US calls for revival of UK trade talks after Northern Ireland deal

Senior lawmakers in Washington are calling for a revival in US-UK trade talks after Britain and the EU struck a deal on Northern Ireland that removes a major source of tensions between Washington and London.

The push comes after members of Congress from both sides of the aisle hailed the Windsor framework on post-Brexit trade deals in Northern Ireland as a turning point in US-UK bilateral relations and a sign that more pragmatic leadership had returned under Prime Minister Rishi Sunak returned to the British government.

“Since the Brexit vote seven years ago, by far the biggest stumbling block has been the Northern Ireland issue and the fact that Britain and the US did not exactly agree,” Pennsylvania Congressman Brendan Boyle, a Democrat, told the FT.

“There is no question that a major nuisance in bilateral US-UK relations has been taken off the table,” he added.

“I think once we get that behind us, hopefully it will be there shortly [trade] Discussions,” added Bill Keating, a Democratic lawmaker from Massachusetts.

Delaware Democratic Senator Chris Coons introduced legislation Thursday giving Joe Biden the power to negotiate a free trade agreement with Britain © Oliver Contreras/AFP/Getty Images

Chris Coons, the Democratic Senator from Delaware and a close ally of US President Joe Biden, introduced legislation on Thursday that would give the President the power to negotiate a free trade agreement with Britain.

The bill would give Biden two years, or up to a few months, after starting a hypothetical second term to reach an agreement and expedite a vote in Congress to approve a deal. The proposal was co-sponsored by John Thune, a South Dakota senator who is the second-highest ranking Republican in the upper house of Congress.

“Resolving Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit special status was a necessary prerequisite for the negotiations. . . Now that that’s done, we think the time is right for US-UK FTA negotiations,” a congressional aide said.

Thune said the proposal — which would need to be approved by both chambers of Congress and signed into law by Biden — was an “important step toward a strong and hopefully long-lasting trade deal with the world’s fifth-largest economy.”

Biden, a proud Irish-American, hailed the Windsor framework earlier this week and issued a lengthy statement saying he was “proud of the role the United States has played for decades in helping bring about the to achieve, maintain and strengthen the peace enshrined in 1998”. Good Friday Agreement.

The President said he looked forward to “continuing to work closely” with Northern Ireland, the UK and Irish governments and the EU “to promote that peace and prosperity”.

Katherine Tai, the US trade representative, told Bloomberg on Thursday that the Biden administration was “watching” the Windsor breakthrough “with great interest.” She added her office will “continue our ongoing dialogues with the UK while remaining very interested in how the Windsor Agreement is being finalized and implemented”.

Katherine Tai, the US trade representative, said the Biden government had “watched with great interest” the UK-EU breakthrough © Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Although Biden has attempted to resolve some of the trade disputes with US allies that raged during the Trump administration, he has not pushed for big moves toward trade liberalization. But Keating said Biden understands the need to economically empower America’s allies, especially in the face of increasing competition from China.

“Even for President Biden, who isn’t a free trader, I think he sees an advantage in moving forward, but it may be incremental,” Keating said.

The White House has not yet said if Biden will travel to Northern Ireland next month to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

Chris Murphy, the Democratic Senator from Connecticut, said maintaining the accord was “clearly a priority” for the US and Washington “has been pushing for it [Northern Ireland] draw up a protocol”.

However, Murphy warned that any visit by the President could be conditional on the restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont.

“It certainly seems like a pretty important moment for a senior American delegation when the Protocol goes into effect and the Stormont administration is restored,” Murphy said. “It would be difficult for a high-level American delegation in Belfast if there is no government in Belfast.”

Keating said knowing Biden’s history, a trip to Northern Ireland next month is “something he wants to do” but a lot would depend on the president’s other commitments.

Regardless, there was relief in Washington, particularly among Democrats and within the Biden administration, that Sunak had established a less ideological government in Britain and would be easier to work with than that of his predecessors Liz Truss and Boris Johnson.

“I think that the new prime minister is a person whose background was dealing with economics, he knew he had to get this issue over with to move other issues forward,” Keating said. “He was very realistic.” US calls for revival of UK trade talks after Northern Ireland deal

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