Jeffrey Donaldson, the head of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Northern Ireland, has written to US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi after she said that if the Good Friday Agreement is threatened, a US-UK trade deal would be unlikely.
"If there is destruction of the Good Friday accords, they [are] very unlikely to have a UK-U.S. bilateral," Pelosi said last week, according to Reuters.
A day earlier, following her meeting in London with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Pelosi said in a statement: “Respectful of the will of the British people and Brexit, I reiterated the strong bipartisan support that the Good Friday Accords continue to enjoy in the United States Congress and our hope that the ongoing negotiations will yield a positive outcome that recognizes this landmark agreement."
While the US is keen to protect the Good Friday Agreement, also known as the Belfast Agreement, Donaldson argues that it is the Northern Ireland Protocol, a part of the Brexit Agreement, that is endangering the Good Friday Agreement.
As Reuters reports: “The Northern Ireland Protocol aims to keep the province, which borders EU member Ireland, in both the United Kingdom's customs territory and the EU's single market.
“The EU wants to protect its single market, but an effective border in the Irish Sea created by the Protocol cuts off Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom - to the fury of Protestant unionists.
“Some unionists say the protocol contravenes the 1998 peace deal.”
Below is DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson’s letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on September 21:
Dear Speaker Pelosi,
In advance of the United Kingdom Prime Minister’s visit to the United States you were quoted as saying “if there is destruction of the Good Friday accords . . .” I attach a copy of said document and write to inform you that the Northern Ireland Protocol is the altar upon which the Belfast Agreement is being sacrificed.
The political, economic and constitutional difficulties created by the Protocol threaten prosperity in Northern Ireland and the quality of our status within the United Kingdom.
Most fundamentally the very delicate constitutional balance and guarantee which has underpinned political progress in Northern Ireland has been fundamentally undermined by the creation of a border in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. The so-called consent principle has been reduced to the final transfer of sovereignty and provides no protection against any creeping erosion of Northern Ireland’s status as part of the United Kingdom.
This was not the basis on which the Belfast Agreement, and subsequent agreements, were agreed, nor was it the basis on which it was sold to the people of Northern Ireland.
Lord Trimble, one of the key authors of the Agreement has recently written that, “the Northern Ireland Protocol has not only subverted the main safeguards within the Belfast Agreement causing civic unrest and political uncertainty, it is also damaging the Northern Ireland economy, disrupting supply chains, inflating prices and diverting trade from our main market in Great Britain.”
The Belfast Agreement was supposedly designed to protect all communities in Northern Ireland. Not a single elected unionist in Northern Ireland supports the Protocol yet your Office still champions it. How can this be? One either supports the principles of the Belfast Agreement or one supports the NI Protocol but it is not possible to sustain support for both.
The actions of the EU to date are endangering the very Agreement that you and others purport to defend. This is not good for the UK, the EU or the US but most importantly it is taking Northern Ireland backwards.
I trust this short letter will cause you to reflect on the damage the Protocol is causing to Northern Ireland and recognise that the view of unionism can be no less worthy than the view of those wishing to remove Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom. Unionist support for the Belfast Agreement is central to its continuing viability every bit as much as is the case for Nationalist support.
History demonstrates that there must be a balance and an equilibrium in arrangements. When one side is out of balance the situation cannot be sustained. When not a single elected unionist supports the Protocol it is clear that balance has been lost.
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP, Leader - Democratic Unionist Party
"The Protocol has trashed the Belfast Agreement"
Prior to his letter to Pelosi, Donaldson accused US President Joe Biden of spreading "falsehoods" about the Good Friday Agreement in relation to the Northern Ireland Protocol.
On Monday, the day before issuing his letter to Speaker Pelosi, Donaldson said: "At the weekend Michel Barnier, just like the US President, repeated the falsehood that the Belfast Agreement is protected by the Protocol.
"The Protocol has trashed the Belfast Agreement. It has turned the carefully balanced relationships of north-south and east-west on their heads."
He added: "By citing the Belfast Agreement as the Protocol's justification, whether President Biden or Mr. Barnier, they demonstrate the flawed approach on which this entire process has been based. The constitutional guarantee which has underpinned political progress in Northern Ireland has been fundamentally undermined by the Protocol. Furthermore, the political institutions in Northern Ireland will be threatened by a failure to address this.
"Solutions can be found which both respect Northern Ireland's place in the UK internal market and protect the EU Single Market. Achieving this will require less of the rhetoric and more meaningful action.”