The European Union is ready to start negotiations on a trade agreement with the United States and hopes that the deal could be finalized by the end of this year. But this trade deal could very well be jeopardized by any Brexit arrangement, as it would directly undermine the Northern Ireland’s 1998 Good Friday Agreement. “If America wants a trade agreement with the European Union, which I think is very desirable – I want it – at the same time you are back to the same issue on the border if you do anything that dampens or softens the Good Friday Agreement,” Democratic Congressman Richard Neal was quoted as saying.
Neal and the US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi both visited Ireland for a couple of days during last week. Last Wednesday, Pelosi said that the United States would also not agree to any trade deal with Britain if future Brexit arrangements undermine peace in Ireland, repeating the comments made by Congressman Neal in February. Meanwhile, even though some British politicians want Brussels to soften the demands to finally close down the deal, the European Union still insists that it will not accept any British withdrawal agreement which would result in any infrastructure on the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, as this is something that would anger Irish nationalists and could be the final spark that would revive one of the most violent conflicts in EU’s recent history.
While it was widely expected that Brexit would be no easy feat and it would carry many difficulties with itself, the issue on how to keep EU member Ireland’s approximately 500 km border with Northern Ireland open after Brexit is one of the most difficult. Currently, the British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government is in talks with the opposition Labour Party to finally bring out a deal on which they could all, or at least most of them, agree, as the parliament already rejected May’s propositions three times. One of the mains concerns about May’s deal comes even from within her own party and it’s the fear that the United Kingdom would be put to huge disadvantage when it will want to forge new trade deals around the world, especially with the United States. This and the issue with Irish border are ultimately the main reasons why the UK’s departure date from the European Union got delayed until the end of October.