Britain on Thursday reaffirmed its backing for Northern Ireland’s peace accord, after White House candidate Joe Biden warned of potential fallout for a future UK-US trade deal from London’s Brexit manoeuvering.
“We can’t allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit,” Democrat Biden, who has often spoken passionately of his Irish roots, wrote on Twitter.
“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.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said a contentious bill currently being debated by parliament was intended “precisely to make sure that the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement is upheld in all circumstances”.
“We continue to remain absolutely committed to no hard border and no border infrastructure between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland,” he told reporters.
The planned legislation — which Britain admits will override parts of the Brexit treaty — has provoked anger and concern among EU officials.
The proposed law would make unilateral changes to regulate trade with Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, if it cannot seal a post-Brexit deal with the EU by the end of this year.
Brussels has threatened legal action if it is not withdrawn by the end of September and reminded Britain of its duty to uphold international treaty obligations.
Northern Ireland is set to remain bound by some EU rules to ensure its border with Ireland remains open — a key part of the 1998 peace deal that ended 30 years of violence.
But Johnson charges that the EU could carry out a food “blockade” between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain, which would threaten peace and territorial integrity.
“We will continue to engage with our US partners on a bipartisan basis to ensure that our positions are understood,” Johnson’s spokesman said.
“The whole point of this, as the PM has set out, is to make sure the Belfast Good Friday Agreement is upheld.”
Biden’s strong words came as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab visited Washington to try to allay US concerns about the impact of Britain’s departure from the European Union.
It followed a similar warning from Democratic House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo voiced confidence that Britain would find a “good outcome” in its standoff with the EU.
Prior to Biden’s intervention, the prime minister told MPs on Wednesday that his bill would “protect the peace process in Northern Ireland”.
“Possibly the vital importance of protecting the symmetry of the Good Friday Agreement is something that may have been lost so far in the presentation of this matter (in Washington),” he said.