June 14, 2021

Ukraine Breaking News

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Boris Johnson’s big Biden meeting overshadowed by Brexit woes

The British Prime Minister is ready to welcome US President Joe Biden in Cornwall, England on Thursday for a bilateral meeting where the couple are expected to discuss a new “Atlantic Charter” – a modern update to the joint statement between Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the challenges facing the world after World War II.
Biden is in the UK because Johnson is hosting the G7 Summit in what was to be Britain’s great return to the international stage.
Instead, Thursday’s talks will most likely be overshadowed by heated discussions about the current and very real danger of the violence that broke out in Northern Ireland, as the real consequences of Brexit continue to undermine the US-brokered peace deal in 1998.
The Times of London newspaper reported On Wednesday the senior US diplomat in Britain, on Biden’s orders, berated Johnson’s chief Brexit negotiator, David Frost, for “igniting” tensions on the island of Ireland.

The report states that in recent days, US envoy Yael Lempert issued an “initiative” – ​​a diplomatic reprimand that is usually reserved for hostile states rather than allies – for the British government’s failure to implement part of the Brexit deal negotiated with Brussels last year. which is designed to protect the peace on the island.

“This is wrong. In the first place, this discussion was not led by the president. It was not intensified. As with any ally, we have diplomatic conversations on areas where we are concerned on many levels,” a senior official told CNN. Biden administration.

But Biden is known to be an opponent of any version of Brexit that undermines peace in Ireland and the president plans to press Johnson on the matter during their talks, other senior administration officials said.

“President Biden has been very clear about his firm belief in the Good Friday Agreement as the foundation for peaceful coexistence in Northern Ireland. That agreement must be protected and any steps that endanger or threaten it will not be met with. favor from the United States., “Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters aboard Air Force One on the way to Europe.

He declined to say whether the United States believed Johnson was taking steps to jeopardize the deal.

“I’m just going to say that President Biden will make statements of principle on this front,” Sullivan said. “It is not issuing threats or ultimatums; it will simply convey its ingrained belief that we must stand behind and protect this protocol.”

The UK government has said it will not comment on the matter until after Thursday’s talks. Unusually for a meeting between US and UK leaders, there will be no joint press conference afterwards, just a background briefing for reporters and a lecture. It is not plausible that this is due to the fact that it would be impossible to dodge the Northern Ireland issue, creating a difficult diplomatic moment in front of the cameras, something both men would prefer to avoid.

The problems that Brexit has created for Northern Ireland are very serious. The UK province borders the Republic of Ireland which is an EU member state. The “Northern Ireland Protocol”, which is part of the UK-EU Brexit deal, primarily seeks to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

It does this by keeping Northern Ireland in the EU customs area and single market for goods, which means no physical checks are required for goods crossing the border.

The agreement de facto created a maritime border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, which infuriated unionists in Northern Ireland and Britain. But Johnson has yet to fully implement the protocol, among other things for fear of food shortages in Northern Ireland.

This, the EU rightly points out, is a violation of the Treaty Johnson agreed with Brussels and a violation of international law. In March, the EU initiated legal action against the UK over London’s unilateral attempts to extend the Brexit grace period on food imports into Northern Ireland. Talks between Frost and his EU counterpart on how to resolve the protocol impasse failed to produce a solution Wednesday, and there is no clear sign of a solution anytime soon.

Boris Johnson will finally tell the world what post-Brexit Britain is for

In September, before winning the presidency, Biden warned that the Good Friday deal could not “become a victim of Brexit” and said that any trade deal between the UK and the US, touted by many as the most significant result. exit from the EU, “must be subject to compliance with the agreement and the prevention of the return of a hard border. Period”.

He doubled down on this position as president-elect in November, stating that “the idea of ​​closing the north and south borders again is not right.”

Johnson, meanwhile, signaled a willingness to move away from Brexit, saying Atlantic magazine in an article published this week that he had “sucked that lemon dry”.

While the prime minister may want to speak instead this week about the future of the UK as a guiding light for the international community, he can’t escape the fact that Brexit has fundamentally changed the UK’s perception among its allies and will continue to have a real impact. both inside and outside the UK for decades to come.

Kevin Liptak contributed to the report.

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