G7: UK and US in complete harmony over Northern Ireland – Boris Johnson

There is “complete harmony” on the need to solve trade problems in Northern Ireland, Boris Johnson has said, following his first face-to-face meeting with US president Joe Biden.

The two leaders met in Cornwall on the eve of the G7 summit.

Mr Johnson said the US, UK and EU all wanted to protect the Good Friday Agreement.

Earlier, Mr Biden warned that the UK-EU dispute over border controls should not “imperil” the peace process.

During their meeting, the two men established a taskforce to re-establish travel across the Atlantic, after the US banned most British people from entering at the start of the pandemic.

They also agreed a deal – labelled the “Atlantic Charter” – which commits the two countries to work together on global challenges.

The G7 summit begins on Friday and will be the first time world leaders have assembled in person since the coronavirus pandemic.

Covid vaccines and climate change are on the agenda – but the on-going disagreement between the UK and the EU over post-Brexit regulatory checks on goods going into Northern Ireland from Great Britain look set to feature heavily in diplomatic discussions in the coming days.

Asked about the dispute on Thursday evening, French President Emmanuel Macron said: “I think it’s not serious to want to review in July what we finalised after years of debate and work in December.

“We have a trade deal – it has been painfully discussed for years… if six months later, they say: ‘What we negotiated with you, we don’t know how to respect it’, then that means that nothing is respectable anymore.”

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What is the UK-EU Northern Ireland dispute about?

Northern Ireland was given special status as a result of the 2019 Brexit “divorce” settlement between the UK and the EU.

While England, Scotland and Wales no longer follow EU rules, Northern Ireland still does, because it shares a land border with the Republic of Ireland, an EU member.

In order to avoid a physical border between the two countries – and thereby protect the peace process – it was agreed that customs checks would take place on goods entering Northern Ireland from elsewhere in the UK.

But unionists say this has effectively put a border down the Irish Sea instead – something they are ideologically opposed to – and business say supply chains have been complicated and disrupted.

Business and political leaders in Northern Ireland have warned that the trade dispute is causing political angst and instability in the run up to the marching season next month, a historical flashpoint between loyalist and nationalist communities.

Talks on Wednesday between Brexit minister Lord Frost and the European Commission’s Maros Sefcovic to try to resolve the standoff ended without a breakthrough.

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‘Breath of fresh air’

Speaking after his meeting with Mr Johnson, Mr Biden said the “Atlantic Charter” would address the “key challenges of this century – cyber security, emerging technologies, global health and climate change”.

“We affirmed the special relationship – that is not said lightly – the special relationship between our people and renewed our commitment to defending the enduring democratic values that both our nations share,” he added.

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson praised the Biden Administration as “a breath of fresh air” adding “there’s so much they want to do together with us, from security, Nato, to climate change”.

Joe Biden and Boris Johnson

Reuters

Before the meeting, Jill Biden and Carrie Johnson joined their husbands in Cornwall for walk in Carbis Bay.

Admiring the view, Mr Biden said: “It’s gorgeous – I don’t want to go home.”

The two women dipped their feet in the sea and later had tea together.

Dr Biden told reporters: “It’s really nice to be here in Cornwall. It’s my first time. Obviously it’s beautiful for those of you who have been here before.”

Mr Biden suggested that both he and the prime minister had “married way above our stations” – something with which Mr Johnson agreed.

The prime minister married his partner Carrie in a low-key wedding in Westminster Cathedral, at the end of May.

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