Cabinet minister says Joe Biden does not understand NI Protocol
Cabinet minister George Eustice says Joe Biden does not understand the ‘very complicated’ Northern Ireland Protocol and the US President is ‘wrong’ to have concerns about the peace process
- George Eustice suggested Joe Biden does not fully understand post-Brexit rules
- Environment Secretary said US President is probably ‘just reading the headlines’
- He said Mr Biden is ‘wrong’ to have concerns about peace in Northern Ireland
- The remarks by Mr Eustice risk igniting a diplomatic row with the White House
Joe Biden does not understand the Northern Ireland Protocol and is ‘wrong’ to have concerns about the peace process, a Cabinet minister said this morning.
George Eustice said the post-Brexit trading arrangements that apply to goods travelling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland are ‘very complicated’.
He said he was ‘not sure’ that Mr Biden ‘fully appreciates’ the UK’s position as it seeks to renegotiate the rules with the EU.
Mr Eustice said Mr Biden is probably ‘just reading the headlines, reading what the EU are saying’.
The comments risk igniting a furious diplomatic row with the US after Mr Biden yesterday reiterated his concerns about the implementation of the protocol as he welcomed Boris Johnson to the White House.
George Eustice said the post-Brexit trading arrangements that apply to goods travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland are ‘very complicated’
Joe Biden yesterday reiterated his concerns about the Northern Ireland Protocol as he welcomed Boris Johnson to the White House
Mr Biden, who has Irish ancestry, yesterday issued a fresh warning for the UK not to damage the peace process in Northern Ireland as it tries to resolve border issues with the EU.
Sitting next to Mr Johnson in the Oval Office, Mr Biden said he felt ‘very strongly’ about issues surrounding the peace process.
‘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,’ he said.
Mr Johnson said ‘that’s absolutely right’, adding: ‘On that point, Joe, we’re completely at one, nobody wants to see anything that interrupts or unbalances the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.’
The protocol, agreed as part of the Brexit deal, requires checks on goods travelling from GB to Northern Ireland to be carried out at ports in order to avoid the return of a land border with the Republic.
But it has caused disruption to trade and angered unionists who have demanded the rules be scrapped, arguing they create a barrier between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
The UK is seeking a major overhaul of the protocol but Brussels is refusing to budge, insisting it should be rolled out broadly as drafted.
The US wants the row to be resolved but the view held by many in Whitehall is that the White House has been siding with the EU during the rumbling dispute.
Mr Eustice was grilled on Mr Biden’s stance this morning and he was asked why the US President is ‘wrong’ in his assessment of the situation.
He told Sky News: ‘Well, I think he is probably at the moment just reading the headlines, reading what the EU are saying, reading what Ireland might be saying which is that they would like the Northern Ireland Protocol to work in the way that the EU envisage.
‘We think he is wrong because the truth is 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.’
The protocol has caused disruption to trade and angered unionists who have demanded the rules be scrapped
Asked whether Mr Biden should be getting involved in the row, Mr Eustice said: It is legitimate for him to have a view on it obviously and express that view and we will obviously explain to the United States effectively what 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.
‘I think when you explain some of those provisions in detail it is understood by the US government that that clearly doesn’t make any sense and therefore should be revisited.’
Told that Mr Biden is surely aware of how the protocol works, Mr Eustice replied: ‘Well, look, it is a very complicated piece of agreement, the Northern Ireland Protocol.
‘I am not sure he does fully appreciate all of that. We are obviously doing all we can to help the US government understand that.’
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