Congressman Eliot Engel
By Irish Echo Staff
Congressman Eliot Engel, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and three fellow members of the House of Representatives, have penned a letter to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling on him and his government to honor the Good Friday Agreement while negotiating the Brexit withdrawal.
In the letter, the lawmakers, three Democrats and a Republican, urged the British government to respect the United Kingdom’s open border and peace process with Northern Ireland and warned that Congress would not support a free trade agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom if Britain fails to uphold its commitments with Northern Ireland.
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The letter was sent on the eve of British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab’s visit to Washington Wednesday.
“With the issues raised in this letter in mind, we therefore urge you to abandon any and all legally questionable and unfair efforts to flout the Northern Ireland protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement and look to ensure that Brexit negotiations do not undermine the decades of progress to bring peace to Northern Ireland and future options for the bilateral relationship between our two countries,” the four lawmakers wrote.
The letter was signed by Engel and fellow Democrats Richard Neal and William Keating, and Republican Peter King.
In the letter the four stated: “We write to you as strong supporters of the long-standing critical alliance between the United States and the United Kingdom, and as Americans who remain grateful for the friendship of the British people.
“We, however, write with grave concern over the recent reports that you may be working on legislation or other efforts that would likely invalidate or override the Northern Ireland protocol of last year’s European Union-United Kingdom Withdrawal Agreement.
“As Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, we are deeply invested in the United States’ relationships with countries around the world, and we consider the United Kingdom to be among the United States closest allies and friends. The special relationship between our democracies has served as a pillar of stability in the West. To that end, we are grateful that the United Kingdom and United States so regularly confront global challenges are close allies – not least the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. As you know, we stand with millions of Americans who support the achievement of the Good Friday Agreement and feel personally invested in ensuring peace in Northern Ireland.
“It is for these reasons why we were so disturbed by the reports about your government’s efforts to undermine the Northern Ireland protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement that, if true, could have disastrous consequences for the Good Friday Agreement and broader process to maintain peace on the island of Ireland. We appreciate the challenges that your country faces as it stares down the October 15th deadline for a negotiated agreement – but an Ireland divided by a hard border risks inflaming old tensions that very much still fester today and undoing decades of progress that the United States, Republic of Ireland, and United Kingdom achieved together.
“Finally, it is necessary for us to emphasize yet again and draw attention to how this issue could directly affect the U.S.-U.K. bilateral relationship even beyond the broad, bipartisan support for the people of Northern Ireland.
“Many in the United States and in Congress consider the issues of the Good Friday Agreement and a potential U.S.-U.K. Free Trade Agreement inextricably linked.
“We continue to stand by the position made clear by the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, who just this month reiterated that the United States Congress will not support any free trade agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom if the United Kingdom fails to preserve the gains of the Good Friday Agreement and broader peace process. If these reported plans were to go forward, it would be difficult to see how these conditions could be met.
“With the issues raised in this letter in mind, we therefore urge you to abandon any and all legally questionable and unfair efforts to flout the Northern Ireland protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement and look to ensure that Brexit negotiations do not undermine the decades of progress to bring peace to Northern Ireland and future options for the bilateral relationship between our two countries. Thank you for your attention to this matter and we look forward to continuing to work with you to fulfill the promises of the Good Friday Agreement.”
While the letter delivers a cross the congressional aisle position, the Trump administration has been broadly supportive of London’s Brexit strategy.
In his meeting with Foreign Secretary Raab on Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated U.S. support for the Good Friday Agreement, but appeared to leave matters regarding Brexit and the GFA in the hands of the Johnson-led government.
“We have made clear the importance of the Good Friday Agreement. We know the complexities of the situation. We have done what we can to provide assistance where we can. In the end this will be a decision for the UK to make and I have great confidence that they will get this right,” Pompeo said.