Blog: Republican-led US House would still support Brexit solution for North, congressman says – The Irish Times

A Republican-led House of Representatives will not change continuing US congressional opposition to a trade deal with the UK if the Northern Ireland Brexit dispute is not resolved, a Republican politician has said.

In the wake of the American midterm elections, Republicans look set to retake the lower chamber of the US Congress with a narrow margin.

Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, a Republican from Pennsylvania, told a Dublin conference that Ireland should not be worried about a change in policy towards finding a resolution to the impasse over the post-Brexit deal for Northern Ireland.

“Fear not: American policy will not be changing dramatically,” Mr Fitzpatrick told a UCD Clinton Institute conference when asked whether the Republicans taking control of the House would make the party keen to push for a UK-US trade deal over a resolution to the Brexit row.

“We are going to continue to provide unified, bipartisan support for Ireland and be pragmatic about how to go about resolving these issues. They are very complicated; they have been going on for many years; it has been dragging on.”

‘Negotiated agreement’

The Republican was speaking alongside Democratic congressman Bill Keating of Massachusetts via video-link at a conference about transatlantic relations called “Bridging the Atlantic: Ireland and the US” held at the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin.

Dr Amanda Sloat, a National Security Council adviser to Joe Biden, told the conference the US president had been “very clear and consistent” in all conversations with three British prime ministers during his time in office of his “sustained support for the Good Friday [Belfast] Agreement.”

She said the Biden administration “have been heartened” to see the EU and UK restart talks in recent weeks.

“Our hope is that the two sides are able to reach a negotiated agreement,” she said.

Northern Ireland’s unionists have refused to join the powersharing government in Belfast over the Northern Ireland protocol, the UK-EU Brexit deal that keeps Northern Ireland aligned with some EU trade rules to avoid a hard border with the Republic.

Mr Fitzpatrick, a ranking member of the House’s European subcommittee on foreign affairs, said that “regardless of the make-up of the next congress”, Republicans and Democrats “see eye-to-eye” and shared “a strong bipartisan position” on the North.

‘Moderate voices’

There have been concerns that Republicans taking control of the House of Representatives would see Democratic congressman Richard Neal, a strong supporter of Northern Ireland, lose his influential chairmanship of the House of Representatives ways and means committee, which signs off on US trade deals with other countries.

Mr Neal and House speaker Nancy Pelosi, who will lose that role in a Republican majority, have consistently said there would be no trade deal between the US and the UK if the post-Brexit rules affected the Belfast Agreement, the North’s peace deal.

Mr Fitzpatrick said the narrow Republican majority in the House would give “moderate voices – the centrist block” a big input in the running of Congress.

Speaking after returning as part of a congressional delegation’s visit to Ireland and the UK, Mr Keating said he told the UK government that the US wanted the protocol issue resolved out of US “self-interest” before agreeing a UK-US trade deal.

The Democrat said the US would not agree a bilateral trade deal with UK and exclude the EU, a far larger trading partner for the country.

“The protocol issue has to be resolved before we can make any trade agreements and so I made it clear: when we raise that issue, it’s not a threat; it’s our own economic self-interest,” said Mr Keating.

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