MORE THAN 20 YEARS AGO, longtime adversaries in Northern Ireland signed the Good Friday Agreement, cementing a peace in the longest standing political dispute in the history of the Western World. Thirty years of bloodshed that cost more than 3,000 lives and created chaos in both the United Kingdom and Ireland finally came to a halt, allowing both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland to prosper.
Today that peace is at risk. The “No-Deal Brexit” promoted by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson would upend the fragile peace agreement between Northern Ireland and Ireland, and potentially reinstate a hard border with physical checkpoints. This would be devastating for the people of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and could reignite the conflict.
The United Kingdom is one of the United States’ largest trading partners and, according to the Chamber of Commerce, the United States benefited from a net surplus of $15.9 billion of trade in goods and services with the UK in 2017. Moreover, the United States serves as the UK’s second largest source of imports and is by far the largest source of exports for the UK economy.
This means the United States holds an incredible amount of leverage with the government of the United Kingdom, as the two discuss a potential post-Brexit bilateral trade agreement.
The Trump administration must make it clear to the British government that any actions that weaken the Good Friday Agreement will make it impossible for there to be a bilateral free trade agreement between the UK and the United States. As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated earlier this summer, “We cannot go back.”
We cannot go back to a time where violence and chaos reigned, and there were checkpoints and barricades between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. We must look to the future and push our friends in the UK to maintain the Good Friday Agreement, ensure there are no hard borders reinstated, and that the Brexit negotiations do not threaten to unravel the fragile peace that has allowed Ireland and Northern Ireland to thrive.
Congress will not support any bilateral trade agreement with the United Kingdom if the government abandons its commitment to the Good Friday Agreement. Any statements to the contrary by President Trump or members of his administration are misguided and underestimate the level of commitment we in Congress have to the continued implementation of the agreement and securing an enduring peace for the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, and the United Kingdom.
We urge Prime Minister Johnson and members of the British government to heed this warning as they move forward with Brexit negotiations and make a deal that preserves peace.
David N. Cicilline is a US representative from Rhode Island. Richard Neal, Bill Keating, and Joe Kennedy III are US representatives from Massachusetts.