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Biden administration not taking sides in UK-EU rift on Northern Ireland -aide

Biden administration not taking sides in UK-EU rift on Northern Ireland -aide

By Trevor Hunnicutt

The Biden administration will not take sides in a British-European Union rift over the movement of goods to Northern Ireland, a senior US official said ahead of a meeting between President Joe Biden and Taoiseach MicheΓ‘l Martin.

Mr Biden and Mr Martin are set to meet virtually today as disputes simmer related to the implementation of agreements put into place as the UK exited the EU. Fountains were running green at the White House, a tradition that dates back to the Obama administration.

β€œThe key objective is of course to deepen our relationship,” Mr Martin told MSNBC. β€œIn President Biden, we have the most Irish-American president since John F Kennedy, and his election was greeted with great affection and warmth in Ireland.”

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Among key concerns is the Northern Ireland Protocl, which governs the movement of goods into that province.

Mr Biden has long expressed firm support for the Good Friday, or Belfast, Agreement.

β€œThe US government has welcomed provisions in both the EU-UK Trade and cooperation agreements, as well as the Northern Ireland protocol, which we believe helps protect the gains of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement,” said the senior Biden administration official, who declined to be named, previewing the president's comments to reporters.

β€œWe're certainly aware that there are disagreements at the moment between the UK and the EU in the implementation of that. We view that as a trade issue to be resolved between the UK and the EU, and hope that both sides are able to return to the table and discuss the implementation of the agreement.”

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The aide added: β€œThe US administration is not looking to take sides in this disagreement.”

US support

Martin has said Ireland is counting on US support to help maintain the political stability of Northern Ireland.

Earlier this month, Northern Irish loyalist paramilitary groups said they were temporarily withdrawing support for the 1998 peace agreement due to concerns over the Brexit deal.

The groups expressed concern about a disruption to trade between Britain and Northern Ireland due to the deal and said they believed that Britain, Ireland and the EU had breached their commitments to the peace deal.

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No decision has been made on the US appointment of a special envoy to deal with Northern Ireland, the US official said.

The virtual meeting with Mr Martin will be the first bilateral event with Ireland hosted by Mr Biden, who attended a St. Patrick's Day Mass at his church in Delaware before heading back to Washington.

Mr Biden is expected to make a trip to Ireland as soon as this summer.

Mr Martin will also meet virtually with US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris and participate in the annual US congressional luncheon marking Ireland's national day and the close ties between the two countries.

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