A US senator has said he expects Washington will have to “push a little bit” on both London and Brussels to secure a deal over the Brexit protocol.
Chris Murphy, a member of the US Foreign Relations Committee, also said he would not support any bilateral trade agreement between the US and the UK while outstanding issues with the protocol still remained.
The Democrat yesterday met with political leaders at Stormont.
The UK has threatened to trigger Article 16 of the protocol, which would suspend parts of the agreement and risk a major escalation in tensions with the EU, if solutions to outstanding trading issues cannot be resolved. But Mr Murphy said that invoking Article 16 would be detrimental.
Speaking at Stormont, he said:
“We want to make sure that the protocol is moved forward in a way that benefits all of the people of Northern Ireland.
“To my mind, it would not be good for Northern Ireland if Article 16 was invoked, which could ultimately provoke a crisis, a trade war which would act to the detriment of the people here.
“This is a negotiation between Britain and the European Union, but the United States, having been an important player in the Good Friday Agreement, wants to make sure that nothing happens with respect to Britain’s departure from the European Union that compromises peace here in Northern Ireland.
“I think that something can be worked out by the end of this year, but it will likely involve the United States pushing a little bit, both on London and on Brussels.”
Asked about a trade deal between the US and the UK, Mr Murphy said: “I don’t think it would be a good idea for the United States to move forward with a bilateral trade agreement with Britain if there are outstanding questions about the future of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.”
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson met with the senator, and said that he told him that removal of the Irish Sea border is “fundamental to protect the foundations of political progress in Northern Ireland”.
Sir Jeffrey added: “Over the weekend Mr Murphy and Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey wrote to the Prime Minister outlining their support for the Belfast Agreement.
“Central to the Belfast Agreement was the principle of consent, something which the Northern Ireland Protocol fundamentally undermines. You can have the Belfast Agreement or you can have the protocol, you cannot have both.”