Biden gave Johnson 'candid' message on NI Protocol row

Updated / Monday, 14 Jun 2021 13:16

Joe Biden and Boris Johnson met in Cornwall on Thursday ahead of the G7 Summit

By Brian O'Donovan

US President Joe Biden had a "candid discussion" with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Northern Ireland, according to US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

Mr Sullivan was asked by reporters if President Biden said anything in his conversations with Mr Johnson about whether a US-UK trade deal would be at risk if he does not protect the Good Friday Agreement or if he asked Mr Johnson not to renege on Brexit agreements.

Mr Sullivan replied that they did discuss the issue.

"They had a candid discussion of it in private," he said.

"The President ... with ... deep sincerity, encouraged the prime minister to protect the Good Friday Agreement and the progress made under it.

"The specifics beyond that, I'm not going to get in to," he said.

Mr Biden and Mr Johnson met in Cornwall on Thursday ahead of the G7 Summit.

In a joint statement following the talks, the two leaders said that their countries are proud of the achievements of the Good Friday Agreement.

"The UK and US reaffirm their commitment to working closely with all parties to the agreement to protect its delicate balance and realise its vision for reconciliation, consent, equality, respect for rights, and parity of esteem," the statement read.

The disclosure came as the gathering ended with a furious diplomatic spat after British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab accused President Emmanuel Macron of France and other senior EU figures of talking about Northern Ireland "as if it was some kind of different country to the UK".

Mr Raab described such attitudes as "offensive" and called on the EU to show "respect" as such comments caused deep concern within Northern Ireland.

At his closing news conference at the summit, President Macron strongly denied that he had ever questioned British sovereignty, but insisted the UK must honour the commitments that Mr Johnson signed up to in the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

The French leader said: "On this topic, everyone should return to reason, and my wish is we succeed, collectively, to put in motion what we all decided upon together several months ago.

"We should do it in all calm and with mutual respect, and I think that polemics every morning are not helpful."

The continuing row over the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol in the agreement - intended to protect the peace process by ensuring there is no return to a hard border on the island of Ireland - overshadowed much of the summit.

Mr Johnson repeated his warning that he could unilaterally delay the latest checks on chilled meats moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, which are due to come into force at the end of June, unless there was a resolution to the dispute.

The EU has previously said that its patience is wearing "very, very thin" and had threatened to launch a trade war unless the UK abides by its treaty obligations.

Additional reporting PA