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The Prime Minister has infuriated Brussels by refusing to stand down from a plan to pick apart key elements of the Brexit divorce treaty, which risks breaking international law. Downing Street insists the Internal Market Bill is needed to protect the Northern Ireland peace process if Britain is unable to secure a deal with the EU. Mr Johnson’s spokesman said the Government is proposing “limited clarifications” to the law to ensure ministers can preserve the gains of the Good Friday Agreement in the event of no deal outcome between the two sides.
Last month, Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, warned the US Congress would never pass an economic agreement that it felt could “imperil” the Northern Ireland peace accord.
Negotiations on a post-Brexit trade deal with Washington have taken a back seat until after the upcoming Presidential election.
Simon Usherwood, Professor of Politics at the University of Surrey, said: “The past several weeks have highlighted the high-risk approach that the British government is taking with the EU-UK negotiations regarding what the future relationship will be.
“By introducing domestic legislation that would disapply parts of the Withdrawal Agreement, which was only signed into law at the start of this year, Number 10 has left itself wide open to charges from the US that the UK is seeking to compromise the Good Friday Agreement.
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“Notwithstanding the desire of US politicians to appeal to Irish-American voters ahead of this November’s vote, the Good Friday Agreement has a very positive reputation within the US as an example of how that nation can help bring together conflicting sides and broker peace.”
Some US politicians had warned Mr Johnson there will be “absolutely no chance” of a trade deal with Washington if he goes through with his plan to override key elements of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.
Ms Pelosi warned: “The Good Friday Agreement is the bedrock of peace in Northern Ireland and an inspiration for the whole world.
“Whatever form it takes, Brexit cannot be allowed to imperil the Good Friday Agreement, including the stability brought by the invisible and frictionless border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.
“The UK must respect the Northern Ireland Protocol as it was signed with the EU to ensure the free flow of goods across the border.
“If the UK violates that international treaty and Brexit undermines the Good Friday accord, there will be absolutely no chance of a US-UK trade agreement passing the Congress.
“The Good Friday Agreement is treasured by the American people and will be proudly defended in the United States Congress.”
Professor Usherwood also warned the “cross-connection” between the deals the UK is trying to strike with the EU and US is “likely to make both move slower”.
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The political expert added: “The cross-connection of the EU-UK and US-UK regarding new trade deals is likely to make both move slower, rather than faster.
“The EU will see American anxiety as more reason not to give ground to London, while the US will still want to know how the UK plans to live with its closest partner before making any commitments about easing trade.
“All of this should have been evident to Number 10, suggesting that domestic politics still has more influence in decision-making than considerations of how the rest of the world might perceive the UK as we try to define our new role in the world.”
On Thursday, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said a “letter of formal notification” would be sent to the UK after the Government rejected a demand to withdraw the provisions from the UK Internal Market Bill.
She warned the move marked the first step in an “infringement procedure” with the British Government now invited to send its observations within the month.
Ms von der Leyen said in a statement at the commission headquarters in Brussels: “This draft Bill is by its very nature a breach of the obligation of good faith laid down in the Withdrawal Agreement.
“The deadline lapsed yesterday, the problematic provisions have not been removed, therefore the commission has decided this morning to send a letter of formal notice to the UK Government.
“This is the first step in an infringement procedure. The letter invites the UK Government to send its observations within a month.”
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