US President Joe Biden’s close ally said he would try to “persuade” Boris Johnson’s government to drop its plan to suspend the Northern Ireland Protocol during talks in London.
Congressman Richard Neal, who is leading a US delegation to Europe for a series of meetings, said he would urge UK ministers on Saturday to crack down on a unilateral “breach” of the Brexit deal.
Mr Neal will also visit Kerry this weekend where he will meet Education Secretary Norma Foley.
It follows a warning from US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said the US Congress would not approve a trade deal if Britain goes ahead with a plan to “dump” the protocol.
Ms Neal will carry the message to Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan during talks in London.
“They haven’t broken through yet. They talk about violating it, so part of my job is convincing them not to violate it,” the leading Democrat told The Guardian.
Mr Neal, who arrived in Brussels on Friday as part of a nine-member Congress delegation, also said Mr Johnson should honor all parts of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement he signed in 2010.
“The broader event here is that the protocol has been duly negotiated by the UK Prime Minister,” he told Politico. “It’s an international agreement that should be respected.”
“It will not be the words of the UK – it will be their actions,” he added. “I don’t think Ireland, the Good Friday Agreement and the Northern elections [of Ireland] should be held hostage by a disagreement between Britain and the European Union.”
Mr Johnson and Ms Truss have insisted they do not plan to tear up the protocol entirely, but aim to unilaterally ‘fix’ it through new legislation to invalidate parts of the deal with Brussels.
The Foreign Secretary said earlier this week the legislation would create a “green channel” for goods traveling from the UK to Northern Ireland. Only goods destined for the Republic of Ireland would be subject to customs controls.
Ms Pelosi said on Thursday she had previously warned Mr Johnson and Ms Truss that Congress “cannot and will not support a bilateral free trade agreement with Britain” if they choose to “undermine” the Good Friday Agreement.
DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said Ms Pelosis’ intervention in the protocol dispute was “unhelpful” – but Sinn Fein Vice President Michelle O’Neill “warmly welcomed” the senior US figure’s comments.
Both leaders met Taoiseach Micheal Martin for talks in Belfast on Friday as the impasse over power-sharing arrangements continued at Stormont.
Mr Martin urged the DUP to help form the Northern Ireland executive as soon as possible, even if the union party wanted to have “parallel discussions” on the protocol.
The Irish Prime Minister said it was “unheard of in a democratic world for this Parliament not to meet after an election”, adding: “We cannot have a situation where one political party determines that the other political parties cannot meet in a parliament.”
Mr Martin also accused the UK government of going “unilaterally too far” on the protocol amid warnings of an impending trade war if the two sides fail to agree on a compromise.
He told the BBC: “I spoke to Boris Johnson and I have to get straight to the point, this idea that the European Union is kind of inflexible in that regard is just not the truth – it doesn’t fit.”
But Mr Donaldson said he had told the Taoiseach he was not interested in a “stick-a-band” approach to solving border control problems.
“It has to be a fundamental change that respects Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market and nothing less than that will suffice,” said the DUP leader.
https://www.independent.ie/business/brexit/joe-biden-ally-aims-to-convince-uk-government-not-to-breach-northern-ireland-protocol-during-talks-41672637.html Joe Biden ally wants to ‘convince’ UK government not to break Northern Ireland protocol during talks