- Ursula von der Leyen, the EC President said that the chances for the Brexit deal are fading every day with little time left to put the deal in place.
- The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo denied claims that the US would block post-Brexit trade deal with Britain.
- Earlier in September 2020, the US Democrats had warned Johnson that the US would not support the US-UK trade deal if Britain failed to uphold its commitments to Northern Ireland as part of Brexit.
- Boris Johnson and his government faced criticism during a debate on the Internal Market Bill that was tabled by the UK government in the House of Commons.
The European Union (EU) chief executive said on 16 September 2020 that chances for the Brexit deal are fading every day as very little time is left to put the deal in place. Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission (EC) said this while delivering her major annual policy speech.
In another development, the United States (US) Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo denied claims that the US would block post-Brexit trade deal with Britain during his meeting with the UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raa. Saying that the US trusted Britain, Pompeo backed Britain after the recent comment by US Democrats threatening to disrupt a post-Brexit trade deal with the UK.
Key details from the EC President’s comments
Von der Leyen cautioned Britain that the Brexit divorce deal could neither be changed unilaterally, nor could it be disregarded or dis-applied, as both the EU and the UK had already discussed and approved it. This is a matter of trust which is the foundation for any partnership, she stressed. The EC President further added that the bloc would never backtrack on Britain’s divorce deal that was negotiated after three years, as it was saving the subtle peace on Ireland from the consequences arising out of Brexit.
The talks on Brexit again reached a crisis point as the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson came out with a new Internal Market Bill that would weaken Brexit withdrawal agreement. That raised the risk of a damaging no-deal Brexit by 31 December 2020 when the UK’s post-Brexit transition period ends.
Pompeo denied claims
During his meeting with the UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on 16 September 2020, the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo denied any claims on blocking the UK-US free trade deal. He stated that the US has merely clarified the importance of the Good Friday Agreement. The US is aware of the complexities involved in the situation and it has done the necessary to offer help where required, Pompeo further added. However, he stressed that at the end it would be Britain’s decision, but he was confident that the UK would get things right.
The comments from the US Secretary of State followed senior Democrats in the US Congress who warned the UK PM that Washington would not support any free trade pact with Britain in case it did not succeed in upholding its commitments to Northern Ireland as part of Brexit.
It is to be informed that four US congressmen, led by Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote to the UK PM requesting his administration to respect its open border as well as peace process with Northern Ireland. The communication sent by the congressmen read that many in the US and in the Congress consider the aspects of the Good Friday Agreement are indistinguishably linked with a potential US-UK free trade deal.
Also read: Brexit deadlock on Internal Market Bill: Britain inflexible, US-UK trade deal could suffer
The letter urged Johnson to abandon the unfair endeavours to defy the Northern Ireland protocol of the withdrawal agreement that could be potentially questioned. In addition, there was a request to guarantee that the Brexit talks do not destabilise the progress made in past decades on bringing peace in Northern Ireland as well as options regarding the bilateral relationship between the US and Britain.
Earlier, Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, had also commented that there would be no chance of a US-UK trade deal in the event of Johnson overriding the Brexit deal with Brussels. It is to be recalled that Pelosi had cautioned that the US-UK trade deal could suffer if Britain moves against the international trade treaty. She mentioned that Britain would not be able to clinch the trade deal with the US if it undermined the treaty that brought peace to Northern Ireland after years of violence. Pelosi was doubtful and asked how the UK could regress from an international deal. Pelosi's statement came after the UK’s determination on the Internal Market (IM) Bill.
The IM Bill criticized at home
In the UK also, Johnson has been cautioned on breaking international law in the House of Commons. On 14 September 2020, Ed Miliband, a UK politician and Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy, criticised the PM and the government for considering breaking international law.
The criticism came during a debate on the Internal Market Bill that was tabled by the government in the parliament. However, Johnson maintained that the Internal Market Bill was necessary to uphold the sovereignty of Britain.
The comments from the EC President on the ongoing Brexit trade deal talks focused that the possibility was slipping away with every single day as the 2020 year-end deadline is approaching fast. The Internal Market Bill has been tabled for debate in the UK parliament and it would be interesting to keep a watch on its outcome. In the meantime, the US Secretary of state has denied any claims made earlier in September 2020 by the US Democrats that the US-UK trade deal could potentially suffer in case of partial efforts by the UK to defy the Northern Ireland protocol of the Brexit withdrawal agreement.
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