Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has warned speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi that “the Northern Ireland Protocol is the altar upon which the Belfast Agreement is being sacrificed”.
The DUP leader published the letter as Boris Johnson prepared to discuss a trade deal US President Joe Biden at the White House last night.
Last Friday Ms Pelosi again warned London that there could be no post-Brexit trade deal with the US “if there is destruction of the Good Friday accords”.
Proud of his Irish heritage, Mr Biden has also cautioned that the UK’s attempts to water down the protocol — which ensures there is no hard border on the island — could jeopardise a trade deal.
The US position has angered unionists, who argue that by forcing Northern Ireland to follow EU rules on many issues, the protocol has instead created a trade border in the Irish Sea, diminishing their position in the UK.
Yesterday Sir Jeffrey said he had sent Ms Pelosi a copy of the Belfast Agreement, writing that “the political, economic and constitutional difficulties created by the protocol threaten prosperity in Northern Ireland and the quality of our status within the United Kingdom”.
“The Belfast Agreement was supposedly designed to protect all communities in Northern Ireland. Not a single elected unionist in Northern Ireland supports the protocol yet your Office still champions it. How can this be? One either supports the principles of the Belfast Agreement or one supports the NI Protocol but it is not possible to sustain support for both,” he stated.
“The actions of the EU to date are endangering the very Agreement that you and others purport to defend. This is not good for the UK, the EU or the US but most importantly it is taking Northern Ireland backwards.”
Mr Johnson yesterday declined to commit to securing a post-Brexit trade deal with the US by the next election ahead of his White House talks.
The Prime Minister said he has “plenty of reason to be optimistic” about getting the free trade agreement (FTA) which was touted by Leave supporters as a major prize of departing the European Union, but noted Americans “do negotiate very hard”.
His concession came after suggesting trade negotiations are not a priority for the US President, who he accepted has “a lot of fish to fry”.
The Prime Minister arrived at Union Station in Washington DC to welcome the “very good news” that Mr Biden had pledged to double US funding to help vulnerable countries fight the climate crisis, with Mr Johnson having pushed for increased spending.
But he earlier downplayed the prospects of getting a trade deal by the next election, raising the possibility that he could leave Downing Street without achieving a key ambition for the post-Brexit era.
Asked if he would get the deal by 2024, the Prime Minister told Sky News: “We will keep going with free trade deals around the world including in the United States. I have plenty of reason to be optimistic about that. But the Americans do negotiate very hard.”