Image courtesy of the LSE US Centre.
Nancy Pelosi, speaking at LSE, warned the UK not to harm the Good Friday Agreement if there is to be any free trade deal with the US.
Speaker of the US House of Representatives and highest-ranking woman in American history, Nancy Pelosi, poured cold water on Brexiteer hopes of an Anglo-American trade deal in the event Britain exits the European Union without an agreement with Brussels.
Speaking from the stage of LSE’s packed-out Old Theatre on Monday, Pelosi said she had told British lawmakers “don’t even think about” a US trade deal with Britain in the event the Good Friday agreement is breached. Last month as many as 170 Tory MPs are believed to have urged the prime minister to back a no-deal Brexit, which the European Commission has said will result in the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland. Officials from both the Republic and Northern Ireland fear that outcome would threaten the 1998 Belfast accord.
Pelosi echoed remarks by Vermont senator Chris Murphy on a trip to Dublin last month. It is unclear if President Trump shares this reservation, having previously indicated the government’s withdrawal agreement itself would limit any trade with the US. However as Pelosi pointed out, both her and fellow Democrat Murphy would have a say in any trade agreement’s passage through Congress, highlighting the perilous task ahead for the UK in reproducing its trading arrangements outside the EU, whether it leaves with a deal or not.
Speaker Pelosi, on a London leg of a European diplomatic tour, was interviewed by Prof Peter Trubowitz, Department Head of International Relations, at the event hosted by LSE’s US Centre last night in the 450-seater auditorium filled to capacity. Over 3,000 applied for seats and some ticket holders were turned away from the oversubscribed talk as the audience greeted Pelosi with a reverent air. The conversation was also livestreamed on Facebook where it has received 12,000 views.
In a wide-ranging discussion the Speaker addressed the US–China relationship, her party’s burgeoning presidential primary field, and the issues Democrats should focus on in the 2020 race, describing the latter as “kitchen table” politics centred on lowering healthcare costs and raising wages.
Pelosi struck a hopeful and inclusive tone in contrast to the belligerent bigotry of the current White House occupant. Responding to a question from an LSE alumnus about whether Democrats would embrace the socialist politics of newly-elected representatives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Pelosi pivoted to the importance of standing up for America as a “nation of immigrants”. She quoted former GOP president Ronald Reagan as saying immigrants are “vital to our future as a nation”, to applause from the audience.
On Sunday Pelosi had invoked the ire of high profile Labour supporters on Twitter for meeting with former Labour MPs who recently left the party to form the new Independent Group with three ex-Conservatives. The left-wing voices joined their transatlantic counterparts in criticising Pelosi’s handling of the latest controversy engulfing Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar.
Omar, who in February apologised “unequivocally” for tweets condemned as antisemitic, is at the centre of another row after she repeatedly had video footage of the 9/11 attacks tweeted at her by President Trump. The Muslim congresswoman has since been bombarded with Islamophobic abuse and seen a spike in death threats. By meeting with the Independent Group MPs who left the Labour Party in part because of its own antisemitism problem, political commentator Owen Jones said the party was being “trolled” by Pelosi who “won’t even defend” Omar against Trump’s Islamophobic attacks.
Pelosi later met with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to discuss, among other things, Islamophobia and antisemitism, while she spoke to congressional security about Omar’s safety following Trump’s tweets. At LSE on Monday, while tiptoeing around the convention against US officials criticising the president on foreign soil, Pelosi effectively said Trump was “beneath the dignity” of his office in using “the tragedy of 9/11 as a political tool”.