Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans could threaten future UK-US trade deal, top Democrats warn

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The Prime Minister came under fire this week after announcing plans which could allow changes the Withdrawal Agreement. Mr Johnson said the new Internal Market Bill would “ensure the integrity of the UK internal market”.

Critics have said the decision will damage the UK’s international standings after Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said the plans do break international law.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Ireland’s Taoiseach Micheál Martin have both condemned the Prime Minister’s proposals.

Ms Sturgeon said: “The Tories’ proposed bill for a so-called UK internal market is an abomination.

“It is a naked power grab which would cripple devolution.”

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called for a crunch meeting to discuss the bill’s contents.

She said: “Very concerned about announcements from the British government on its intentions to breach the Withdrawal Agreement.

“This would break international law and undermines trust.”

Now, senior American Democrats warned the decision to backtrack on the Brexit agreement on Northern Ireland could jeopardise a US/UK free trade deal.

Joe Biden’s chief foreign policy adviser, Antony Blinken, wrote on Twitter: “[Joe Biden] is committed to preserving the hard-earned peace and stability in Northern Ireland.

“As the UK and EU work out their relationship, any arrangements must protect the Good Friday Agreement and prevent the return of a hard border.”

Those close to the Democratic presidential candidate argued changes to the Withdrawal Agreement could put the 1998 peace deal at risk.

Richard Neal, chairman of the House ways and means committee, told the Guardian: “This just came out of the clear blue, nobody was talking about this 72 hours ago.

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“Joe Biden shares my position on this issue entirely… it’ll be a very significant problem and I have also reiterated time and again to the UK government that I can’t imagine that we could develop a bilateral trade relationship if there was any return to a hard border.”

Democratic officials said any changes to the plan would put into question the UK’s trustworthiness as a partner.

And the UK could soon be negotiating a future trading relationship with the US with Joe Biden’s administration, with the Democrat in front of President Trump in the polls ahead of November’s election.

Eliot Engel, the chairman of the House foreign affairs committee, said: “The Good Friday agreement and the broader peace process must be protected if the UK has any hope of obtaining congressional support for a potential US-UK free trade agreement.

“While I deeply value the US-UK relationship, it’s outrageous that Prime Minister Johnson is reportedly considering overriding critical parts of the withdrawal agreement that give Northern Ireland special customs considerations.

“These steps are necessary to prevent a hard border on the island and throwing Northern Ireland back into the fast lane toward potential violence.

“I urge Prime Minister Johnson to abide by the legally binding agreements the United Kingdom agreed to and I call on the UK and the EU to continue to negotiate in good faith to seek out a smooth Brexit transition.”

Sources went on to claim the UK government might not have thought through any ramifications of the changes.

Thomas Wright, the director of the Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said: “It is mind-boggling that Johnson would even consider doing this.

“He is breaching the only red line Biden has when it comes to Brexit which is to protect the Good Friday Agreement.

“If he goes this route, the Irish border will dominate the first six months of the UK’s relations with a Biden administration and destroy any prospect of a much-needed reboot in the relationship.”

Brexit talks are currently gridlocked with neither side able to come to an agreement.

Negotiations are expected to end in October with the transition period ending in December, with or without a deal in place.

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