US ‘at war’ with UK over North protocol - Gordon Brown

No chance of trade deal between the two countries unless Ireland issues are resolved, former prime minister says

Former British prime minister Gordon Brown has warned the United States is “at war, if you like” with the United Kingdom over the issue of Ireland.

In a wide-ranging interview with Sky News political editor Beth Rigby, Mr Brown said there was “no chance” of a trade deal between the United States and the United Kingdom unless the issues over the Northern Ireland protocol are sorted out.

When Ms Rigby suggested to him that US president Joe Biden saw the issue of a trade deal and the Belfast Agreement as separate, Mr Brown responded by suggesting that even if the president is in favour, Congress is not.

“He [Biden] may think that but the American congress will not think that,” he said.

“There’s no chance of a trade deal between Britain and America unless we can sort out the problems that are arising in Ireland, and, of course, there’s no chance of getting better trade relationships with Europe unless we can sort these problems out as well.

“And that’s very much part of our future because if we cannot export to the leading markets in the world, and cannot do so successfully with these new industries and new technologies, then the cost-of-living crisis will be with us for years and not just temporarily.”

Mr Brown said the decision by the UK government to produce legislation allowing ministers to override the protocol, that the UK government had itself signed up to, was damaging Britain’s reputation internationally.

This was especially so as British prime minister Boris Johnson is seeking a consensus at the G7 summit as how to deal with the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“How will people take Britain seriously if it is calling others to obey the international order and the international rules of the game when it is not prepared to abide by these laws and the rules of the game itself?” he said.

“I think Ireland raises this issue. I think breaking World Trade Organisation rules over steel tariffs is another issue, the European Convention on Human Rights is another issue.

“Britain has to be careful that we have respect in the world. We are a counrty which values the rule of law and democracy, freedom and liberty,” Mr Brown said.

“If we appear to be riding roughshod over treaties that we have agreed to sign, of laws we asked other countries to sign up to, over rules that every British government has accepted, but this British government cannot accept, then it is difficult to persuade other countries to listen to the advice we are giving,” he said.

“I would caution Boris Johnson against going further, if you like, in ignoring the rule of law.”

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times