Northern Ireland news

Former congressman warns Britain to 'beware' promises of speedy trade deal with the US

White House national security adviser John Bolton

THE joint-chairman of powerful Irish-American committee has described a senior US official's claims of a speedy post-Brext trade deal with Britain as a "political and economic mirage".

Former Congressman James Walsh, co-chair of Washington's Ad Hoc Committee to Protect the Good Friday Agreement, again stressed that Congress would not endorse a trade deal if the accord was jeopardised by Brexit.

The warning came as President Donald Trump's national security adviser said the UK is "first in line" to strike a trade deal with the US.

John Bolton said the US supported a no-deal Brexit and that Washington would propose an accelerated series of trade deals that could be agreed on a "sector-by-sector" basis, with an agreement on manufacturing made first.

After meeting Boris Johnson at No 10, the senior White House aide said a bilateral agreement or "series of agreements" could be finalised "very quickly, very straight-forwardly".

The UK is barred from opening talks with a third country before leaving the EU on October 31.

Mr Bolton claimed there would be enthusiastic bipartisan support in Congress for speedy ratification at each stage.

Mr Johnson said there are "all sorts" of opportunities for British businesses in the US, particularly service companies, but the negotiations will be a "tough old haggle".

"The single biggest deal we need to do is a free trade deal agreement with our friends and partners over the channel," the Tory leader said.

But echoing the speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi's assertion that a US-UK trade deal would not be "on the cards" if Brexit damaged the Good Friday Agreement, Mr Walsh told The Irish News that Mr Bolton's sector-by-sector proposal was "simply a smokescreen".

“John Bolton, the National Security Advisor to President Trump, has come to London bearing gifts and an offer of a quick and speedy US/UK trade deal – beware," he said.

"Bolton is offering a political and economic mirage and he lacks any authority to dismiss Congressional opposition to a proposed FTA (free trade agreement)."

The former congressman said that during April's visit to Ireland, Ms Pelosi had "put down a red line" that no US/UK trade deal would have her support if it jeopardised the Good Friday Agreement.

"For the UK to secure any economic benefit from Brexit it needs a comprehensive trade deal with the US," he said.

"On average, according to the Peterson Institute for International Economics, these agreements take a year and half to negotiate and three and half years to actually implement which gets you to 2024."

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