Wednesday, September 22, 2021

David Young and Jonathan McCambridge, PA

Joe Biden has given Boris Johnson a “timely reminder” that he would risk any future US trade deal if he ditches Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol, a Sinn Féin minister has said.

Stormont Finance Minister Conor Murphy said that was his interpretation of remarks made by the US president as he met the British prime minister in the White House and expressed concern at any moves to create a “closed border” on the island of Ireland.

The protocol was agreed by the EU and UK as way to avoid trade barriers on the island.

It achieves that by moving regulatory and customs checks and processes to the Irish Sea – an arrangement that has caused disruption to trade between Britain and the Noth and created anger among unionists there.

Balmoral show
The North’s Finance Minister Conor Murphy talks with DUP Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots (right) during a visit to the Balmoral show, Lisburn (Peter Morrison/PA)

DUP First Minister Paul Givan offered a different reaction to the president’s comments, suggesting that it was the protocol that had “trashed” the terms of the Good Friday Agreement by creating east west barriers between the North and the rest of the UK.

Both ministers were at the Balmoral agriculture show near Lisburn on Wednesday.

Mr Murphy said: “If Boris Johnson is looking at trade arrangements for the United States it is on the basis that they (the UK government) are not damaging the Good Friday Agreement or any of the arrangements that flow from the Good Friday Agreement,” he said.

“So, I think it was a timely reminder for the British prime minister exactly where he fits in overall politics and the extent of support in the American administration, in Europe, across this island… for the Good Friday Agreement arrangements to be able to be protected.

“I hope that the British prime minister got that message and that he goes back and has a proper negotiation with the EU, that they resolve the issues of the protocol and we get on with actually taking advantage of the position that we have.”

The Sinn Féin minister said talk of the UK unilaterally suspending part of the Northern Ireland Protocol was a “distraction”.

“What they (UK government) really need to do is sit around the table with the EU and negotiate this out sensibly,” he said

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