Belfast Telegraph

Mike Pence pledges US will play a ‘constructive’ role in Brexit

The US Vice President was speaking shortly after touching down in Ireland for his first official visit to the country.

Minister of foreign affairs Simon Coveney (right) at a meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence after he arrived at Shannon airport for the start of an official visit to Ireland.
Minister of foreign affairs Simon Coveney (right) at a meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence after he arrived at Shannon airport for the start of an official visit to Ireland.

By Aoife Moore and Rebecca Black, PA

Vice president Mike Pence has pledged the United States will play a “constructive” role in Brexit.

He made the comments shortly after touching down in Ireland for his first official visit.

Mr Pence was accompanied by his wife Karen Pence after Air Force Two touched down at Shannon Airport in the west of the country on Monday afternoon.

The couple paused to wave at assembled media at the top of the steps of the plane, before being officially welcomed by Ireland’s deputy premier and foreign affairs minister (Tanaiste) Simon Coveney.

Mr Pence and Mr Coveney then took part in a bilateral meeting at the airport.

Mr Pence pledged that his country will play a constructive role over Brexit.

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US vice president Mike Pence and his wife Karen Pence arrive at Shannon airport for (Jacob King/PA)

“We will continue to work closely with our partners in Ireland and the United Kingdom to support a Brexit plan that encourages stability and also one which keeps the strong foundation forged by the Good Friday Agreement,” Mr Pence said.

“We understand these are complex issues.

“I will be in the UK meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson in just a few days but I think the opportunity to better understand Ireland’s perspective and unique needs, particularly with regard to the Northern border, will make us even better equipped to hopefully play a constructive role that when Brexit occurs, it will occur in a way that reflects stability and addresses the unique relationship between the UK and the Republic of Ireland.”

Mr Coveney welcomed the vice president’s comments, and warned peace “remains fragile”.

“Brexit is a decision that the United Kingdom has made collectively to leave the European Union and we respect that decision, and we are working to try to facilitate it as best we can,” he said.

“But there are real Irish interests here too and Brexit has had a disruption impact on the status quo which has emerged over 21 years since that peace agreement where we now enjoy today a border which is political but largely invisible – you don’t know when you cross it.”

Mr Coveney added: “As someone who understands Ireland well, I think you’ll understand why it is such an emotional issue here. The thought of physical border infrastructure re-emerging on the island of Ireland, border inspection posts whether they are on the border or someone else, is something we cannot acquiesce to.”

The vice president will stay in Doonbeg, Co Clare, where US President Donald Trump owns a golf resort, and also where Mr Pence’s family has historic links.

On Tuesday Mr Pence is expected to meet Irish President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Dublin.

Mr Pence spoke ahead of his visit about looking forward to celebrating his Irish roots. His mother Nancy Pence Fritsch and sister Ann Pence Poynter are also visiting.

Speaking shortly after his arrival in Ireland on Monday, Mr Pence said that he was looking forward to his trip to the place his grandfather called “with warmth and fondness in his voice … the old country. It’s an honour to be back”.

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US President Donald Trump during a visit to Ireland in June (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mr Pence’s comes just months after Mr Trump and First Lady Melania Trump visited Ireland.

There were both protests against Mr Trump’s visit in Dublin and Shannon, as well as a warm welcome in Doonbeg.

PA

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