Biden ‘can see through spin and fog’ on Brexit protocol row, Coveney says

Micheál Martin said he was confident there would not be checks on EU goods entering Northern Ireland.
Biden ‘can see through spin and fog’ on Brexit protocol row, Coveney says

Vivienne Clarke

US president Joe Biden can “see through the spin and fog” from London on the Northern Ireland protocol and will urge the British government to implement the deal it agreed, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said on Wednesday.

Mr Coveney was speaking in response to reports that the US government had privately rebuked the British for endangering the peace process over the protocol.

“I’m not surprised at the strength of feeling that we have got from the US president,” Mr Coveney told reporters in Dublin.

“I think he has a capacity to see through the spin and the fog and the media articles in the British media about the protocol, and [he] simplifies the message: a deal was agreed, for good reason. Now it needs to be implemented.”

Mr Biden will press British prime minister Boris Johnson to resolve Britain’s dispute with the European Union over the Northern Ireland protocol when they meet in Cornwall on Thursday ahead of a summit of G7 leaders.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said Mr Biden's intervention in the disagreement is a significant development.

Mr Martin told Newstalk radio that it was very clear from the intervention by Mr Biden that peace on the island of Ireland was an “absolute imperative.”

“The intervention from Joe Biden's administration is significant, but also from my perspective, represents a lot of common sense. I think the US are saying 'sort out this issue, we're very clear from a United States perspective that the Good Friday Agreement, peace on the island is an absolute imperative and that the protocol is a contributor to that. You've signed up to it, adhere to it'.”

Mr Martin also said he was confident there would not be checks on EU goods entering Northern Ireland.

When asked if British prime minister Boris Johnson could be trusted, Mr Martin said: “I think we can ultimately”.

Only solution

Meanwhile, EU institution leaders will tell Mr Johnson at the G7 summit that Britain and the EU had both agreed the protocol governing the North's trade arrangements and that Britain must apply it and not make unilateral changes.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said on Thursday that the protocol was the “one and only solution” to avoid a hard land border in Ireland and that she still saw “fundamental gaps” in Britain's implementation of it.

“We will discuss that in a trilateral meeting in Cornwall together. We are determined to do everything to keep peace and stability on the island of Ireland. It is important that there is deep respect for the protocol,” she told a news conference.

She said both sides had also signed up to a dispute settlement mechanism, with potential for remedial measures that can be taken, but did not specify what action the EU would take if Britain failed to respect the protocol.

Summits

On his first trip abroad since taking office in January, Mr Biden meets Mr Johnson on Thursday in the English seaside resort of Carbis Bay ahead of a Friday-Sunday G7 summit, a NATO summit on Monday, a US-EU summit on Tuesday and a meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Geneva the following day.

Mr Biden will try to use the trip to burnish his multilateral credentials after the tumult of Donald Trump's presidency, which left many US allies in Europe and Asia bewildered and some alienated.

Mr Biden, though, has an uncomfortable message for Johnson, one of the leaders of the 2016 Brexit campaign: Stop heated EU divorce negotiations from undermining the Good Friday Agreement.

“President Biden has been crystal clear about his rock-solid belief in the Good Friday Agreement as the foundation for peaceful co-existence in Northern Ireland,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters aboard Air Force One on Wednesday.

“Any steps that imperil it or undermine it would not be welcomed by the United States,” said Sullivan, who declined to characterise Johnson's actions as imperilling the peace. – Additional reporting: Reuters

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