Biden Sides with EU Against Britain on Northern Ireland, Backs Internal UK Borders

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U.S. President Joe Biden has appeared to side with the EU as it launches legal action against Brexit Britain, backing its imposition of internal borders between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

“President Biden has been unequivocal in his support for the Good Friday Agreement which was a historic achievement and as he said on the campaign trail last year we need to ensure that it does not become a casualty of Brexit,” said a senior White House official on behalf of the anti-Brexit Democrat politician, in comments reported by the Belfast News Letter.

“At the same time, the U.S. government has welcomed provisions in both the EU and UK trade and cooperation agreement as well as the Northern Ireland Protocol which we believe helps protect the aims of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement,” they added, more contentiously.

“Certainly as the UK and the EU are implementing Brexit-related provisions, the administration encourages both sides to continue prioritising political and economic stability in Northern Ireland in a way that benefits all communities.”

However, the issue with the protocol on Northern Ireland, or Ulster, in Boris Johnson’s Brexit deals is that the political leaders of Northern Ireland’s unionist (pro-British) majority — who opposed the deals in the first place — do not feel it benefits them.

This is due to the fact that it leaves them within the control of the EU Single Market for regulatory purposes and necessitates the imposition of some internal border controls between the Province and mainland Great Britain.

A “grace period” in which these controls would not be fully imposed had been agreed until the end of March but, despite Northern Ireland facing shortages and other difficulties amid the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, the EU has refused to extend it — prompting London to announce it will do so unilaterally, with Brussels launching legal action against Britain in response.

Reg Empey, a key negotiatior of the Belgast Agreement who now sits in the House of Lords as the Lord Empey, expressed disappointment with Biden’s stance on the EU protocol, and “astonishment” at the way politicians in the U.S., EU, and indeed London do not, in his estimation, seem to understand the agreement.

“What astonishes me consistently is that the UK government, the EU, and now the American administration all say they support the agreement, but they fail to consult with those of us who negotiated the agreement,” the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) chairman and former two-time Lord Mayor of Belfast told the News Letter.

“I know President Biden’s antecedents are Irish, I understand how he feels, but there has to be balance and the agreement is a balancing act,” he said.

Biden, although his surname appears to trace back to English settlers in North America, makes much of his Irish ancestry, and at times has appeared somewhat hostile to America’s mother country — declining to give a comment to Britain’s public broadcaster with the words “The BBC? I’m Irish,” shortly after his election, for example.

The First Minister of Northern Ireland’s devolved government, Arlene Foster of the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), launched an official petition to scrap the EU deal covering the Province in February, arguing that the restrictions on trade between Ulster and the British mainland which it imposes damage the economy and undermine the integrity of the United Kingdom as a unitary state at a fundamental level.

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