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Brexit: Dublin looks to US and Canada for support over border

Simon Coveney
Simon Coveney

By Kevin Doyle

A wave of diplomatic efforts is under way to get senior figures in American politics to weigh in behind the Republic's position in the Brexit negotiations.

Having so far kept European capitals on board with the border backstop, the Irish Government is now hoping the US and Canada will pressurise Theresa May into "protecting the Good Friday Agreement".

Tanaiste Simon Coveney will travel to Washington next week where his itinerary will include meetings with senior figures in the White House and the speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi.

Irish-American congressman Brendan Boyle will also table a motion in the House of Representatives opposing any re-establishment of a hard border.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has already secured the support of Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau. It has emerged the two leaders discussed the situation in a phone call on Wednesday evening.

Mr Varadkar did not publicly reveal details of the call, but his office issued a brief note indicating that Mr Trudeau was siding with Ireland. "They agreed on the fundamental importance of protecting the Good Friday Agreement for the peace process in Northern Ireland, and recalled Canada's role in achieving the Agreement," a statement read.

Diplomatic sources told the Irish Independent that any intervention from North America would be carefully monitored in London. The US and Canada are both high on the list of countries the UK wants to strike trade deals with after Brexit.

US president Donald Trump's aides are in the process of laying the groundwork for trade talks.

However, any discussions on future deals between the two countries are unlikely to start in earnest before the EU and UK resolve their own future relationship.

Another source said the US State Department takes great pride in its work on the Good Friday Agreement and that this influences political thinking on Capitol Hill.

Congressman Boyle has already appeared on some UK media to highlight his resolution which is expected to gain cross-party support.

He has claimed preserving an open border in Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement has bipartisan support even in what has become a highly partisan Washington.

"One of the relatively few things that would unite our people here would be support for Ireland and support for the Irish peace process,'' he said.

The congressman also issued a warning that if the UK reneges on its Good Friday Agreement commitments, "it will have an impact on any future negotiations between the US and UK".

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