US President Joe Biden reportedly has “deep” concerns that an intensifying dispute between the UK and the European Union (EU) over the Northern Ireland Protocol could endanger “peace” in the British-controlled territory.
According to US national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, Biden will emphasize the importance of safeguarding the “gains” of the Good Friday Agreement at this week’s G7 summit which is due to start in Cornwall (England) on Friday and concludes on Sunday June 13.
The Good Friday Agreement of 1998 ended the core conflict in Northern Ireland, but sporadic clashes and acts of militancy/terrorism continue.
The Northern Ireland Protocol (which is an integral part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement) is intended to prevent the emergence of a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and British-controlled Northern Ireland.
But in practice it has created a border on the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
Consequently, some checks are taking place on British goods flowing into Northern Ireland, causing disruption to food supplies and online deliveries.
Loyalists and unionists are strongly opposed to the Northern Ireland Protocol as they believe it weakens the territory’s ties to the UK.
Speaking to the BBC, Sullivan said that US concern on the situation in Northern Ireland runs “deep” but that he (and presumably his boss Biden) are not “intending to send any warnings”.
Sullivan told the BBC’s North America editor, Jon Sopel, that the success or failure of the protocol was “critical to ensuring that the spirit, promise and future of the Good Friday Agreement is protected”.
Apparently speaking on behalf of President Biden, Sullivan urged the UK and EU to “work out the specifics” and “find a way to proceed that works for both”.
“But whatever way they find to proceed must at its core fundamentally protect the gains of the Good Friday Agreement and not imperil that”, Sullivan added.
Sulivan’s comments are bound to cause alarm in London, not only because of the deteriorating political crisis in Northern Ireland, but equally important on account of the fact the UK is trying to negotiate a free-trade deal with the US.
For his part, Sullivan refused to be drawn on trade issues when pressed by the BBC’s North America editor, Sopel.
“What it does to a US-UK free-trade agreement, I don’t want to sit here and negotiate in public … or make some claim or threat”, Sullivan said.