Joe Biden does not “fully appreciate” the complex nature of the Northern Ireland Protocol and is “wrong” about the state of negotiations, according to environment secretary George Eustice.
Eustice said today that Biden was probably “just reading the headlines, reading what the EU is saying, reading what Ireland might be saying, which is that they would like the Northern Ireland Protocol to work in the way the EU envisage”.
Biden last night stressed that he feels “very strongly” about the implementation of the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol, with further negotiations on a UK-US trade deal potentially hinging on whether the issue is sorted.
However, Eustice told Sky News today that the protocol was “very complicated” and that “I’m not sure [the President] does fully appreciate all of that”.
“We think he is wrong because the truth is that unless we have a sustainable solution that enables trade to continue between GB and Northern Ireland then we are going to have issues, and that itself would become a challenge to the Belfast Agreement,” he said.
“We will obviously explain to the United States effectively it is tantamount to saying that potatoes grown in one part of the United States can’t be sold in another part of the United States.
“When you explain some of those provisions in detail, it is understood by the US government that that clearly does not make any sense and therefore should be revisited.”
Negotiations between the UK and EU over the protocol continue to drag on, with the implementation of a number of border checks on things like food, parcels and medicines delayed indefinitely.
The protocol sees Northern Ireland follow the EU’s customs union and single market rules, unlike the rest of the UK, in order to avoid a hard border with the Republic of Ireland.
This has created a so-called border in the Irish Sea, which has infuriated many parts of the unionist community who say it separates Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.
Speaking at a press conference last night, Biden said: “On the protocols, I feel very strongly on those. We spent an enormous amount of time and effort, the United States, it was a major bipartisan effort made.
“And I would not at all like to see, nor I might add would many of my Republican colleagues like to see, a change in the Irish accords, the end result having a closed border in Ireland.”
Johnson has called for the EU to apply less stringent border checks, claiming Brussels’ interpretation is causing economic and political tensions in Northern Ireland.
The EU says it is following the protocol to the letter of the law and does not want unauthorised goods from Great Britain to enter its single market.
European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic last night said the issues around the treaty needed to be sorted by the end of the year.
He said both sides need “to find a joint solution”, but “this process cannot be eternal and therefore I think we should do our utmost to resolve all outstanding issues before the end of the year.
The UK wants to redraw the treaty and to rely on an “honesty box” approach, which would see exporters from Great Britain declare whether or not their goods were intended for sale outside Northern Ireland.
Brussels has flatly rejected this and are only open to discussions on how to implement the current text.