US President Joe Biden is probably ‘just reading headlines’ about NI Protocol from perspective of EU and Republic of Ireland, a UK cabinet minister has said

US President Joe Biden is probably “just reading the headlines” about the NI Protocol from the perspective of the EU and Republic of Ireland, a UK cabinet minister has said.

Wednesday, 22nd September 2021, 9:31 am
Updated Wednesday, 22nd September 2021, 9:46 am

UK Environment Secretary George Eustice was speaking after US President Joe Biden warned against the creation of a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Mr Biden was speaking ahead of a meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the White House.

Mr Eustice told Sky News: “He is probably at the moment just reading the headlines, reading what the EU is saying, reading what Ireland might be saying, which is that they would like the Northern Ireland Protocol to work in the way the EU envisage.

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US President Joe Biden says Brexit talks must not lead to a hard border on the island of Ireland. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

“We think he is wrong because the truth is that unless we have a sustainable solution that enables trade to continue between GB and Northern Ireland then we are going to have issues, and that itself would become a challenge to the Belfast Agreement.”

He added: “We will obviously explain to the United States effectively it is tantamount to saying that potatoes grown in one part of the United States can’t be sold in another part of the United States.

“When you explain some of those provisions in detail, it is understood by the US government that that clearly does not make any sense and therefore should be revisited.”

Mr Eustice said it was “very complicated” and “I’m not sure he does fully appreciate all of that”.

Mr Biden was asked about the NI Protocol by reporters and said it was an issue he felt very strongly about.

When asked about a UK-US trade deal, the US President told reporters in the Oval Office: “To do with the UK, that’s continuing to be discussed.

“We’re going to talk a little bit about trade today and we’re going to have to work that through.

“But on the (Northern Ireland) protocols I feel very strongly on those.

“We spent an enormous amount of time and effort, the United States, it was a major bipartisan effort made.

“And I would not at all like to see, nor I might add would many of my Republican colleagues like to see, a change in the Irish accords, the end result having a closed border in Ireland.”

Mr Johnson said they were at one on the issue and that nobody wanted to see anything that would interrupt or imbalance the Good Friday Agreement.

After the meeting between the two leaders, the White House said that President Biden had reiterated his longstanding support for a secure and prosperous Northern Ireland.

Mr Johnson will meet Congressional leaders on Capitol Hill later today.

Mr Johnson’s first White House meeting with Mr Biden since he succeeded Donald Trump came as the British government’s hopes for securing a comprehensive free trade deal with the US faded.

Earlier, RTE reported, the Republic of Ireland was assured by the Netherlands there was no basis to reports that Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte would intervene in the Northern Ireland Protocol dispute at the bidding of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.