Joe Biden 'to warn Johnson on Ireland protocol' says expert
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Brussels is hoping to use the G7 to persuade America to take its side in a Brexit row and exert pressure on Boris Johnson. But sources at the heart of Whitehall are privately buoyed the White House will not take such a simplistic approach.
Tensions over the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol have cast a dark shadow over UK-EU relations since the start of January.
Brussels has accused Britain of failing to fully implement the measures outlined as part of the Brexit withdrawal agreement.
Grace periods on bureaucratic customs checks have been unilaterally extended by the Government.
Ministers claim red tape being forced on goods travelling from Britain across the Irish Sea risk damaging the peace process in Northern Ireland and undermining the Good Friday Agreement.
The UK has levelled blame at the EU saying it is insisting on a “purist” approach to the international treaty.
Lord Frost and European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič met earlier today to discuss frictions in the post-Brexit relationship, but the summit broke up without a breakthrough on the Protocol.
It is expected some talks will now take place at Cornwall this weekend when world leaders gather for the G7 at Carbis Bay.
Alongside roundtable meetings of world leaders, a series of bilateral talks will take place.
France, Germany, Italy and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are all hoping to hold conversations with Mr Biden to win him over on the Protocol.
One senior UK source close to EU negotiations said statements coming from the US gave hope the Biden administration would support Britain in the row.
They said: “We’ll be very happy to talk to the President obviously on Northern Ireland if he wants to talk about it.
“I’ve seen various statements made by the US Government on this in recent days, including today, which have the Belfast Good Friday Agreement at the centre of any solutions and we would agree with that.
“We would think any observer should agree with that.”
The President’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan has said it is “critical” the Good Friday agreement is not undermined by the fallout from Brexit.
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He said: “President Biden believes and has said that the Northern Ireland Protocol, as part of the agreement between the UK and the European Union, is critical to ensuring that the spirit, promise and future of the Good Friday Agreement is protected.
“That being said, of course the UK and EU need to work out the specifics and the modalities on that, need to find some way to proceed that works both for the EU and the UK.
“But whatever way they find to proceed must, at its core, fundamentally protect the gains of the Good Friday Agreement and not imperil that.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be holding bilateral talks with Mr Biden in Cornwall tomorrow ahead of the G7.
The meeting will give him a chance to clearly outline the UK’s position on Northern Ireland.
The source added Mr Johnson would be willing to hold conversations on the protocol with EU leaders over the weekend.
They said: “I’m sure the Prime Minister will present very forcibly our views on Northern Ireland and the Protocol to anyone who is asking.
“I think there probably needs to be a short moment of reflection before we work out how we go forwards.
“But leaders can change the context, so let’s see.”
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