Boris Johnson on Thursday will face pressure from Joe Biden to work with the European Union to end a bitter standoff over a settlement in Northern Ireland, where post-Brexit talks have ended in deadlock and threats.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the US leader, who is meeting his British counterpart in Cornwall ahead of the G7 summit, has “deep” concerns about Northern Ireland and maintaining peace in the region.
Johnson will also face pressure from European leaders at the summit, with the EU repeating its threat to retaliate with trade sanctions if Britain unilaterally suspends parts of the EU. The so-called Northern Ireland Protocol, which aims to avoid the difficult border on the island of Ireland.
Maros Sefcovic, Vice President of the European Commission, said he was confident that “European leaders will raise this issue” at the G7 summit, which begins on Friday. Emmanuel Macron, the French president, is among those who want the European Union to take a hard line with Johnson.
In anticipation of a diplomatic peril, Johnson takes Lord David Frost, Brexit Secretary, to the G7 summit in Carbis Bay. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is the only other British minister to attend the meeting.
Frost and Sifkovic failed to resolve the dispute over the operation of the protocol, which in effect leads to the introduction of a trade border in the Irish Sea, During talks in London Wednesday. “There weren’t any hacks, and there weren’t any malfunctions,” Frost said.
Johnson claims that the EU’s demands to inspect goods transported between Great Britain and Northern Ireland are too onerous and disrupt trade.
Speaking ahead of Biden’s departure to the UK, Sullivan told the BBC that the NI protocol was “crucial to ensuring that the spirit, promise and future of the Good Friday Agreement are protected”. The 1998 agreement ended decades of violent conflict in the region.
Sullivan insisted that both the UK and the EU should resolve their differences. He declined to say whether the UK-US trade deal could be jeopardized if Johnson breaches his obligations under the protocol, but said: “We are very, very concerned about the Northern Ireland issue.”
Speaking in Cornwall ahead of the summit, Johnson said he was looking for a compromise that would protect the Northern Ireland peace process and insisted he was “not concerned” about the issue casting a shadow over the G7.
Both sides of the European Union and the United Kingdom confirmed after talks in London that divisions persisted over how to address many issues related to Northern Ireland’s trade arrangements, ranging from veterinary checks to pet travel.
Speaking after talks, Sivkovic He said That the EU’s patience was “very, very weak” with the UK over its perceived failure to implement key parts of the protocol.
Brussels already has open legal action against Britain to unilaterally extend some grace periods – cuts to normal border checks – under the protocol.
Sefcovic said the EU could take “cross-cutting retaliatory measures” against Britain, such as imposing tariffs on some goods, or suspending cooperation in certain sectors, if the UK did not meet its commitments.
“If the UK takes further unilateral measures over the coming weeks, the EU will not be shy about responding quickly, firmly and resolutely to ensure the UK complies with its international law obligations,” Sefcovic said.
After the meeting, Frost reiterated the UK’s complaints that “the EU insists on operating the protocol in a very pure manner”.
The lack of breakthroughs means that pressure is set to mount on both sides ahead of the imminent expiration at the end of this month of temporary waivers that allowed British sausages and other refrigerated meats to enter Northern Ireland.
The UK published following the meetings, which also addressed other bilateral issues such as fishing and citizens’ rights his own meltdown From the state of the discussions, he said there had been “some progress toward solutions” in some “limited areas”, including free movement of guide dogs and value-added tax arrangements for used cars.
Additional reporting by Jim Pickard