By Amanda Akass, Political Correspondent
International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan has sought to ease tensions between some members of the Conservative Party and the Speaker of the US House of Representatives.
Nancy Pelosi angered some Tory MPs last night by saying there would be no US-UK trade deal if ministers took unilateral action to override the Northern Ireland Protocol – like the minister of Foreign Affairs Liz Truss promised to do so earlier this week.
It prompted a hard-hitting response from Conor Burns, the Prime Minister’s special envoy to the US on Northern Ireland issues.
He said protecting the Good Friday Agreement was the government’s ‘top priority’, but argued there was ‘no connection’ between pursuing a trade deal ‘and doing what it is necessary for NI”.
Brexiteer MP John Redwood also waded into the row, describing the top Democrat’s remarks as ’empty threats’ and saying British voters ‘do not accept bullying from abroad’.
But speaking at the launch of trade talks with Mexico earlier, International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan sounded rather more diplomatic.
In an interview with Sky News, she said she was looking forward to discussing the issue with a delegation of US politicians shortly – but suggested some Americans did not understand what the UK government was proposing.
“Everyone is always entitled to their opinion,” she told me.
“They are an important voice in this regard. What I want to make sure is that if there are those who do not understand what we are doing, we are very happy and will continue to discuss with everyone whose l he commitment is to the Good Friday Agreement is a stable, long-term assurance of peace, prosperity and stability on the island of Ireland.”
The prime minister has argued that plans to unilaterally cancel the protocol are “insurance” in the event negotiations with the EU fail.
The government argues that the risk that the degree of control required by the protocol over goods transported from Britain to Northern Ireland will itself threaten the Good Friday agreement and prevent efforts to restore sharing of power in Northern Ireland – the Democratic Unionist Party refusing to join the executive without a protocol change.
But despite Ms Trevelyan’s efforts to calm tensions, the current situation remains unchanged: if the government pursues its unilateral changes in the face of opposition from Washington and Brussels, it runs the risk of a trade war with the EU, and dash hopes of a trade deal with the United States.