Britain’s Brexit minister has warned Joe Biden to stay out of Northern Ireland Brexit talks, calling the president no more than an “interested observer”.
Last month Mr Biden told Boris Johnson not to back down from treaties preventing a tough border between Northern Ireland and the republic – warning that the US “spent too much time and effort” on the peace process.
But asked at the Tory conference about Mr Biden’s stance on the issue, Lord Frost said the boundary question “we have to decide and resolve with the EU as we wish”.
The minister had earlier that day threatened to invoke Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Brexit agreement, which would suspend key parts of the Brexit treaty and a hard limit could emerge.
Asked what role Mr Biden could play in the talks, Mr Frost said at a fringe event: “I think this is a conversation between us and the EU. Outsiders are interested observers, but this has led to No more.”
Lord Frost, who personally negotiated the treaty, which he now intends to rewrite, said: “I think every country in the world that is interested, thinks that the Belfast Agreement is something very important and important. The defense is worth it and we agree with the Americans on that as it has been said many times.
“The more helpful the context can be made in support of what we are trying to do to maintain the peace process at a time, the better. But I think, ultimately, we have to do with the EU. Decisions have to be made and sorted out as we wish, and in fact I think no one would expect anything different.”
Mr Biden told the media at the White House during a visit to Britain on 22 September that he felt “very strongly” about the issue.
“We spent a lot of time and effort in the United States, it was a major bipartisan effort,” he told the media, referring to former President Bill Clinton’s key role in the Northern Ireland peace process.
“And I absolutely would not like to see, nor might I add that many of my Republican colleagues would like to see, a change in the Irish Agreement, the end result of Ireland having a closed border.”
Mr Biden’s election was a serious blow to Boris Johnson’s Brexit ambitions – partly because the US president has made clear he is ready to use his diplomatic muscle on behalf of Ireland and the European Union on the border issue.
But the new Democratic administration is also significantly less interested in a trade deal with Britain than one led by Donald Trump, which views Brexit more positively. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss admitted on Sunday that a US trade deal was not possible any time soon and suggested the UK should focus elsewhere.
The Brexit issue is likely to make a significant comeback before the end of the year, after being out of the limelight for a few months, as the UK seeks further talks with the EU on the Northern Ireland agreement.
The EU has so far refused to come to the table, saying it considers the issue settled, and that the UK should implement the protocol as agreed. But Lord Frost used his keynote speech at the Tory conference this morning to issue a warning that Britain could act unilaterally.
“We cannot wait forever. Without an agreed solution soon, we will need to act using Article 16 safeguards to reverse the impact of the Protocol on Northern Ireland,” he told the Tory loyalist.
“In the end it may be the only way to protect our country – our people, our business, our territorial integrity, the peace process, and the benefits of this great UK of which we are all a part.”
Northern Ireland has faced a shortage of imported goods from the rest of Britain due to the new friction for trade added by Lord Frost’s agreement.
The situation has also fueled community tensions, with protests from some loyalists and threats against port workers.
European Commission vice-president Maros Sefkovic said in July: “We will not agree to renegotiate the protocol. Respecting international legal obligations is paramount.” The EU’s stance on this issue has yet to change.
Asked about Lord Frost’s speech, a European Commission spokesman told reporters in Brussels on Monday:
“You will not be surprised to hear that we do not comment on the words or statements of our partners or any stakeholder, regardless of their nature and how lyrical or offensive they may be. No. Absolutely under specific circumstances.”
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /