A visit this week by a delegation from the US led by a key ally of President Joe Biden will be a “waste of time” if they “cannot see” unionists’ concerns around the Northern Ireland protocol, DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson has said.
The delegation which will include Congressman Richard Neal will visit Belfast, Derry and Dublin and will attempt to apply pressure on the DUP who are refusing to re-establish the institutions over the post-Brexit agreement.
Mr Donaldson said yesterday he will warn Mr Neal that the Good Friday Agreement “will flounder” if problems with the protocol are not resolved.
“I will be telling them if they want to protect the Good Friday Agreement and the political institutions created by it, they need to recognise that the protocol is fundamentally undermining and harming both.”
He said without “such decisive action to resolve the problems created by the protocol the Agreement will flounder”.
“If the American delegation can’t see that then they are blind to reality and their visit will be a waste of time,” he said.
It comes as Health Minister Robin Swann has warned that a “great deal of uncertainty” now hangs over Northern Ireland by not having a functioning Stormont.
He said the impasse will have an impact “on our ability to address key issues such as tackling waiting lists and funding cancer and mental health strategies”.
Mr Swann has insisted his health department needs a multi-year budget agreed to cover the next three years “in order to provide a level of certainty on our future funding position”.
He said it was vital “to enable us to start developing longer-term plans to deliver services within the funding envelope provided and to sustain services going forward”.
“This lack of certainty is very unhelpful to our health and social care system,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Neal has said part of his job is to convince the UK not to breach the Brexit treaty.
“My purpose is manifold but we really want to reaffirm America’s unwavering commitment to the Good Friday Agreement and to remind everybody that on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, it has worked splendidly.
“I want to remind everybody in the UK, in Northern Ireland that it should not be treated as a cavalier achievement,” he said, in an interview with the Guardian.
The US delegation was in Brussels on Friday for a series of meetings, including with the European Commission’s vice-president and Brexit commissioner Maroš Šefčovič.
Yesterday they visited London for meetings with the foreign secretary, Liz Truss, the international trade secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan and the Labour leader, Keir Starmer.
It follows a warning from US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that Congress will not support a free trade agreement with the UK if the Government persists with “deeply concerning” plans to “unilaterally discard” the protocol.
The Times reported yesterday that the protocol saga may lead to the UK being cut out of a £2billion slice of £80billion in vital European research funding.
Brussels has held up the UK’s application to take part in the latest round of the EU’s Horizon research programme.
The chief executive of the Russell Group of leading universities warned time was running out to secure a compromise to stop the UK losing out on the near-£2bn a year it receives from the Horizon scheme.
Tim Bradshaw said: “This is the biggest collaborative research project on the planet and we should be part of that.”