The US government has warned that Boris Johnson’s decision to unilaterally scrap some of the Brexit deals in Northern Ireland was a matter of continuing concern and ‘not conducive’ to a trade deal.
Senior officials have hit back at suggestions that the lack of public comment from the Biden administration meant it was untroubled by the decision to introduce new laws to scrap part of the Brexit deal signed in 2020.
They said the administration recognized there were “challenges” with the protocol, but added that unilateral action was in no one’s interest.
“It is fair to say that the administration is concerned about the legislation. The administration does not believe that unilateral action will be the most effective way to address the challenges facing the implementation of the protocol, and that our firm desire remains to see the UK and EU resume talks and find a negotiated agreement,” a senior administration official said.
The remarks came after Johnson’s government defied a chorus of criticism and the threat of a trade war with the EU to push forward legislation allowing unilateral action and disposal checks on goods entering Ireland North from Great Britain, as required by the NI protocol.
They also shut down inferences that a recent bipartisan congressional delegation’s criticism was limited to the Capitol Hill Irish caucus and heavily influenced by Sinn Féin.
The Biden administration also clarified the White House spokesman’s remarks last week that there was no connection between the UK’s unilateral action and trade talks between Washington and London. “It is true that there is no formal link between the protocol and a free trade agreement, but the current situation does not create an enabling environment,” the insider said.
Asked about the legality of the decision, the senior source replied: “I think overall it’s a desire to avoid one-sided approaches and to see a return to negotiations, to be able to reach a negotiated agreement with EU which is adopted in UK law.”
The Biden administration raised concerns with Northern Ireland Minister Conor Burns when he was sent to Washington to convince the White House the move was necessary because the protocol risked a return to violence.
“We view a negotiated resolution of the differences over the protocol as a clear victory for the economy and long-term political stability of Northern Ireland for all communities and believe that economic prosperity is in everyone’s interest” , the source said.
The UK introduced a bill last week which it says would allow it to remove checks on goods destined to remain in Northern Ireland. Johnson claimed the move would lead to “relatively insignificant” action. But that has enraged Brussels, which is now threatening legal action, and threatening to split the Conservative Party.