House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi has doubled down on her warning that a trade agreement between the United States and Britain will not happen if the Belfast Agreement is undermined.
Responding to questions from The Irish Times at a news conference in the US Capitol in light of Brexit developments in London, Ms Pelosi said: "Don't mess with the Good Friday [Belfast] accords. This is something as Americans we're very proud of our participation in."
She noted the contribution of figures like Bill Clinton and senator George Mitchell to the peace agreement signed more than years ago.
Ms Pelosi said that the British and Irish governments had worked together on the Brexit negotiations, “then this news comes to us practically in the middle of the night . . . that the UK had decided to undermine the Good Friday accords. What were they thinking? Whatever it is, I hope they’re not thinking of a US-US bilateral trade agreement.”
She said that while it was the prerogative of the British people to decide to leave the European Union, "that's their judgment, that should be respected", she added: "But don't think you're going to undermine [the Belfast Agreement]".
Off the hook
Ms Pelosi said that her phone had been ringing off the hook about the new developments in London, which saw the British government introduce domestic legislation which could override parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement already signed with the European Union.
“How can they walk away from an international agreement? How can you trust that?” she said.
“Our message is very clear,” she added. “Self-determination is what the people of the UK have determined – their course of action, that’s up to them. But it’s not up to them to think that they will be rewarded if they mess with the Good Friday accords . . .”
But she added: “It’s a very simple message: they know it, they’ve heard it, I’ve said it to the Dáil, this is not anything we’ve hidden under a bush. There will be no bilateral US-UK agreement if the Good Friday accords in regards to the border are changed.”
Ms Pelosi’s comments come after she issued a strongly-worded statement on Wednesday evening.
Richard Neal, the chair of the Ways and Means committee, also told The Irish Times that a trade deal between the US and Britain "simply will not happen" if a hard border returns.
Mr Neal, whose committee has significant authority over US trade policy, said of the British government: “I think that they are making a terrible miscalculation. A trade deal between the United States and Britain simply will not happen if they restore a hard border.”
The intervention by Ms Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress reflects growing unease at the highest level of US politics at the apparent U-turn.
Both the Irish and the British governments have been in contact with senior figures in all branches of government in Washington in the last 24 hours.