Joe Biden: UK cannot allow Northern Ireland to become 'casualty of Brexit'

17 September 2020, 00:19 | Updated: 17 September 2020, 11:19

US presidential candidate Joe Biden has warned about Northern Ireland becoming a 'casualty' of Brexit
US presidential candidate Joe Biden has warned about Northern Ireland becoming a 'casualty' of Brexit. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

US presidential candidate Joe Biden has insisted the Good Friday peace deal in Northern Ireland cannot become a "casualty" of Brexit.

The intervention by the Democratic Party nominee for the White House came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces significant opposition to a new Brexit bill that would override the divorce deal with Brussels regarding trade with Northern Ireland.

As foreign secretary Dominic Raab was visiting Washington DC to discuss the issue, former vice president Mr Biden insisted that a future trade deal between the US and UK could only happen if the peace agreement was respected.

In a tweet, Mr Biden wrote: "We can't allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit.

"Any trade deal between the U.S. and U.K. must be contingent upon respect for the Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period."

It follows the Prime Minister facing the resignation of a senior law officer, Lord Keen, as he was forced into a compromise over controversial plans to give the Government the power to break international law by overriding the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

Mr Biden's remarks echoed those of Democratic speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, who warned that a UK-US trade deal could be threatened by such a move.

Ahead of a meeting with Ms Pelosi, Mr Raab accused Brussels of the "politicisation" of Northern Ireland issues in the context of Brexit trade talks.

He said it was the EU stance which threatened the Good Friday Agreement and stated the UK has an "absolute" commitment to the peace deal.

Read more: Government gives MPs vote on controversial Brexit bill in Tory rebel compromise

He added: "It is a great opportunity to be clear that the threat to the Good Friday Agreement as it is reflected in the Northern Ireland protocol comes from the EU's politicisation of the issue, and to be clear on how that has happened and why that has happened.

"The UK action here is defensive in relation to what the EU is doing, it is precautionary, we haven't done any of this yet, and it is proportionate.

"What we cannot have is the EU seeking to erect a regulatory border down the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and Britain."

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab claimed the EU is putting peace in Northern Ireland at risk during a visit to the US
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab claimed the EU is putting peace in Northern Ireland at risk during a visit to the US. Picture: PA Images

The Government will table an amendment to the UK Internal Market Bill, giving MPs a vote before it can use powers which would breach the deal brokered with Brussels last year.

Around 30 Tory rebels were thought to be preparing to vote for an amendment on Tuesday which would have required a Commons vote before the provisions in the Bill relating to Northern Ireland could come into force.

Downing Street relented on Wednesday afternoon and announced in a joint statement with the rebel group that it would seek to amend the Bill to require the Commons to vote before a minister can use the "notwithstanding" powers.

Read more: Government law officer resigns over Brexit row

Labour's shadow attorney general, Lord Falconer, said: "This has been a week of chaos from the Government's own law officers, whose legal advice has been renounced by its own Government and the voice of the law officers has been muted, and their authority is completely shot.

"This has been a farce that shames the entire Government."