Current Affairs Politics

Nancy Pelosi Warns Britain: Do Not Harm The Good Friday Agreement

While some politicians and commentators in the United Kingdom may be have little more than contempt for the Good Friday Agreement, the peace accord which largely ended three decades of conflict in the UK legacy colony on the island of Ireland, no such sentiment exists in the United States where the cessation of the Irish-British Troubles is still viewed as a triumph of US diplomacy in the 1990s. This perhaps explains the unusually blunt warning given to Britain by Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, during a speech at a packed gathering in the London School of Economics on Monday:

First of all it is very hard to pass a trade bill in the Congress of the United States, so it’s no given anyway.

But if there were any weakening of the Good Friday accords there would be no chance whatsoever, a non-starter for a US-UK trade agreement.

The Good Friday accords ended 700 years of conflict.

This is not a treaty only, it’s an ideal, it’s a value, it’s something that’s a model to the world, something that we all take pride in.

It was a model and other people have used it as a model and we don’t want that model to be something that can be bargained away in another agreement.

We have met the speaker. We met with the leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn and we met with those who left the Labour Party and we made it clear to all that if there’s any harm to the Good Friday accords – no trade treaty.

Today we met with the Government, with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and deputy prime minister and those who are in opposition in the Conservative Party and to all of them we made it clear: don’t even think about it.

By the invariably warm standards of US-UK relations this was a decidedly cool statement by the congressperson, reflecting the particular sense of ownership the Democratic Party feels for the Belfast treaty and the belief among some leaders in Washington that London is playing a dangerous game in its Brexit negotiations with Dublin and Brussels. The warning to the British was reiterated in no uncertain terms by Pelosi when she met Simon Coveney, the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, during the first day of a two-day visit to Ireland.

They [the British] want to leave the EU – that’s the decision their country is making, has made – and as they work it out, not to think for one minute that there’s any comfort for them in the fact that if they leave the EU that they would quickly have a US-UK trade agreement.

That’s just not on the cards, if there’s any harm done to the Good Friday accords. Don’t even think about that.

Remarkable stuff.

28 comments on “Nancy Pelosi Warns Britain: Do Not Harm The Good Friday Agreement

  1. Alan Gordon

    Well well, little England must be feeling a whole lot littler now. Pelosi delivered that with clarity from a position of power. More squeaky bums in Westminster’s corridors of power.

  2. This is unlikely to be an idle threat on her part. Partly, it looks to me like she’s as much filling them in on basic facts about The US Congress as issuing a warning. It’s blunt true. Some of that might have just been for clarity.

    It’s simply a fact that Congress holds up trade-bills like the ones The UK is hoping to get with outside the EU, to a good deal of scrutiny. And it’s also true that if Britain destroys the GFA, it would piss off many factions within Washington.

    I don’t think Madam Speaker would say such things to foreign audiences and leaders if she wasn’t extremely confident that it’s true.

    An “Opposition Speaker” like Pelosi can’t afford to make categorical statement to foreign officials if she’s not 500% prepared to see them backed up both by Congress and her Party-especially not with the situation Congress is currently facing.

    A large portion of what you are seeing is indeed Washington’s investment in the Good Friday Agreement as true achievement. However there’s a lot more.

    I think the US is starting to change its tune to Britain. People aren’t turning rabidly anti-British or anything. However, I do see the US as likely to back the EU over the UK when it comes to certain key issues.

    Among liberals I actually see a lot of soul searching over the “Cold War Assumptions” that have been made about modern Britain. Even a certain amount of horror that since WW2 the US has considered Britain such a great friend while buying into their vilification of our oldest ally: France.

    • ar an sliabh

      This absolutely not an idle threat, and something she has actual control over. Virtually no trade bill passes through congress without bipartisan support. The recent tariff cuts in relation to Chinese imports and the defeat of many a Republican supported element in the latest overwhelmingly (Bi-partisan) passed farm bill are evidence of that power. This is no joke, and the britz will have to take it very seriously.

  3. Jim McGettigan

    Let’s not forget also that Mrs Pelosi’s political base consists of 80% of San Francisco and SF county which happens to have a large Irish American population which also makes this move pretty shrewd politically.

    • Well, if anything I was hoping Madam Speaker’s fine Italian name was going to puncture the myth common in Britain that concern for Irelans within The US can always and only be coming from The Irish American community.

      Simply put it’s not true. Ireland has always had a fair number of sympathizers in The US who didn’t necessarily have any Irish roots. Anyone with a rudimentary sense of justice could look at Britain’s treatment of Ireland and draw some conclusions.

      Britain reputation for horrible treatment of Ireland has gone global since at least the 1840’s.

      • Jim McGettigan

        Of the world’s Irish Diaspora, descendent population of 80 million, 30 million are in the US and so if you add that to the historical fact that America also fought the British to win its independence there is bound to be quite a bit of sympathy for people of the last colony of Ireland. In either case I doubt if too many Irish will look at Mrs Pelosi’s gift horse in the mouth.

        • Except a significant number of those 30m Jim come from a Scottish/Northern Irish background. I think I’d accept Grace’s on the ground analysis as regards this issue.

          • Jim McGettigan

            Indeed they did and the Ulster Scots played a very important role in defeating the British on several fronts during the revolutionary war, religion not withstanding.

            • I can tell you that the reasons why a lot of people would be upset if the GFA was destroyed goes way, way beyond The Irish American community.

              A lot of has to do with decades to of being told the Troubles were intractable and unsolvable and even longer being told that Ireland was simply destined to remain a country drenched in misery.

              The fact that the GFA managed to prove wrong a lot of conventional wisdom about how Ireland was sort of “a country doomed to suffer”.

              Of course, The British have a long history of saying that about colonies. Americans tend to resist the notion that some problems are insoluble. Clinton largely chose to get involved because his background of starting his political career in Civil Rights, made him sympathetic to the Catholics who had seen an attempt at a similar non-violent revolution turn into The Troubles. (Contrary to what some folks think Bill Clinton is not an Irish American. His mother was an Anglo-American white Southerner. And his father was a midwestern traveling Bible Salesman, who never married his Mom. The name Clinton is actually that of a step-father he hated and got in fist fights with to stop his Mom being beaten. He only took that name to show kinship with a troubled half-brother.)

              So the part about proving the cynics wrong. Having taken a problem with centuries old roots that many people believe impossible and not exactly solving it but finding a viable fix for its more violent manifestations. The fact that GFA has been a model for other situations around the world with reputations for being intractable.

              There are a whole bunch of reasons Congress, The US State Department and Diplomatic Corps, The Democratic Party and many elements of society would be upset if something happens to the GFA. It’s really not all about The Irish American community.

              As for the affection of The American Revolution. It’s true that the Revolution probably has something to do with the fact that if you had a bunch of Americans coming out of the movie “Gandhi” few would entertain the idea that maybe despite the movie’s biases perhaps British rule was beneficial. It’s a bit half-conscious though. Most Americans-even those who know quite a bit about history of Ireland or India tends towards compartmentalizing that stuff form what they know of The American Revolution.

              • Jim McGettigan

                No worries, we are actually on the same page.

          • Ah the Scots-Irish Americans. There are a lot of myths and misnomers about this group from all around. One is that it simply doesn’t exist and “They’re just white folks. Nothing more to see here.” The other set of myths comes from anyone who says this group is inherently {insert political implications} or easy to pin down.

            It’s 100% true that Scots-Irish communities were among the biggest hotbeds during The American Revolution.

            Even during WWI the Scots-Irish communities who had been in Union territory and pro-Union both during The Civil War tended not to want to fight for the British on the grounds “We fought The Revolution because we didn’t want to be their subjects.”

            These days anti-British sentiment in Scots-Irish Americans would tend to correlate with a very inward looking, anti-UN, “global warming is a myth”, and all that stuff. The key word is “tends to”, because I consider them one of the most unpredictable elements in US society.

            Even today I would argue in favor of the view that the current opioid epidemic falls heavily on Scots-Irish, and that The Civil War to some extent set the foundations for it.

            Another mostly Scots-Irish American phenomena that obviously can’t exist in Ulster, would be “snake churches” . There are no venomous snakes in Ulster.

            Bottom line. There are no simple bottoms lines. They are a complicated, complicated people Scots-Irish Americans. Simple, simple assumptions just don’t cut it.

        • One thing to consider. A lot of the US’s cozy post WW2 relationship with Britain has been predicated a several things that have been seriously undermined by Brexit.

          One was the common belief that while the British Empire was horrible modern Britain was very different. Another was that initially Britain was an indispensable Cold War ally and after The Cold War that Britain “Britain is among the most trustworthy countries on Earth-They always keep their promises”. Then there was the notion the Britain was our “bridge to the EU”. That Britain was a sophisticated country that could always be counted on to bring nuance to nearly all international affairs.

          Needless to say that Brexit mess has sort of wrecked all of the above. Not so much because of leaving the EU as how they are going about it.

          I don’t see the US turning rabidly anti-British or doing a 180 degree spin here.

          I’d be amazed if I saw people burning effigies of Queen Elizabeth (or maybe King Charles?). Or a far more dramatic shift for a true US Anglophile taking a hammer to their Monty Python CDs and tapes and destroying them.

          What has happened is the Brexit has introduced a number of complexities of nuances to problems that a few years ago would have been pretty darn simple.

    • ar an sliabh

      I actually don’t know very many people of Irish descent that still have strong connections to home that do not vote Democrat already, myself included (while I still lived there full-time). That is why I believe this is truly in support of the President Clinton spearheaded major U.S. investment in the GFA, and not a stunt to gain votes. I do think both parties really need to abdicate, but as long as there are only them, the Democrats are just the lesser of the two evils, obviously, at least to me.

      • Jim McGettigan

        I don’t see it as a stunt either but rather a win win situation for the Democrats. I also totally agree with your last comments as I see the Democrats and Republicans as competing wings of the same ruling class with very little resulting differences regardless of which one is elected. Today as a result of The Citizens United ruling the US unfortunately has the best government that money can buy.

  4. Conamara Colm

    Although I detest US foreign policy in general, such as Trumps support for the despicable Israeli and Saudi regimes, I am heartened by her statement of support for the Irish position.

    • A lot of that is partisan. Trump and Nancy Pelosi however do occupy different spheres of power, and the President cannot force Congress to sign a trade deal if it doesn’t want to.

  5. I’d take what Pelosi says with a pinch of salt. I am astounded at the prominence she wields I.e she’s worse than Trump with her gaffes!

  6. Worth noting she was specifically briefed on the use of advanced “interrogation techniques” in the early 2000s. Her party advocating for any “marginalsed” people under her leadership doesn’t have a leg to stand on. A warhawk advocating peace.

    • Maybe so. But in an Irish context, or a Brexit context, any friends are good friends. She wouldn’t be my first choice, or second or third, but anything which puts manners on the Brits…

      • ar an sliabh

        Let’s hope she puts her money where her mouth is when the s..t hits the fan. Lately, I am more inclined to only believe words by any politician when stuff actually happens.

    • She opposed and voted against the Iraq War Resolution. She did so despite believing Hussein had WMDs, but stated that even so she believed the risks of invading Iraq Way outweighed the supposed benefits. She opposed first Iraq War, and strongly supported a cautious detente with Iran.

      She is not a War Hawk simply because she was briefed on something. In Congress you are called upon to be briefed on all kinds of things. It’s her voting record that counts.

      It seems to me that the pattern is to label women politicians as way, way more hawkish than they actually are. While at least certain subsets of men can get away with all sorts of things and still be seen as “peacemakers”.

  7. I believe it’s numerous members of Congress (bipartisan) and not just her. Trade deals of the kind The UK seems to want are NOT granted lightly even with close allies. Also a lot of premises behind The Cozy relationship the US has with UK for a while have been notably shaken. Even on the Light Rail I’ve heard people say negative things about Britain-not rabidly anti-British things but more like “Damn I thought they were the ones who had their act together, guess they can be bigger cut-ups than us!”

    If Brexit isn’t reversed and Trump’s reign of error ends on an ok note, I could easily see the US trying to step into a role of mediating between The UK and EU. Nearly all liberals and centrist to moderate Republicans want stronger ties to EU. Dropping a decades long ally like a hat would look bad, but I see a number of nuances introduced to US-UK relations the likes of which have not been seen since WWII.

    As for how I imagine Brits taking Pelosi’s comments, I would expect in some places they would argue over whether Pelosi and/or Congress can actually prevent a trade deal if Trump wants it.

    In my time around British people I find that the US government and Constitution often confuses them. They WILL argue over whether or not the Trias Politica is a real thing or if the POTUS can do/get whatever he wants. If I’m in the room the Trias politica -skeptics will sometimes dismiss what I say as ignorance, poor education, and not understanding what “answerable” leaders look like. Those who accept it’s real may still find it confusing. They often find the question of what Congress actually does and the lack of “President’s Question Time” to two of the “hard parts”.

    (To be fair I find the UK system and even Ireland’s more confusing than say The French government.)

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