DUBLIN — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s warnings about Brexit, the Irish peace pact and implications for U.S. trade with Britain have triggered some tense talks in private meetings between a congressional delegation and British conservatives seeking an exit from the European Union.
In an address to the Irish Parliament on Wednesday, Pelosi reiterated that Congress will block any U.S. trade pact if Britain’s divorce from the European Union undermines the 1998 Northern Ireland accord that ended 30 years of deadly conflict.
Pelosi (D-Calif.) had delivered the same message to British leaders during meetings in London earlier this week.
“We must ensure that nothing happens in Brexit discussions that imperils the Good Friday accord, including, but not limited to the seamless border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland,” Pelosi said in a speech to mark the lower house’s centenary. “Let me be clear: if the Brexit deal undermines the Good Friday Accords, there will be no chance of a U.S.-U.K. trade agreement.”
Pelosi’s tough words led to a “frank exchange of views” Tuesday between the U.S. lawmakers and members of the European Research Group, the pro-Brexit members of the British Parliament, said U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.).
“It’s good to have discussions between people with honestly held opinions,” Boyle told The Washington Post on Wednesday. “There might have been one or two in the ERG who were extremely passionate and there might have been a few strong disagreements. It was a good, honest exchange, but there was no yelling or screaming.”
A report in the Irish Times had characterized the encounter as “forceful and at times heated,” prompting the ERG leader, Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, to suggest there were a few “snowflakes” in the meeting.
“It seemed to me courteous and amiable,” Rees-Mogg said of the session in a statement to The Post.
He added: “It is also wrong to say the ERG members were in any way displeased with the lunch. It was, in its way, flattering that American politicians should take such an interest in our affairs.”
Boyle laughed when asked about Rees-Mogg labeling members of the congressional delegation “snowflakes.”
“Look, Speaker Pelosi is one of the toughest people I know and nobody could accuse her of being a snowflake,” Boyle said.
During the trip, Pelosi also met Irish President Michael Higgins and the two discussed opportunities for “deepening the long and enduring friendships” between Ireland and the United States, the future of European integration, Brexit and the Good Friday accord, according to a spokesman for the president.
In her speech to Parliament, Pelosi expressed support for Ireland’s membership on the U.N. Security Council, which has five permanent members, including the United States and the United Kingdom, and 10 nonpermanent members elected for two-year terms.
“You were an early pioneer on nuclear nonproliferation — sponsoring a vital resolution at the U.N. in 1961 to oppose the spread of nuclear arms. Early leaders, visionaries,” Pelosi said. “You have continued to take the lead on peace, in the global peacekeeping and humanitarian missions that are filled with and led by Irish men and women.”
The Democrat said that during the congressional visit, the lawmakers have heard “excellent arguments” about Ireland being a member of the Security Council.
“From the roots of heritage and history, a modern Ireland has blossomed,” Pelosi said.
Pelosi also praised the country for producing “some of the greatest writers of poetry and prose the English language has ever known,” such as William Butler Yeats, James Joyce and Seamus Heaney.
“And in modern times, another purveyors of the word from Ireland — Bono and U2 — one of Ireland’s most beloved exports and whose music and mission,” Pelosi said before realizing that Bono and his wife, Ali Hewson, were in the visitors’ gallery listening to her speech.
“Oh, there you are,” she said as she burst out in laughter.
Pelosi said the rock band’s “music and mission of advocacy stirs the spirit of the world while embracing the pride of [the] Irish.”
Pelosi said she has probably attended more U2 concerts than any other member of Congress. She blew a kiss to Bono.
Michael is a freelance journalist in Dublin.