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US President Joe Biden calls on Boris Johnson not to rip up protocol agreement

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US President Joe Biden. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

US President Joe Biden. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

AP

Boris Johnson addressing the Ukraine parliament earlier this week

Boris Johnson addressing the Ukraine parliament earlier this week

PA

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US President Joe Biden. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

The US President Joe Biden has called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson not to rip up the Northern Ireland Protocol.

It comes as European leaders are also strongly warning the UK against plans to unilaterally override the agreement.

The Times report Mr Biden has urged Mr Johnson to “continue engaging in dialogue” with Brussels.

“The best path forward is a pragmatic one that requires courage, co-operation and leadership,” a spokeswoman for the White House said.

“We urge the parties to continue engaging in dialogue to resolve differences and bring negotiations to a successful conclusion.”

This week, meetings in Washington are to take place between White House officials and Northern Ireland junior minister Conor Burns, the UK government’s envoy on the protocol.

He now faces a more frosty reception after “blindsiding” the State Department, who were unaware that the UK was about to pull the plug on the negotiations.

What exactly is the Northern Ireland Protocol?

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President Biden has already made it clear that the protocol is essential to protecting the Good Friday Agreement, of which the US is a guarantor.

Michael Gove has insisted he is “super cool” with the idea of legislation to tear up the protocol unilaterally – despite reports he was furious about the move.

The levelling up secretary said on Wednesday that he was relaxed about the plan.

Asked how angry he was about the move on a scale of one to 10, Mr Gove told LBC: “Minus five. I’m super cool with it. I’m a big, big Liz Truss fan.”

However, Mr Gove also claimed Boris Johnson was an “expert negotiator” and suggested the threat to ditch the protocol could be part of UK negotiating tactics.

The cabinet minister said the government would talk to the EU over the protocol, but did not rule out unilateral legislative action to scrap checks hated by the DUP and other unionist parties in Northern Ireland.

“We’re going to talk to the EU, but nothing is off the table,” he told Sky News – insisting that it was important to be “prepared to walk away”.

Asked about previous EU warnings of tariffs as part of a trade war over the row, Mr Gove said: “There are some actors who will say certain things. And that’s fine, I’m not going to criticise them. Boris and Liz – they are negotiating duo whom I place my trust.”

Meanwhile, German chancellor Olaf Scholz told Mr Johnson not to “scrap or break or in any way change” the protocol, signed by the prime minister in 2019.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said Mr Johnson's plans would destabilise the peace process, while Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo told Mr Johnson: “Don’t touch this.”

Foreign secretary Liz Truss will speak to her EU counterpart, Maros Sefcovic, later this week and call again for compromise.

Brussels is said to be considering retaliatory measures to be imposed should legislation reneging on the protocol become law - which could include tariffs on UK exports and the suspension of elements of the Brexit free trade deal.

Meanwhile there are obstacles for Mr Johnson in parliament as senior Conservatives warned he would face a rebellion.

“Even if it gets through the Commons, it will be mullered in the Lords,” one former minister told the Times.

Another added: “There are a lot of colleagues who will not support this. We can’t go around ripping up international agreements that we don’t like.”

The former prime minister Theresa May said Johnson must consider “what such a move would say about the UK and its willingness to abide by treaties”.

Simon Hoare, the Conservative chairman of the Northern Ireland select committee, said that “no honourable country should act unilaterally” by breaking an international agreement.

Ms Truss has drawn up draft legislation that would unilaterally remove the need for all checks on goods being sent from Britain for use in Northern Ireland.

It would also allow businesses to disregard EU rules and regulations and would take away the power of the European Court of Justice to rule on issues relating to Northern Ireland.

It's said she wants to announce the bull as early as next week, although the government said recently it wanted to give negotiations with the EU “one last chance”.


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