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US President Joe Biden says he won’t take sides in the post-Brexit Northern Ireland border dispute

Joe Biden says he WON’T take sides in the post-Brexit Northern Ireland border dispute between the UK and EU in a boost to Boris Johnson

  • PM enraged Brussels by announcing he would delay agreed checks on goods 
  • Ireland and the EU had hoped to persuade President Biden to criticise the move
  • But the White House took a neutral stance and said it was a ‘UK-EU trade issue’ 

Joe Biden has said he will not take sides in Britain’s row with the EU over the Northern Irish border in a boost for Boris Johnson.  

The PM enraged Brussels by announcing he would delay agreed checks on goods between the UK mainland and Northern Ireland, saying it was to avoid chaos to businesses and ease sectarian tensions. 

Ireland and the EU had hoped to persuade the US president to criticise the move after the 78-year-old held St Patrick’s Day talks with Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin yesterday. 

But the White House took a neutral stance, with a spokesman saying: ‘We view that as a trade issue to be resolved between the UK and the EU. We hope that both sides are able to return to the table and discuss the implementation of the agreement.’

President Biden (seen yesterday on his video call with Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin) refused to way into the dispute

The PM (left) enraged Brussels by announcing he would delay agreed checks on goods between the UK mainland and Northern Ireland. However, President Biden (seen yesterday on his video call with Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin) refused to way into the dispute 

Mr Johnson has provoked the ire of Brussels by unilaterally extending a series of ‘grace periods’ designed to ease trade between the mainland and Northern Ireland – which remains in the EU single market for goods.

Fears have been rising about sectarian tensions with unionists saying the EU is imposing unnecessary checks and demanding the arrangements are abandoned altogether.

What is the EU-UK border row about? 

The Northern Ireland Protocol was agreed by the EU and UK as part of the Brexit divorce deal and it is designed to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.

It achieves that by keeping Northern Ireland in the EU single market for goods, with regulatory checks and inspections now required on agri-food, such as fruit and vegetables, produce moving into the region from the rest of the UK.

The new arrangements have caused some disruption to trade since the start of the year as firms have struggled with new processes and administration.

Earlier this month the UK Government unilaterally decided to extend post-Brexit grace periods on certain trade checks in Northern Ireland.

That prompted the EU to accuse the UK of breaching international law as the bloc launched formal legal action.

The UK has insisted the move was lawful but officials in Brussels said the Government had effectively decided without agreement to impose an ‘open-ended extension’ to the light-touch regulatory periods, which were due to end this month but will now be extended for some sectors until October.   

As President Biden held a virtual meeting with Mr Martin on St Patrick’s Day, he underscored his support for the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement that ended decades of bloodshed in Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile, Mr Martin issued a coded denunciation of Mr Johnson’s unilateral move to change the Brexit treaty, which the EU has called a breach of international law and is challenging through the European Court of Justice.

‘With a new trading relationship now in place between the European Union and the United Kingdom, and a protocol that protects peace and avoids a hard border on this island, I want to move forward with a positive relationship with the United Kingdom,’ Mr Martin said. 

‘That means standing by what has been agreed and working together to make a success of it.’

The EU believes there are legal grounds in the Withdrawal Agreement to ensure European judges have jurisdiction over the row despite Britain having left the bloc. 

The dispute has rekindled tensions in Ireland more than two decades the Good Friday Agreement largely ended violence between Loyalist and Republican paramilitaries. 

This month, armed  loyalist groups said they were temporarily withdrawing support for the 1998 peace agreement due to concerns over the Brexit deal.

The groups said they believed Britain, Ireland and the EU had breached their commitments to the peace deal.

President Biden also attended a separate virtual meeting that Vice President Kamala Harris had scheduled with Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill.  

The pair were invited to Northern Ireland when public health conditions allow. 

It comes as US lawmakers piled the pressure on Mr Johnson to resolve the border dispute, warning a trade deal with Washington could be at risk.

A bipartisan group of US senators has issued a resolution demanding the ‘full implementation’ of the Northern Ireland Protocol, as well as the Good Friday Agreement and Stormont House Agreement.

Mr Martin (seen yesterday in the call with President Biden) issued a coded denunciation of Mr Johnson's unilateral move to change the Brexit treaty, which the EU has called a breach of international law and is challenging through the European Court of Justice

Mr Martin (seen yesterday in the call with President Biden) issued a coded denunciation of Mr Johnson’s unilateral move to change the Brexit treaty, which the EU has called a breach of international law and is challenging through the European Court of Justice

The resolution warns against the return of a ‘hard border’ on the island of Ireland and states that the UK meeting its obligations must be ‘taken into account’ if and when trade talks between Number 10 and the White House resume.

The Northern Ireland Protocol was agreed by the EU and UK as part of the Brexit divorce deal and it is designed to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.

It achieves that by keeping Northern Ireland in the EU single market for goods, with regulatory checks and inspections now required on agri-food produce moving into the region from the rest of the UK.

The new arrangements have caused some disruption to trade since the start of the year as firms have struggled with new processes and administration.

Earlier this month the UK Government unilaterally decided to extend post-Brexit grace periods on certain trade checks in Northern Ireland.

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