Boris Johnson discusses Northern Ireland protocol
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This week, US President Joe Biden and Ireland’s Taoiseach Micheál Martin will hold a virtual summit to mark St Patrick’s Day and reaffirm the close relationship between Washington and Dublin. Now, Mr Martin has said he wants to see a “continuation” of Mr Biden’s support for Ireland and for the Northern Ireland peace deal, known as the Good Friday Agreement.
Mr Martin said: “We want to see a continuation of the president’s interest in Ireland and support for the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement and also of upholding the Brexit agreement itself.”
Mr Biden has been a vocal critic of Brexit since the UK voted to leave the EU back in 2016.
Ahead of his presidential win last year, Mr Biden warned Ireland must “not become a casualty” of Brexit, intervening to try and dissuade Mr Johnson from following through with the Internal Market Bill.
Mr Biden, who has Irish ancestry, warned: “We can’t allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit.
“Any trade deal between the US and UK must be contingent upon respect for the Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period.”
The Good Friday Agreement ended three decades of violence in Northern Ireland.
Mr Martin also noted the longstanding role Washington has played in Northern Ireland.
He told CBS: “Having been involved at the time of signing of the Good Friday Agreement, I’m under no illusions about the significance of the American involvement and engagement with all sides.”
The Irish premiere added how he will highlight how the relationship between Washington and Dublin is “mutually beneficial”.
Mr Martin said: “My visit is an opportunity to highlight how our mutually beneficial trade and investment relationship leaves both our economic well-positioned to bounce back quickly.
“I look forward greatly to meeting with President Biden, who has a very special connection with Ireland and to bring him greetings from Ireland on his first St Patrick’s Day in office as President.
“I will thank him personally for his unstinting support for Ireland over many years, including in recent times for his support in helping to secure a positive outcome in the Brexit negotiations, as we face into the task of now making those new arrangements work well.”
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During negotiations between the bloc and Britain last year, the Northern Ireland protocol was one of the biggest issues.
The protocol was designed to keep trade flowing smoothly on the island and to avoid a hard border and checkpoints.
Under the agreement signed by Mr Johnson and Brussels, Northern Ireland remained part of the EU’s Single Market.
But at the end of January, a row over coronavirus vaccine supplies prompted the EU to use the “nuclear” option of invoking Article 16.
This is part of the Protocol which governs the island’s trading arrangements with the EU and Great Britain.
Article 16 is intended to be used when the protocol is unexpectedly leading to serious “economic, societal or environmental difficulties”.
Last week, during a visit to Northern Ireland, Mr Johnson called for changes to be made to the Brexit border plans.
He said: “We want to ensure that the protocol upholds the wishes of both communities and has the consent of both.
“There has got to be East-West consent to what is going on as well as North-South.
“We want to make sure that is built into that.”
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