same time. Very reminiscent of what happened before WWII.

  • Goes back to what I have said many many times on this site, who is actually going to put up a hard border?
    it won’t be the British Government so if it is to be the Irish or the EU then it will be them who will be responsible for any renewed violence. Get real all you lot who are using the Irish border as a stick to beat Brexit – a hard border ain’t going to happen!
    Nancy Pelosi should keep her beak out of our affairs and both sides in the US should stop playing politics with Brexit.

  • @peter : if the UK doesn’t need or want a hard border with Ireland, why would it need a hard border with the main land? (As there will be no hard border between Ireland and the rest of Europe 🙂 )

  • The Brexiteers never realised that Ireland has more friends in the US and the EU than England does. If the Americans think Ireland is is damaged in any way by England’s actions, they will not be happy. Arrogance is a losing trait, and England has forgotten that.