Committee backs Pelosi over Brexit, trade

Speaker Nancy Pelosi during her visit to Ireland in April. photo.


By Irish Echo Staff

The Ad Hoc Committee to Protect the Good Friday Agreement - established some months ago by a group of leading Irish Americans - has issued a statement to support House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as she reiterated her opposition to any U.S./UK trade deal that places the Good Friday Agreement in jeopardy.

Speaker Pelosi, said a statement issued by the committee, made her statement in response to a speech by the new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in which he stated that he will oppose any Withdrawal Agreement that includes an Irish Backstop and even one with a time limit.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

The Backstop, said the statement, is seen as an essential safeguard to protecting the Good Friday Agreement as the U.K. and the EU continue their negotiations for the U.K. to leave the EU.

Earlier this year, the committee statement noted, Speaker Pelosi led a Congressional delegation to Ireland and Great Britain to visit the Irish Border and learn firsthand how Brexit may impact the Good Friday Agreement.

In a speech to the Irish Dáil last April the Speaker was explicit in stating, “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we must ensure that nothing happens in Brexit discussions that imperils the Good Friday accord – including, but not limited to the seamless border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland. Let me be clear: if the Brexit deal undermines the Good Friday Accords, there will be no chance of a U.S.-U.K. trade agreement.”

Former member of Congress James Walsh, a co-chair of the Ad-Hoc Committee stated: “In her recent comments to the Irish Times the Speaker reaffirmed her opposition to any U.S./UK trade that places the GFA in jeopardy and creates a hard Border in the process. Our Ad Hoc Committee and all of Irish America will support the Speaker right down the line.”

Walsh continued: “The new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has stated that he will not sign any Withdrawal Agreement that includes an Irish Backstop even one with a time limit. The Tory party and Brexit leaders like Nigel Farage are myopic when it comes to Brexit and indifferent to the economic and political consequences of what will happen in Northern Ireland if the UK crashes out of the European Union on October 31st.

“The GFA has kept the peace in Northern Ireland for over twenty years and must be protected at all costs.”

The committee’s letter to the newly appointed Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Julian Smith, raises concerns about the protecting the GFA, keeping the Irish Border seamless, and standing up the devolved government in Northern Ireland.

The committee has asked to meet with the new Secretary of State when he pays his first visit to Washington, D.C.

The Ad Hoc Committee was formed earlier this year and in February sent a letter co-signed by forty Irish American leaders to then Prime Minister Theresa May and An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar stating its concern about protecting the GFA as the House of Commons debated the Withdrawal Agreement. Since that time, said the statement, committee members have continued to monitor the ongoing Brexit negotiations and have met with several British envoys, leaders from Northern Ireland, and key U.S. State Department officials.

Former Congressman Bruce Morrison, who co-chairs the Ad Hoc Committee, noted: “As former members of Congress we can assure you that getting any trade deal through the Congress is challenging at any time.

The firm opposition of the Speaker, and our former colleague, the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Congressman Richie Neal, will make the task all but impossible.

“We also believe that this is no time promote a political and economic mirage that an interim U.S./UK trade deal can be easily negotiated. I assure you a White House photo op is not a trade deal by a long shot. ”

Morrison continued: “We hope that the new Secretary of State will bring new energy to the ongoing effort to restore Stormont and the devolved government in Northern Ireland.

“We believe the decisions that have to be made to stand up Stormont while significant are not insurmountable and frankly pale in comparison to the challenges that had to be overcome to secure the Good Friday Agreement.

“The Secretary will have to earn the trust of all the political parties and must be seen as fair and impartial. We look forward to meeting him.”

The Ad hoc Committee includes two former U.S. Senators, five former U.S. Ambassadors and leaders of prominent Irish American organizations such as the American Ireland Fund and the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

Committee members include former U.S Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland Kevin O’Malley, former U.S. Senator Gary Hart, who acted as the Special Representative for Northern Ireland for then U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, former Lt. Governor of Maryland Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former U.S. Senator Chris Dodd, former Governor of Virginia Terry McAuliffe, former Governor of Maryland Martin O’Malley and foreign policy experts Nancy Soderberg and Jake Sullivan.

Soderberg was a key advisor to President Bill Clinton during the critical years when the GFA was being negotiated as his Deputy National Security Advisor.

Sullivan was key advisor to U.S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and went on to become the National Security Advisor to Vice President Biden.

The new committee statement supportive of Speaker Pelosi follows an initial letter sent earlier this year to then British Prime Minister Theresa May and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar outlining committee member concerns regarding the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, this in the context of the ongoing Brexit negotiations at that time.

Those negotiations have now reached an apparent impasse with growing expectation of a no-deal withdrawal from the EU by the United Kingdom by the deadline of October 31.