Liz Truss meets top Democrat as Northern Ireland Protocol feud heats up

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The Foreign Secretary is set to meet with a top Democrat on Saturday as tensions mount over the UK’s controversial plans to override parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Liz Truss and Secretary of International Commerce Anne-Marie Trevelyan are expected to meet with a bipartisan congressional delegation led by Richard Neal, who heads the powerful committee on ways and means in the US House of Representatives.

It follows a warning from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that Congress will not support a free trade deal with the UK if the administration persists in “deeply troubling” plans to “unilaterally abolish” the protocol.

In a forcefully worded intervention, Ms Pelosi urged the UK and the EU to continue negotiations on post-Brexit trade arrangements to maintain peace in the region.

The congressman said in a statement: “The Good Friday Agreements are the foundation of peace in Northern Ireland and a beacon of hope for the whole world.

“Ensuring that no physical border remains between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland is imperative to upholding this historic agreement, which has transformed Northern Ireland.

“It is deeply disturbing that the UK is now unilaterally attempting to unilaterally set aside the Northern Ireland Protocol, which maintains the important progress and stability forged by the accords.”

The latest controversy has been sparked by Ms Truss’ announcement on Tuesday that the UK plans to legislate to overturn parts of the Brexit withdrawal treaty it has signed with the EU.

The Foreign Secretary told the House of Commons the move was necessary to reduce “unnecessary bureaucracy” and to protect the Good Friday Agreement, arguing that the EU’s proposals “deviate from the situation we have today”.

The ongoing row over the treaty has created a deadlock in efforts to form a devolved government administration in Belfast, with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) refusing to join an executive unless its concerns about the situation are allayed.

Ms Pelosi’s intervention was greeted with disdain by former Brexit minister Lord Frost, who called the statement “ignorant” of the “reality in Northern Ireland”.

“There is no plan to set up a physical boundary,” he told the BBC.

“No one has ever suggested that, so I don’t know why she’s suggesting that in her statement.”

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson also described Ms Pelosi’s contribution as “completely useless”.

Ms Pelosi is not the only high-ranking figure in Washington who has expressed concern over UK-EU relations in recent days.

Derek Chollet, a senior adviser to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, said Friday that a “big fight” between the UK and the EU was the “last” the US wanted.

Neal told The Guardian that part of his job is to convince the UK not to violate the Brexit treaty.

“They haven’t violated it yet. They are talking about violating it, so part of my job is to convince them not to violate it,” he said.

“My aim is diverse, but we want to reaffirm America’s unwavering commitment to the Good Friday Agreement and remind everyone that it has worked brilliantly on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

“I want to remind everyone in the UK and Northern Ireland that it should not be treated as an arrogant achievement.”

He is also expected to meet with Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer and shadow secretary of international trade Nick Thomas-Symonds.

Irish Prime Minister Michael Martin said on Friday there was “no substitute” for substantive negotiations between the UK government and the EU to resolve issues with the protocol.

The Taoiseach also said a meeting and executive should be formed in Stormont while those negotiations continue, accusing the UK of “moving the goalposts” over its approach to protocol.

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