British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said after holding talks with US President Joe Biden in Cornwall that the US, UK and EU have “complete harmony” on finding solutions to support the Belfast Agreement.
“There is complete consensus on the need to continue, find solutions, and make sure that we adhere to the Belfast Good Friday Agreement,” Johnson said. “And I think what is interesting is that Northern Ireland is a wonderful place and it has amazing potential. It is a great, great part of the United Kingdom.”
Asked if Biden had made his concern about the situation in Northern Ireland clear, Johnson said: “No, he hasn’t.”
“America, the United States, Washington, the United Kingdom, plus the European Union have one thing that we absolutely all want,” Johnson said. This is to support the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, and to ensure that the peace process remains balanced. “This is quite common ground,” Johnson said.
The leaders met ahead of the G7 leaders’ summit in Cornwall amid a row with the European Union over the Northern Ireland Protocol, which requires checking goods crossing the Irish Sea in order to avoid the difficult border in Ireland after Brexit.
There were indications on Thursday that talks between London and Brussels over the protocol were on the verge of collapse, with the European Union warning it would retaliate with trade sanctions if Britain unilaterally violates the agreement again.
Johnson praised Biden as a “big breath of fresh air” on Thursday because he wanted to work with London on a wide range of issues ranging from climate change and Covid to security.
“It’s a massive breath of fresh air,” Johnson said of the conversations with Biden. “It’s new and interesting and we work really hard together. We spent about an hour and 20 or so. It was a long, long, good session. We covered a huge range of topics.”
Earlier, Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney said Biden would “see through the swirls and fog” of London on the Northern Ireland Protocol and would urge the British government to implement the deal it agreed to.
Coveney was speaking in response to reports that the US government had secretly reprimanded the British for threatening the peace process over protocol.
“I’m not surprised by the strength of the feeling we got from the American president,” Coveney told reporters in Dublin this morning. “I think he has the ability to see through the swirls, the fog and the informative articles in the British media about the protocol, and [he] Simplifies the message: A deal was agreed upon for a good reason. Now it must be implemented.”
The London Times reported Wednesday night that Biden had ordered US officials in Britain to issue a diplomatic reprimand to Johnson’s government for threatening the Brexit peace process.
The newspaper said that Yael Lambert, the top US diplomat in Britain, invited Frost to a meeting last week in which she accused the government of “fueling” tensions by opposing the inspection of ports in Northern Ireland.
Earlier, Taoiseach Micheál Martin described Biden’s involvement in the UK-EU dispute as “significant” and said it represented “a lot of common sense”.
Martin told Newstalk Breakfast that it was very clear from Mr Biden’s intervention that peace on the island of Ireland was “inevitable”.
“The intervention from the Joe Biden administration is important, but also from my point of view, it’s a lot of common sense. I think the United States is saying to solve this problem, we’re very clear from the perspective of the United States that the Good Friday agreement, peace on the island is imperative and that protocol is A contributor to it. I signed up for it, and stick with it.”
Martin also said he was confident there were no checks on EU goods entering Northern Ireland. When asked if Johnson could be trusted, Martin said: “I think we can do it eventually.”
DUP leader Edwin Potts told reporters in Belfast on Thursday afternoon that the Biden administration’s comments were “not well informed”.
“We’ve seen street riots in Northern Ireland that we haven’t seen in many years, and I think the president will do well when he thinks of the reality,” he said.
“The relationship between East and West has been damaged, barriers have been set up east/west, which is unconstitutional and the question that regulation is being done on behalf of Northern Ireland in Brussels without representation is against democracy, and the United States of America has always been a country that desires to have democracy in all around the world, so I would like to believe that the United States of America will recognize and respect the democratic rights of people in Northern Ireland to have a say in the people who make the laws that are actually applied to them.”
EU remedial measures
Meanwhile, EU leaders are pressing Britain to implement controls between Britain and Northern Ireland agreed in the Brexit negotiations at a G7 meeting in Cornwall, warning that the bloc is ready to take “remedial action” to ensure compliance.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said at a press conference ahead of a major powers summit that the EU had been “bent back” for years in negotiations to find a solution to reconcile Brexit with the need to avoid hard borders.
But she described “fundamental loopholes” in implementing the Northern Ireland Protocol, including failures to build infrastructure and give officials access to IT systems.
“We have found the only solution,” said Ms. von der Leyen. “We have a treaty on that, a withdrawal agreement, that was signed by both sides. The contract is pacta sunt servanda ”- the agreements must be preserved.
“The withdrawal agreement must be fully implemented,” said Ms. von der Leyen. We’ll discuss that at a three-way meeting in Cornwall together. We are determined to do everything in our power to protect peace and stability in Northern Ireland.”
Von der Leyen said that if Britain continued not to implement the agreement it signed, the EU was ready to resort to “remedial action” and take the next steps in the dispute mechanisms set out in the deal. These could include fines, and retaliatory tariffs on trade.
European Council President Charles Michel, who chairs the council of 27 EU leaders, described growing concern among capitals about Britain’s failure to implement controls and suggestions that London might unilaterally choose not to comply with restrictions on imports of undercooked meat in the single market. .
“Member states in Europe are expressing more and more concern about the current situation, because it is really fundamental, and it is very important to implement what we have decided. This is a question of the rule of law,” Michel told reporters.
“We will use all the tools we have in order to make sure that we stand up for our interests, that we protect the integrity of the single market and that we ensure a level playing field.”
Mr. Coveney also said that there was flexibility on the part of the EU regarding the implementation of the protocol and the EU wanted to make concessions on several areas of concern. But he criticized the behavior of the UK’s chief EU negotiator, David Frost.
“When Lord Frost visits Northern Ireland and says the protocol is unsustainable, that’s a problem, when he was the one who negotiated the protocol,” he said. Of course, the British government approved an implementation plan for this protocol last December. So we all need to show flexibility and pragmatism here.”
He said that “there has never been a stronger advocate on the part of the European Union for flexibility and pragmatism in how to implement the Protocol” but that the situation requires partnership between the two sides “not confrontation”. Additional Reports: PA
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