Joe Biden insists trade deals shouldn't risk peace in Northern Ireland

Joe Biden throws a spanner into the works of the special relationship telling Boris Johnson he feels ‘very strongly’ that Brexit trade deals should not jeopardise ‘hard-fought’ peace in Northern Ireland

  • The President insists he doesn’t want to jeopardise peace in Northern Ireland
  • Brexiteers have been increasingly frustrated at the US’ stance on the protocol
  • They say US officials refuse to recognise protocol itself poses a risk to peace 

Joe Biden last night threw a spanner into the works of the UK’s ‘special relationship’ with the United States, warning Boris Johnson that growing trade tensions between the two nations should not jeopardise ‘hard-fought’ peace in Northern Ireland.

Boris Johnson is expected to discuss concerns over the agreement aimed at preventing a hard trade border on the island of Ireland in a series of meetings with the President and other White House officials today.

But Mr Biden said he feels ‘very strongly’ that there should be no changes to the ‘Irish accords’ resulting in ‘a closed border’.

Asked about a UK-US trade deal, Mr Biden, appearing alongside the Prime Minister, told reporters in the Oval Office: ‘To do with the UK, that’s continuing to be discussed.

‘But on the (Northern Ireland) protocols I feel very strongly on those. We spent an enormous amount of time and effort, the United States, it was a major bipartisan effort made.

‘And I would not at all like to see, nor I might add would many of my Republican colleagues like to see, a change in the Irish accords, the end result having a closed border in Ireland.’

Mr Johnson broke in to say ‘on that point we are completely at one’.

But Brexiteers have been increasingly frustrated at the US administration’s refusal to recognise that the protocol itself poses a risk to the peace process. 

Joe Biden last night threw a spanner into the works of the UK’s ‘special relationship’ with the United States, warning that growing trade tensions between the two nations should not jeopardise peace in Northern Ireland

Loyalists during a rally against the Northern Ireland Protocol in Newtownards Road, Belfast last week

What is the Northern Ireland Protocol and why is the US so involved? 

Britain is angling for a trade deal with Washington now it has left the EU, but it remains locked in talks with Brussels and Dublin about how best to implement tricky post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland Protocol aims to keep an open border between Northern Ireland and EU member state Ireland, a key plank of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that brought an end to decades of violence.

But pro-British unionists say the deal to mandate checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea from mainland Britain creates another de facto border and puts Northern Ireland’s place in the wider UK in jeopardy.

London and Brussels agreed this month to indefinitely extend a grace period on implementing some checks.

Any UK-US trade deal will need to be passed by the House of Representatives led by Nancy Pelosi, whose boss, US President Joe Biden, is of Irish descent.

The US, which played a key role in securing the 1998 Good Friday peace accord, has cautioned Britain against doing anything to undermine the peace settlement. 

It comes after then-president Barack Obama warned Britons in the run-up to the EU referendum in 2016, they would be at the ‘back of the queue’ or any trade deal if they voted for Brexit.

Mr Biden, meanwhile, is vocally proud of his Irish heritage and has previously warned there will be no trade deal if peace in Northern Ireland is jeopardised by the EU departure. 

The President downplayed prospects of an agreement last night, as ministers resorted to considering downgrading their efforts to join an existing pact.

Meeting the Prime Minister in the White House, the US President issued a fresh warning for the UK not to damage the peace process in Northern Ireland over the EU departure.

Mr Biden said: ‘We’re going to talk a little bit about trade today and we’re going to have to work that through.’

The Prime Minister’s first White House meeting with Mr Biden since he succeeded Donald Trump came as the Government’s hopes for securing a comprehensive free trade deal with the US faded.

Ministers were understood to be instead considering whether to join an existing pact with the US, Mexico and Canada to boost trans-Atlantic trade in a major departure from their prior ambitions.

Earlier in the day, Mr Johnson was unable to commit to securing the deal – touted as a prize of Brexit by Leave supporters during the EU referendum – before the next election. 

But in one possible boost to trans-Atlantic trade, Mr Biden said they are ‘going to be working on lamb’ – with imports currently banned from Britain.

The US president said he was ‘anxious’ to attend the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow ‘with bells on’, and said they would continue talks on how to co-operate on Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds a bilateral meeting with the President of the United States of America in the Oval Office in the White House

The Prime Minister first held talks with vice president Kamala Harris after arriving in Washington DC by train from New York, where he has been attending a UN summit.

Mr Johnson told reporters in Manhattan there were ‘plenty of reason to be optimistic’ about getting the free trade agreement (FTA) with the US.

But the Vote Leave figurehead downplayed the prospects of brokering 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.

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’.

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.’

The Prime Minister conceded Britain and the US could have possibly taken a different course over the withdrawal of troops of Afghanistan.

‘America has been there for 20 years and it’s a respectable argument to say that enough is enough. Look, I mean, could we have done it a bit differently? Maybe we could,’ the Prime Minister told American broadcaster NBC.

Mr Johnson had pleaded with the president to push back his deadline for drawing down all US troops after the Taliban marched back to power.

But Mr Biden rejected the request, meaning potentially thousands of vulnerable Afghans who worked for the UK and their families were left behind.

Travelling on an Amtrak train to DC, Mr Johnson had been buoyed by the announcement the US will drop the blanket ban on travellers arriving from the UK due to the coronavirus crisis.

However, No 10 appeared blindsided by Monday’s announcement, raising questions over the state of communications between the White House and Downing Street.

Just one day before the end of the ban was announced, Mr Johnson was downplaying to reporters any expectations that he could ‘crack’ the issue this week.

Aboard the RAF Voyager on the flight to New York, Mr Johnson also seemed negative about the prospect of getting a trade deal in place any time soon.

‘On the FTA, the reality is that Joe has a lot of fish to fry,’ Mr Johnson told reporters.  

Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds a bilateral meeting with the President of the United States of America in the Oval Office in the White House

Meanwhile, New Foreign Secretary Liz Truss raised the stalled negotiations with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken when they met in New York during the UN General Assembly on Monday.

It is understood Ms Truss questioned whether that position is tenable in the long term and has considered other routes to improving trading ties with the States.

She was to meet with the US president alongside Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the White House on Tuesday.

But, after a return to New York for further talks relating to the UN General Assembly, she will head to Mexico City to open a new British embassy.

She was understood to be considering the possibility of the UK joining the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

A diplomatic source said: ‘There are a variety of different ways to do this. The question is whether the US administration is ready.

‘The ball is in the US’s court. It takes two to tango.’

The frustration over trade negotiations follows a major diplomatic row which broke out earlier this week.

The new military pact between the UK, US and Australia scuppered a multibillion-dollar contract for France to provide submarines to Australia.

France took the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors to Washington and Canberra, but declined to do the same from London, accusing the UK of being America’s lapdog.

Source: Read Full Article