White House insists Northern Ireland row WON’T imperil post-Brexit trade talks with Britain but urges UK and EU to return to Protocol negotiations
- White House insists Protocol row won’t imperil US-UK trade talks next week
- PM yesterday published new legislation to set aside key trade rules for N Ireland
- The EU responded furiously with threats of legal action and a bitter trade war
Boris Johnson provoked a furious response from the EU yesterday when the Government published legislation that would set aside key parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The Prime Minister’s push towards unilateral action on post-Brexit border arrangements saw Brussels threaten renewed legal action against Britain.
European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic also revived the threat of a bitter EU-UK trade war as part of retaliatory action.
But there was a more muted response from the White House, despite previous warnings from US President Joe Biden that the long-running dispute could halt progress on a UK-US trade deal.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stated that Britain’s unilateral action would not be an impediment to upcoming trade talks in Boston next week.
However, she urged both the EU and the UK to return to negotiations on the Protocol to ‘resolve these differences’.
US President Joe Biden had previously warned that the long-running dispute over Northern Ireland could halt progress on a UK-US trade deal
European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic, pictured with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss in January, has revived the threat of a bitter EU-UK trade war as part of retaliatory action
The Government has published legislation that would set aside key parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol
How the Northern Ireland row threatens to undo Brexit deal
The row over the Northern Ireland Protocol began almost as soon as the Brexit agreement with the EU came into force.
The two sides had to find a way of avoiding a hard border while maintaining the integrity of the UK, and avoid undermining the integrity of the EU customs union and single market.
The Protocol manages this by effectively keeping Ulster inside the EU’s single market.
However, Brussels has been adamant that means checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea from Britain.
Unionists are implacably opposed to the idea, arguing it ‘others’ an integral part of the UK.
The UK began talks seeking to alter the terms of the agreement just months after it was signed by the PM.
The toughest parts have never come into force, due to a series of delays brought in by both camps.
In March last year the UK unilaterally extended the agri-food exemptions.
This triggered the EU to start breach proceedings.
However, despite experts suggesting there is a landing zone available, political tensions have made a deal impossible.
‘The US priority remains protecting the gains of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and preserving peace, stability, and prosperity for the people of Northern Ireland,’ the press secretary told reporters at a White House briefing.
‘We have welcomed the provisions in the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement and the Northern Ireland Protocol as a way to manage the practical challenges of preserving distinct EU and UK markets while preventing the return of customs infrastructure on the land border.
‘We recognise there have been challenges over the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol. We urge the UK and the EU to return to talks to resolve these differences.
‘We support a strong and close EU-UK partnership. Transatlantic peace, security, and prosperity are best served by a strong UK, a strong EU, and the closest possible relationship between the two.’
Asked if the Protocol row would affect next week’s third round of UK-US trade talks, or a post-Brexit trade deal between the two countries, Ms Jean-Pierre replied: ‘No, I don’t believe it will be.’
Her comments will ease fears about the reaction of Mr Biden’s administration to the PM’s action over the Protocol.
The US President has previously waded into the UK-EU dispute over Northern Ireland and, in a meeting with Mr Johnson last year, warned against any ‘change in the Irish accords’.
Asked about the White House response to the publication of the Protocol legislation, the PM’s official spokesman said today: ‘Well, certainly we agree with the US position that it wouldn’t impact on any US-UK trade deal.
‘I think we are firmly of the view that it will be of huge benefit to both the US and the UK. So we want that to progress.’
The second round of US-UK trade talks was held in Abderdeen in April, following a first round of negotiations in Baltimore in March.