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UK warned it is risking US trade deal over Protocol

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Richard Neal. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Image

Richard Neal. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Image

Richard Neal. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Image

A nine-strong US Congressional delegation was welcomed to Ireland yesterday as it told British f oreign s ecretary Liz Truss to return to the negotiating table on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Leader of the bipartisan group, Richard Neal, the Massachusetts Democrat who heads the powerful Ways and Means committee, told Ms Truss she was putting the prospects of a trade deal with the US at risk, echoing a previous warning from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Yesterday the delegation landed at Farranfore Airport in Co Kerry, where members were welcomed by Education Minister Norma Foley who took them on a trip to the windswept Blasket Islands before hosting a meal for the party.

Mr Neal said he had held frank discussions with Ms Truss in Kent, ahead of meetings with the Taoiseach this week.

“I urge good faith negotiations with the EU to find durable solutions for post-Brexit trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland,” he said.

On arrival in Kerry he emphasised the US was one of the guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, and it could not be held hostage to a domestic British political agenda.

The UK appeared intent on attempting to open up an international treaty it already signed, and this could only be damaging to the efforts made to secure the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement through the protocol.

British sources, led by Northern Secretary Brandon Lewis, insisted, however, that there was a “cast iron” commitment by Westminster to peace in Northern Ireland through the agreement.

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney will host a working lunch for the delegation and several Irish Government and political representatives.

“The return of in-person visits between Ireland and the United States is crucial as we embark on re-engaging and rebuilding economically post-Covid. I welcome this hugely positive opportunity to engage with and brief this Congressional delegation on key international issues that are affecting Irish citizens,” he said.

During their time in Ireland the Congressional Delegation, which includes both Republican and Democrat politicians representing states including Texas, Wisconsin, Florida and Pennsylvania, will meet with President Michael D Higgins as well as the Taoiseach. Mr Neal will also address the Seanad tomorrow.

This is the first US Congressional delegation to visit Ireland since the onset of the pandemic in 2020, and follows a period of active Irish government engagement with the US administration in recent months.

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Meanwhile, former taoiseach Bertie Ahern told RTÉ radio’s This Week programme that Britain’s actions in announcing a domestic law to override some of the protocol provisions was “shocking”.

It appeared that the longstanding partnership arrangement between the British and Irish governments in relation to the North was “effectively gone”, he added.

Irish officials are privately scathing about the actions of Ms Truss and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, while confident that the US, under President Joe Biden, is “fully watching” the situation.

They are briefing colleagues in EU governments that the DUP claim that the protocol is anti-democratic is nonsense because there are endorsement or rejection mechanisms built in for Stormont — which DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson has torpedoed.

They are also saying that, moreover, the withdrawal deal negotiated been the UK and EU was democratically endorsed in both a British general election called by Mr Johnson and the recently concluded Assembly elections in the North.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has been collating research and opinion polling in Northern Ireland that show clear majorities in favour of the protocol, including 80pc in a recent survey by the Derry chamber of commerce.

A Queens University poll found that two-thirds of respondents agreed that the terms of the protocol — allowing Northern Ireland unimpeded access to the EU single market — presented unique economic opportunities.

According to feedback from Irish embassies, there is real understanding in European capitals of how the protocol works, while there have been many expressions of “dismay” at Britain’s unilateral actions.


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