Friday 26 April 2019

'No chance' of trade deal with UK if there's a risk of hard border – US Senator

Senator Chris Murphy (AP)
Senator Chris Murphy (AP)

Cormac McQuinn Political Correspondent

THERE'S “no chance” of a free trade deal between America and Britain if there's a risk of a post-Brexit hard border in Ireland a US Senator has said.

Senator Chris Murphy also hit out at US President Donald Trump claiming he doesn't understand international trade and pointing out that Congress has the “final say” on such deals.

Meanwhile, he also said there's “no excuse” for the post of US ambassador to Ireland being unfilled for more than two years.

Mr Murphy made the remarks at the end of a visit to London, Belfast and Dublin.

Last week Mr Trump tweeted about how his administration looked forward to negotiating a “large-scale trade deal” with the UK.

It came hours before his meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in the White House.

Mr Varadkar's attempt to promote the possibility of a free trade deal between the US and EU prompted a tirade from Mr Trump who complained about America's treatment in negotiations with Europe in the past.

Mr Murphy, a Democratic senator from Connecticut, is a member of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

He said the US Congress is “waking up” to the potential consequences of Brexit to the peace process in Ireland.

He said: “I think there is very little chance there is going to be US-Britain free trade agreement.

“But I think there is no chance for that agreement if there is any potential for a border to go back up between Ireland and Northern Ireland.”

He said that this message is the purpose of his visit and that there are a lot of Democrats and Republicans who “are going to be very reluctant to move forward on any new economic relationship with Britain if there's potential for the Good Friday Agreement to be compromised.”

He argued that the Trump administration has “way over-sold the ability” for the US to do a free trade deal with the UK.

Mr Murphy said any trade agreement would have to be ratified by the Senate and “I don't think there is the support to ratify any trade agreement with Britain if there are big outstanding questions about the peace process.”

He also said: “I wish that the President wasn't such an unconditional cheerleader of Brexit. I wish he personally was making it clear that the peace process has to be fully, 100pc protected.

“But without that assurance, without that statement by the President, I think members of Congress need to make that clear.”

Mr Murphy said that he'd prefer to see a free trade deal between the US and EU prioritised over one with Britain.

“I think there's a growing worry in the United States Congress about the long-term stability of the European Union and Nato given Russia's constant attacks on both.

“Part of the reason why I want to see us get back to the table on an EU trade agreement before we negotiate a Britain agreement is that we should show preference to multilateral institutions above bilateral agreements.

“I worry that if we reward Britain's departure from the EU with a quick trade agreement it's another arrow in Russia's quiver when it's trying to encourage another country to leave the European Union.”

Mr Trump last year nominated billionaire Ed Crawford to be the next ambassador to Ireland but he must be approved by the Senate.

Mr Murphy said: “There's no excuse for this post remaining unfilled this long. The administration should have made this a priority.”

He said Mr Crawford's application was just submitted to the committee last week and he hasn't looked at it yet.

“If there are no red flags I would hope that we schedule an immediate hearing and an immediate confirmation vote in the Senate... assuming that there are no issues I would hope that we could get him on the ground here as quickly as possible.”

He said he's supported other ambassadors put forward by Mr Trump that he disagrees with politically.

“The President deserves to have his people in posts overseas.

“So I'm not going to be looking at Crawford based on his political views.

“I'm happy to get somebody over here who's an ally of the President.

“That's how it's supposed to work.”

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