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Major conflict between the UK and the EU erupted this month, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced changes to the withdrawal agreement that critics claim could hinder peace on the island of Ireland. The row deepened as ministers argued the amendments broke international law as the pact had already been agreed. Others also waded into the debate, including Democrat presidential nominee Joe Biden, who said the UK must “respect the Good Friday Agreement”, to ensure there was no hard border between Northern and the Republic of Ireland.
His comments sparked panic among Brexit negotiators as their bid to strike a trade deal with the US continues, following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU in January this year.
But in a bleak warning to Mr Johnson, American author Bonnie Greer claimed that the US would be “unlikely to support a trade deal” if a Brexit deal was passed that violated the Good Friday Agreement, or weakened Ireland.
She said: “The Good Friday Agreement, in spite of its rather benign name…is a truce.
“And it’s a truce because the United States of America and the EU sat down with this country to make it happen. We have to be much more serious about this.”
Speaking on BBC ‘Question Time’ last year, she added: “The United States is Irish.
“If anyone thinks that they’re going to get a deal through and have a trade relationship with the United States that shafts Ireland, you’ve got another thing coming.”
The Internal Market Bill gives ministers the power to overwrite provisions within the withdrawal agreement that relate specifically to Northern Ireland.
Among other critics are former Prime Minister Theresa May, who told the Government she would not be supporting the Brexit legislation.
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She told the House of Commons during a debate on the bill that ministers were “acting recklessly and irresponsibly”, and their actions could lead to “untold damage” to the UK’s stature among other nations.
The Government has since admitted that the proposal – if it were to be passed by MPs – would indeed break international law, however ministers claim that the amendments are “critical”.
They argue that the alterations would ensure “unfettered access for goods from Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK”, while safeguarding the Good Friday Agreement.
But Mrs May told MPs: “I cannot emphasise how concerned I am that a Conservative government is willing to go back on its word, to break an international agreement signed in good faith and to break international law.”
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Betting firm Betfair said last week that as a result of Mr Biden’s intervention into the Internal Market Bill debate, the odds of the UK striking a trade deal with the US is currently at 40 percent.
Betfair spokesperson Sam Rosbottom said: “Mr Biden has sent a stark warning to Mr Johnson underpinning the importance of the Good Friday Agreement – sending the odds of a UK-US deal being done by the end of 2021 out to 6/4 from evens.
“The likelihood of an agreement being made between the two nations looked promising two weeks ago and was odds-on at just 2/5, but now the chances of it happening are dwindling.
“And with Mr Biden favourite to beat Mr Trump in November, Mr Johnson may have to start looking elsewhere to do business.”
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