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Joe Biden is ‘very strong’ that trade agreements should not endanger peace in Northern Ireland

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Joe Biden threw a spanner in the works on the UK’s ‘special relationship’ with the United States last night, warning Boris Johnson that increasing trade tensions between the two nations must not jeopardize the ‘hard-won’ peace in Northern Ireland.

Boris Johnson is expected to discuss concerns over the agreement aimed at preventing a hard trade border on the island of Ireland in a series of meetings today with the president and other White House officials.

But Mr Biden said he believes “very strongly” that there should be no changes to the “Irish agreements” that result in “a closed border”.

Asked about a trade deal between the UK and the US, Mr Biden, appearing alongside the Prime Minister, told reporters in the Oval Office: ‘What has to do with the UK is still being discussed.

‘But I attach great importance to the (Northern Irish) protocols. We put in a tremendous amount of time and effort in the United States, it was a big two-party effort.

“And I wouldn’t, nor would I like to add, that many of my Republican colleagues would like to see a change in the Irish accords, with the end result being a closed border in Ireland.”

Mr Johnson broke in to say ‘on that point we are all on one’.

But Brexiteers are growing frustrated with the US administration’s refusal to recognize that the protocol itself poses a risk to the peace process.

Joe Biden threw a spanner in the works last night for the UK’s ‘special relationship’ with the United States, warning that increasing trade tensions between the two nations must not jeopardize peace in Northern Ireland

Loyalists at a rally against the Northern Ireland Protocol in Newtownards Road, Belfast last week

Loyalists at a rally against the Northern Ireland Protocol in Newtownards Road, Belfast last week

What is the Northern Ireland Protocol and why is the US so involved in it?

Britain aims for a trade deal with Washington now that it has left the EU, but it remains engaged in talks with Brussels and Dublin on the best way to implement tricky post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland Protocol aims to maintain an open border between Northern Ireland and EU member state Ireland, an important part of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 that ended decades of violence.

But pro-British union members say the agreement to impose controls on goods crossing the Irish Sea from mainland Britain creates another de facto border and jeopardizes Northern Ireland’s place in the wider UK.

London and Brussels agreed this month to extend an indefinite grace period for carrying out some checks.

Any trade deal between the UK and the US must be approved by the House of Representatives headed by Nancy Pelosi, whose boss, US President Joe Biden, is of Irish descent.

The US, which played a key role in securing the Good Friday peace agreement of 1998, has warned Britain not to do anything to undermine the peace settlement.

It comes after then-President Barack Obama warned Britons ahead of the 2016 EU referendum that they would be back in line or any trade deal if they voted for Brexit.

Meanwhile, Biden is vocally proud of his Irish heritage and has previously warned that there will be no trade deal if peace in Northern Ireland is jeopardized by the EU’s departure.

The president downplayed the prospects of a deal last night, as ministers resorted to watering down their efforts to join an existing pact.

During a meeting with the prime minister at the White House, the US president warned the UK not to harm the peace process in Northern Ireland over the departure from the EU.

Mr Biden said, “We’re going to talk a little bit about trade today and we need to go through that.”

The prime minister’s first meeting at the White House with Mr Biden since succeeding Donald Trump came as the administration’s hopes for a comprehensive free trade agreement with the US faded.

Ministers would instead consider joining an existing pact with the US, Mexico and Canada to boost transatlantic trade in a major departure from their previous ambitions.

Earlier in the day, Johnson could not commit to securing the deal – which Leave supporters touted as the prize for Brexit during the EU referendum – before the next election.

But in a potential boost to transatlantic trade, Biden said they will “work on lamb” — with imports currently banned from Britain.

The US president said he was “anxious” to attend the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow “with the clocks on”, and said they would continue to talk about cooperation in Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has a bilateral meeting with the President of the United States of America in the Oval Office in the White House

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has a bilateral meeting with the President of the United States of America in the Oval Office in the White House

The Prime Minister spoke to Vice President Kamala Harris for the first time after arriving in Washington DC by train from New York, where he was attending a UN summit.

Johnson told reporters in Manhattan that there was “enough reason to be optimistic” about getting the free trade agreement (FTA) with the US.

But the Vote Leave figurehead downplayed the prospects of reaching a trade deal by the next election, raising the possibility that he could leave Downing Street without realizing any major ambition for the post-Brexit era.

His concession came after he suggested that trade talks are not a priority for the US president, who he says “has a lot of fish to fry.”

Asked if he would get the deal by 2024, the prime minister told Sky News: “We will continue free trade agreements around the world, including in the United States.

“I have every reason to be optimistic about that. But the Americans are negotiating very hard.’

The prime minister admitted that Britain and the US might have taken a different course regarding the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

“America has been around for twenty years and it’s a respectable argument to say enough is enough. Look, I mean, could we have done it a little differently? Maybe we can,” the prime minister told NBC.

Johnson had begged the president to push back his deadline for withdrawing all US troops after the Taliban returned to power.

But Mr Biden turned down the request, meaning potentially thousands of vulnerable Afghans who worked for the UK and their families were left behind.

While traveling to DC on an Amtrak train, Mr Johnson was buoyed by the announcement that the US will be dropping the blanket ban on travelers arriving from the UK due to the coronavirus crisis.

Number 10, however, seemed blindsided by Monday’s announcement, raising questions about the state of communications between the White House and Downing Street.

Just a day before the end of the ban was announced, Johnson downplayed to reporters expectations he could “crack” the issue this week.

Aboard the RAF Voyager on the flight to New York, Mr Johnson also seemed negative about the prospect of a near-term trade deal.

“With the free trade agreement, the reality is that Joe has a lot of fish to fry,” Johnson told reporters.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has a bilateral meeting with the President of the United States of America in the Oval Office in the White House

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has a bilateral meeting with the President of the United States of America in the Oval Office in the White House

Meanwhile, new Secretary of State Liz Truss raised the stalled negotiations with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken when they met Monday at the UN General Assembly in New York.

It is clear that Mrs. Truss has wondered whether that position is sustainable in the long term and has considered other avenues to improve trade relations with States.

She and Prime Minister Boris Johnson were due to meet the US president on Tuesday at the White House.

But after returning to New York for further talks related to the UN General Assembly, she heads to Mexico City to open a new British embassy.

She would consider the possibility of the UK joining the United States-Mexico-Canada agreement.

A diplomatic source said: ‘There are several ways to do this. The question is whether the US government is ready.

“The ball is in the US court. Two are needed for the tango.’

The frustration over trade talks follows a major diplomatic row that erupted earlier this week.

The new military pact between the UK, US and Australia crushed a multi-billion dollar contract for France to supply submarines to Australia.

France took the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors in Washington and Canberra, but refused to do the same from London, accusing the UK of being America’s lapdog.

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