Biden says trade deal with Britain hangs on respect for GFA

Democratic U.S. presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden makes a fist as he answers questions from reporters after a speech about the effects on the U.S. economy of the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic during an appearance in Wilmington, Delaware, September 4, 2020.

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

LONDON — Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has become the latest U.S. lawmaker to warn the U.K. government about plans to potentially break international law. 

The U.K. government published legislation last week that, if approved by British lawmakers in its current form, could override previously legislated Brexit commitments on the Irish border issue. The plan has resurfaced old disagreements with the European Union, sparked opposition from some British lawmakers, and caused concern among a number of American politicians. 

“We can’t allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit,” Biden said on Twitter late Wednesday.

The U.K. agreed with the European Union at the end of 2019, as part of its departure from the bloc, that state aid granted to Northern Ireland which would impact trade with the EU would need approval from Brussels. This commitment, which was translated into law in January, aimed to prevent a harder border between Northern Ireland (a member of the U.K.) and the Republic of Ireland (a member of the EU) and respected the Good Friday Agreement — a U.S. brokered deal that brought peace between both parts of the island in the late 1990s. 

The bill — called the Internal Market Bill — would also potentially change requirements that Northern Irish firms complete export summary declarations when shipping goods to the mainland.

“Any trade deal between the U.S. and U.K. must be contingent upon respect for the Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period,” the presidential hopeful also said via Twitter, suggesting a trade deal with the United States could be at risk if Biden enters the White House.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned last week that there cannot be a trade agreement with the U.K. if the latter chooses to breach international law. Four congressmen wrote a letter to U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this week outlining their concerns, according to the BBC.

In reaction to Biden’s comments, Edward Argar, the U.K.’s junior health minister, denied Thursday that the peace deal was at risk.

The British government has put on a charm offensive this week with Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, traveling to Washington to reassure lawmakers about the plans.

In a press conference with U.S. Secretary Mike Pompeo, Raab said: “Our commitment to the Good Friday Agreement and to avoid any extra infrastructure at the border between the north and the south is absolute.”

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