Truss and US politicians discuss ‘cast-iron commitment’ to Good Friday Agreement

The Foreign Secretary said she discussed the UK’s “cast-iron commitment” to the Good Friday Agreement during a meeting with US politicians.

Liz Truss said it was “great” to welcome a bipartisan US congressional delegation led by top Democrat Richard Neal, with topics of discussion ranging from the peace deal to the “importance of free trade” to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

It comes amid heightened tensions over the post-Brexit deal over Northern Ireland.

Mr Neal, who chairs the US House of Representatives’ Mighty Ways and Means Committee, also spoke with International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan and Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer on Saturday.

Reports of the talks with cabinet ministers have been sparse in detail, with only tweets guiding their discussions.

The delegation’s visit follows a warning from US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that Congress will not support a free trade deal with the UK if the government continues to insist on “deeply worrying” plans to “unilaterally reject” the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Ms Truss said of their meeting: “Great reception from @RepRichardNeal @WaysMeansCmte with members of the US Congress today… We discussed our cast-iron commitment to the Belfast Agreement (Good Friday), the importance of free trade and our condemnation of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine .”

Ms Trevelyan said she was “delighted” to welcome the delegation to her department to discuss UK-US trade matters and the situation in Ukraine, but did not specifically mention post-Brexit tensions.

She tweeted: “Glad to welcome @RepRichardNeal, @RepKevinBrady and the US Ways & Means Committee delegation to @tradegovuk to discuss trade and Ukraine and watch the glorious rehearsals for Trooping the Color #PlatinumJubilee. “

A spokesman for Sir Keir said his meeting included talks on the need to protect the Good Friday Agreement by ensuring a working Northern Ireland Protocol.

The Labor leader and Congress delegation also touched on the need to be ambitious and creative in US-UK trade dialogues and the importance of Western unity in the face of Russian aggression in Europe, the spokesman said.

In a sharply worded intervention on Thursday, Ms Pelosi urged the UK and EU to continue negotiations on post-Brexit trade deals to keep peace in the region.

The Congresswoman said in a statement: “The Good Friday Agreements are the bedrock of peace in Northern Ireland and a ray of hope for the whole world.

“Ensuring that there is no physical border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland is absolutely necessary to uphold this landmark agreement that transformed Northern Ireland.

“It is deeply concerning that the UK is now seeking to unilaterally scrap the Northern Ireland Protocol, which preserves the important progress and stability created by the agreements.”

The latest controversy was sparked by Ms Truss’ announcement on Tuesday that the UK intends to legislate to overrule parts of the Brexit withdrawal deal it has with the EU.

The Foreign Secretary told the Commons the move was necessary to cut “unnecessary bureaucracy” and protect the Good Friday Agreement, arguing that the EU’s proposals would “go backwards from where we are today”.

The ongoing dispute over the treaty has stalled efforts to form a devolved government administration in Belfast, with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) refusing to join an executive unless its concerns about the situation are allayed.

Ms Pelosis’ intervention was met with scorn from former Brexit Secretary Lord Frost, who described the statement as “ignorant” of the “realities of Northern Ireland”.

“There is no plan to set up a physical border,” he told the BBC.

“No one has ever suggested that, so I don’t know why she’s suggesting that in her testimony.”

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson also described Ms Pelosis’ contribution as “completely unhelpful”.

Ms Pelosi is not the only senior figure in Washington to have expressed concerns about UK-EU relations in recent days.

Derek Chollet, a senior adviser to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, said on Friday a “big fight” between Britain and the EU was the “last thing” the US wanted.

Mr Neal told The Guardian part of his job is to persuade the UK not to breach the Brexit deal.

“They haven’t broken through yet. They talk about violating it, so part of my job is trying to convince them not to violate it,” he said.

“My goal is multifaceted, but we really want to reaffirm America’s unwavering commitment to the Good Friday Agreement and remind everyone that it worked brilliantly on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

“I would like to remind everyone in Great Britain and Northern Ireland that this should not be treated as a grand achievement.” Truss and US politicians discuss ‘cast-iron commitment’ to Good Friday Agreement

Bobby Allyn

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