Biden and Johnson to ‘overcome’ differences says Redwood
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And Ray Bassett also believes there is little chance of an agreement being brokered if the current problems related to the Northern Ireland Protocol are not dealt with. Mr Biden, who has close ancestral ties with the Irish Republic, has made no secret of his concerns about the landmark 1998 treaty, which is widely credited with having brought an end to the Troubles.
Speaking during the US Presidential election campaign, Mr Biden said: “We can’t allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit.
“Any trade deal between the US and UK must be contingent upon respect for the Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period.”
The Northern Ireland Protocol is a workaround arrangement aimed at preventing such a border.
However, critics including Northern Ireland’s First Minister, and DUP leader, Arlene Foster, claim it has instead resulted in a border down the Irish Sea, something entirely unacceptable to her party.
Across the Atlantic, the powerful Irish American lobby in Congress has made it quite clear they, like Mr Biden, will not tolerate anything they see as a threat to the Good Friday Agreement.
Mr Bassett, Ireland’s former ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas, told Express.co.uk: “There is no real possibility of a US-UK trade deal if the present dispute on the Northern Ireland Protocol is not resolved.
“The President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, and the Chair of the Ways and Means Committee, Richie Neal, would simply not let it go through.”
Mr Bassett added: “While the administration could negotiate a trade deal, it would first need the approval of the President and he has made it clear that he will not agree to anything which he believes will endanger the Good Friday Agreement.
“Joe Biden throughout his career has made Ireland and Irish interests a priority.
“It would be wishful thinking to imagine that he would change that as President.
“The same is true for representative Neal.”
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Even if a deal was approved by Mr Biden, it would still have to pass through Congress and would then go before the Ways and Means Committee chaired by Mr Neal – a member of the US House of Representatives.
Mr Bassett said: “He has indicated that he would be unwilling to do so if it appeared to him as threatening the Good Friday Agreement.
“The only way around that blockage would be for Speaker Pelosi to take it directly to the floor of the House of Representatives, something the current Speaker, who is a close ally of Richie Neal, has stated she will not do.”
Nor was that the only impediment, Mr Bassett stressed.
He explained: “Also it should be remembered that traditionally the Democrats in Washington do not favour free trade agreements because of their links to organised labour.
“In addition, support for the Good Friday Agreement is genuinely bipartisan in the US and many Republicans would baulk at the prospect of a trade deal which was the subject of controversy in this area.”
Mr Bassett’s pessimism contrasts with Liz Truss’s upbeat tone during a webinar organised by the Conservative Home think tank earlier this month.
The International Trade Secretary said: “My view of the US deal is there’s a good deal to be done.
“We’ve made huge amounts of progress and we’ve agreed the majority of text and the majority of chapters.
“Now, I need to speak to the United States Trade Representative, Katharine Tai, about what the appropriate timeline is for us to negotiate that deal a lot.
“And of course, that is something that needs to be agreed with both parties.
“But I think it would be a fantastic sign, as we seek to roll back protectionism and as we seek to grow the economy after COVID for our two nations to continue with those trade negotiations and reach a conclusion.”
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