Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is in Washington, where he is expected to try to reassure US politicians about the latest Brexit developments.
Some US politicians are concerned about the UK government’s plan to override parts of the Brexit divorce deal.
Mr Raab will meet US Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who last week said there would be no UK-US trade deal if the Good Friday Agreement was undermined.
No 10 has said the 1998 peace accord will be upheld in all circumstances.
Mr Raab is due to meet leading politicians including his US counterpart, Mike Pompeo, as well as Democratic Congresswoman Ms Pelosi, who is speaker of the House of Representatives.
Threats over UK-US trade deal
Brexit is expected to be high on the agenda at the Washington meetings, after the Internal Markets Bill cleared its first parliamentary hurdle earlier this week.
The proposed law would give the UK government the power to override part of the Brexit withdrawal deal – which Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed with the EU last October.
It now faces further scrutiny in the House of Commons, and also needs to be passed by the House of Lords.
If the law comes into force, it would breach international law – a prospect that prompted an angry response from senior figures in the US last week.
- What just happened with Brexit?
Ms Pelosi said if the UK broke international law and Brexit undermined the Good Friday Agreement – the Northern Ireland peace deal – there would be “absolutely no chance of a US-UK trade agreement passing the Congress”.
On Tuesday, four senior congressmen also issued a similar warning, saying a UK-US trade deal would be blocked if the UK failed to preserve the gains of the Good Friday Agreement.
In a letter to Mr Johnson, the four congressmen said the plans to give ministers powers to override part of the UK’s exit agreement – designed to avoid a hard Irish border – could have “disastrous consequences for the Good Friday Agreement and broader process to maintain peace on the island of Ireland”.
“We therefore urge you to abandon any and all legally questionable and unfair efforts to flout the Northern Ireland protocol of the withdrawal agreement and look to ensure that Brexit negotiations do not undermine the decades of progress to bring peace to Northern Ireland,” the letter added.
The letter was signed by Democratic congressmen Eliot Engel, Richard Neal, and Bill Keating, who all chair committees in the US House of Representatives, as well as Republican Congressman Peter King.
In response to the letter, No 10 said its bill would make sure the Good Friday Agreement “is upheld in all circumstances and harmful defaults do not inadvertently come into play which could jeopardise the huge gains of the peace process”.
“We are absolutely committed to no hard border and no border infrastructure between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. This is about a legal safety net and not having east-west checks suddenly imposed which run directly counter to Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.”
The No 10 spokesperson added: “We will continue to engage with our US partners on a bipartisan basis to ensure that our positions are understood and to ensure we agree a trade deal with widespread support in the US.”
Former Democrat congressman Bruce Morrison, who co-chairs a committee of American politicians dedicated to protecting the Good Friday Agreement, accused the UK of reneging on its withdrawal agreement with the EU.
He told BBC Radio Ulster: “That deal recognised the importance of the open border on the island of Ireland, and now some of that agreement is being taken back or sought to be taken back by unilateral action by the UK.
“Anything that says ‘well we made a deal once, but it’s inconvenient now and we’re going to recede from that agreement when Northern Ireland is at stake’ – we think that’s a threat,” he added.
‘Matter of law’
Meanwhile, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has warned that the Brexit withdrawal agreement “cannot be unilaterally changed, disregarded, disapplied”.
Making a speech to the European Parliament on Wednesday, she added: “This is a matter of law and trust and good faith.”
In his talks on Wednesday, Mr Raab is expected to argue that the government’s plans are precautionary and proportionate – and in response to what ministers describe as threats from the EU to block food imports.
Mr Raab will also meet Mr Pompeo, amid continuing transatlantic tensions over Iran.
The US secretary of state recently accused the UK and its European allies of “siding with the Ayatollahs” for blocking further United Nations’ sanctions on Iran.
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