By Steve Holland and Guy Faulconbridge
CARBIS BAY, England (Reuters) – US President Joe Biden brings a dire Brexit warning to his first meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson: Preventing a dispute with the European Union from jeopardizing the delicate peace in Northern Ireland.
On his first overseas trip since taking office in January, Biden will meet with Johnson on Thursday in the English seaside town of Carbis Bay ahead of a G7 summit from Friday to Sunday, a NATO summit on Monday, a summit between the United States and the EU on Tuesday and a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva the next day.
Biden will try to use the trip to polish his multilateral credentials after the tumult of Donald Trump’s presidency, which left many US allies in Europe and Asia baffled and some alienated.
Biden, however, brings an uncomfortable message to Johnson, one of the leaders of the 2016 Brexit campaign: Prevent heated EU divorce negotiations from undermining a 1998 US-brokered peace deal known as the Friday Deal. Saint who ended three decades of bloodshed in Northern Ireland. .
“President Biden has been very clear about his firm belief in the Good Friday Agreement as the basis for peaceful coexistence in Northern Ireland,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters at aboard Air Force One.
“Any step that endangers or undermines him will not be welcomed by the United States,” said Sullivan, who declined to characterize Johnson’s actions as endangering the peace.
Britain’s departure from the European Union strained the peace in Northern Ireland to breaking point because the 27-nation bloc wants to protect its markets, but a border in the Irish Sea separates the British province from the rest of the United Kingdom. . Northern Ireland shares a border with Ireland, a member of the EU.
Biden will also speak Thursday about donating additional doses of COVID-19 vaccines to poor countries.
The 1998 peace accord largely ended the “Troubles”: three decades of conflict between militant Irish Catholic nationalists and “loyal” pro-British Protestant paramilitaries that left 3,600 dead.
Biden, who is proud of his Irish heritage, will make a statement on the importance of that peace agreement, Sullivan said.
“He is not issuing threats or ultimatums, he is simply going to convey his deeply held belief that we must uphold and protect this protocol,” Sullivan said.
Although the UK formally left the EU in 2020, the two sides are still exchanging threats over the Brexit deal after London unilaterally delayed implementation of the Northern Ireland deal clauses.
The EU and Britain tried to solve the border conundrum with the Northern Ireland Protocol to the Brexit deal, which keeps the province in both the UK customs territory and the EU single market.
Pro-British trade unionists say the Brexit deal Johnson signed contravenes the 1998 peace deal and London has said the protocol is unsustainable in its current form after supplies of everyday goods to Northern Ireland were disrupted.
Johnson, who wrote a 2014 biography of British wartime leader Winston Churchill, will agree with Biden on an “Atlantic Charter,” inspired by the 1941 agreement reached by Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The two leaders will agree to a working group to consider resuming travel between the United Kingdom and the United States as soon as possible.