Since Britain voted to leave the EU, the Democrats have deliberately undermined a democratic decision their closest ally made. Prior to the referendum, Barack Obama pushed the UK ‘to the back of the queue’ for a trade deal. Former US Secretary of State John Kerry told The Guardian a week after the vote that Brexit might not happen. Al Gore said the UK voted to leave because a shift towards ‘extreme’ political attitudes reflected a change in the climate. When Bill Clinton received an honorary degree from Dublin City University in 2017, he implied Brexiteers are ‘stupid’ by saying that Brits were unaware that quitting the EU meant leaving the Customs Union. And now, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has emerged as the one Democrat with the power to thwart Britain’s post-Brexit future by threatening to block a US-UK trade deal if it reignites Northern Ireland’s Troubles.
Pelosi warned that a US-UK trade deal will not pass Congress if Brexit jeopardises the 1998 Good Friday Agreement (GFA). This contradicts both the US President’s and National Security Adviser John Bolton’s comments that the UK would be ‘first in line’ for a trade agreement. Some media outlets like BBC News suggest that Britain leaving the EU without a deal on October 31st would lead to the reimposition of border controls, which is clearly what the Speaker is anxious about. But to deliberately destroy a potential trade agreement between America and its closest ally on this factual error shows that Pelosi misunderstands Brexit and the GFA.
There is no logical reason as to why Britain’s EU exit has to lead to a hard Irish border. Brexit Central reports that in February, Michel Barnier admitted there does not need to be one. Soft border controls are already being used at the Irish border, which consist of a mixture of administrative cooperation, auditing and site raids by customs, tax and regulatory enforcement officials, all supported by random spot-checks on roads leading up to and cameras on the border. This currently helps prevent smuggling and VAT evasion.
Both the UK and Ireland enjoy a Common Travel Area that enables British and Irish citizens to move freely between these islands. This was established in 1922, 51 years before both countries joined the European Economic Community. Reuters states that both nations signed a deal to maintain the free movement of people between Britain and Ireland in May. Therefore, there is no need for a hard border post-Brexit. This demonstrates Pelosi is playing politics with a concept she misapprehends and that she should be collaborating with her Republican colleagues to secure the best trade deal the UK and the US can get.
As a result, there is no reason why the GFA should be affected by Brexit either, and no one wants to see this 1998 settlement overturned. Even Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in April the GFA must be sustained. Lord David Trimble, one of the key architects behind the agreement, said Britain’s EU exit will only undermine it if the EU imposes tighter border controls. Jon Thompson, HMRC’s Chief Executive and Permanent Secretary, affirmed that he was confident there wouldn’t be any requirement for physical infrastructure between Ireland and Northern Ireland when giving evidence to the Exiting the European Union Select Committee in November 2017.
As The Spectator put it bluntly, the GFA has nothing to do with Brexit. There are three borders between the North and South- the migration border provided for by the Common Travel Area; the customs border which was removed by the European Economic Community; and the military border which existed after the GFA was signed. Leaving the EU was not a deliberate attempt to destroy this deal which subsequently brought peace to Northern Ireland for nearly twenty years.
Pelosi has got Brexit and the GFA all wrong. She is being used as a political weapon by Varadkar and she is intentionally undermining the Trump administration. If she truly cared about America, the Speaker would ensure her country can have a ‘beautiful’ trade agreement with its closest ally. She needs to show some pragmatism.