One of the United States’s most influential politicians arrives in Ireland today with a clear promise to help block any US-UK trade deal unless the Good Friday Agreement is protected.
Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi is to visit the Border region and make a historic address to the Oireachtas during her two-day visit.
Her comments are likely to be closely watched by US President Donald Trump, with whom Ms Pelosi regularly clashes over policy and politics.
Ahead of coming to Ireland, Ms Pelosi and a delegation from Congress held a series of high-level meetings with British politicians, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Speaking at a London School of Economics event last night, she warned the US will not strike a wide-ranging trade deal with the UK after Brexit unless the threat of a hard Border in Ireland is removed.
“We made it clear to all, if there is any harm to the Good Friday accord, no (trade) treaty,” she said.
“I have to say though every single person, including Theresa May who we spoke to on the phone, everyone said don’t even worry about that, it is unthinkable that we would even go there.”
Mr Trump, a supporter of Brexit, has repeatedly said he is prepared to enter a “large-scale” trade agreement with the UK.
During Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s visit to the White House last month, the president was critical of the EU’s trading position but said he’d like “to see the whole situation with Brexit work out”.
“We can do a very big trade deal with the UK.” Separately, he tweeted: “My Administration looks forward to negotiating a large scale Trade Deal with the United Kingdom. The potential is unlimited!”
However, Congress and members of Ms Pelosi’s Democratic Party will have a major say in any future trade deals.
In London, she claimed the US missed an opportunity to gain economic leverage over China when it opted to put tariffs on the EU rather than join forces with it.
“I thought one of the biggest opportunities was for the US and the EU to join together – the biggest market in the world, the two combined – and use that leverage in negotiations with the Chinese,” Ms Pelosi said.
“So I wasn’t pleased when the president put tariffs on the EU because you kind of started to weaken that strength vis-a-vis China.”
Ms Pelosi will meet with Mr Varadkar, Tánaiste Simon Coveney and President Michael D Higgins during what is being described as a ‘fact-finding mission’.
She will be accompanied by several members of the Friends of Ireland caucus, including Congressman Richie Neal.
Tomorrow, Mr Varadkar will host a dinner at Dublin Castle in honour of the delegation.
Speaking ahead of the arrival, the Taoiseach said: “It’s an honour to welcome the delegation from the US Congress to Ireland.
“This visit is more evidence of the deep and historic ties between our two countries and is a good opportunity to further deepen US-Ireland bilateral relations.
“We will discuss a range of issues including trade, visas, immigration and Brexit.”
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