Biden arrives with demand that UK settle Brexit row over Northern Ireland

Biden arrives with demand that UK settle Brexit row over Northern Ireland

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Warnings from envoys that David Frost must compromise with EU on border checks as risk to Good Friday agreement ‘will not be welcomed by the US’

Senior US embassy diplomats in London, backed by the US national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, have directly warned the UK’s Brexit negotiator, Lord Frost, that he will inflame tensions in Northern Ireland if he does not compromise over border checks.

A meeting between the US charge d’affaires Yael Lampert, currently America’s most senior diplomat in London, and Frost led to an urging by the US for Britain to come to a negotiated settlement with the EU, according to an internal UK government note.

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However, US officials questioned whether a formal demarche had been issued by the US to the UK, a rare reprimand between two such close allies. The US has said its role was to urge compromise from all sides.

Sullivan told a briefing on Air Force One before Joe Biden landed in the UK on Wednesday evening: “Any steps that imperil or undermine the Good Friday agreement will not be welcomed by the US.”

He declined to say if this is what he thought Boris Johnson was doing, adding: “The president was not issuing threats or ultimatum … [he] has been crystal clear about his rock solid belief in the Good Friday agreement as the foundation for peaceful coexistence in Northern Ireland. The agreement must be protected.”

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A senior US administration official said of the issue that “engagement wasn’t heightened or directed” by Biden. “As with any ally we have frank diplomatic conversations. Jake Sullivan spoke to these issues in his BBC interview, which addressed same themes we have been messaging privately.”

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Although the UK can insist it is seeking an amicable agreement with the EU, and its stance does not challenge the agreement, the US tone suggests the Biden administration is taking close interest in details of the talks, given it has a formal role to uphold the Good Friday deal.


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