Four US Congressmen sent a public letter to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to express “grave concerns” over his Internal Market Bill “that would likely invalidate or override the Northern Ireland protocol”, according to the pledge currently circulating online.
The US legislators in question, Democrats Eliot Engel, Richard Neal, William Keating and Republican congressman Peter King, said that they were “disturbed” by the bill, that was passed through the House of Commons on Monday with 340 votes favouring it, suggesting that the legislature could have “disastrous consequences for the Good Friday Agreement”, a peace deal signed in 1998, and “directly affect” the UK-US trade relations.
“We appreciate the challenges that your country faces as it stares down the October 15th deadline for a negotiated agreement - but an Ireland divided by a hard border risks inflaming old tensions that very much still fester today and undoing decades of work that the United States, Republic of Ireland, and United Kingdom achieved together,” the lawmakers argued.
Four senior congressmen write to Boris Johnson to reiterate there will be no US-UK trade deal if the legislation to override the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement isn’t pulled pic.twitter.com/Q3n7yewn0S— Sam Coates Sky (@SamCoatesSky) September 15, 2020
The congressmen then warned the UK prime minister that that they would back the position previously expressed by the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that the US Congress “will not support any free trade agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom” if London “fails to preserve the gains of the Good Friday Agreement and broader peace process”.
“If these reported plans were to go forward, it would be difficult to see how these conditions could be met,” they concluded, urging Boris Johnson to “abandon any and all legally questionable and unfair efforts to flout the Northern Ireland protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement”.
The Northern Ireland protocol was negotiated by Boris Johnson last October as a part of the UK’s Withdrawal agreement. The protocol is set to avoid a hard border between the Republic of Ireland, which is a member of the European Union, and the UK’s Northern Ireland, while enabling Belfast to observe the EU’s custom rules. It is expected to come into force on 1 January 2021, following the end of a 11-month transition period the United Kingdom has entered after its official divorce with the European Union earlier this year.
London and Brussels have now been in negotiations over its future trade relations, but the talks have been in a stalemate for some time now, prompting fears about a possible no-deal scenario. In September, Boris Johnson unveiled the Internal Market Bill, which is set to enable goods and services to move freely across all of the parts of the United Kingdom after it leaves the EU’s single market at the end of this year. The legislature is expected to permit the UK government to roll back on some of its commitments and change parts of the legally-binding EU withdrawal agreement, and critics say that this would potentially breach international law.
The bill was opposed by 363 MPs in the House of Commons on Monday, but was still passed through by a 77 majority of votes.
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom has also been negotiating a separate trade agreement with Washington, which was expected to be struck by the end of summer 2020. However, the countries remained in a disagreement over food safety standards and other issues that have hindered the negotiation process so far.