Ireland’s prime minister has rejected a suggestion that US president Joe Biden does not fully understand the issues around Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trading arrangements after comments made by a UK government minister.
Environment secretary George Eustice suggested on Wednesday that Mr Biden’s concerns were based on “just reading the headlines” and listening to accounts from the EU on the post-Brexit situation.
“Anybody who suggests President Biden doesn't get Northern Ireland or understand it is wrong. He understands it very well,” Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin told reporters in New York.
Mr Martin, who will chair a meeting of the UN Security Council on Thursday, added that Irish diplomats in Washington had taken every opportunity to brief the US administration on the situation in Northern Ireland.
He also suggested that he was confident a solution could be found to the ongoing row between London and Brussels over the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which has created a trade barrier for products crossing the Irish Sea from Great Britain.
“The focus has to switch now, for the UK government, the Irish government and the EU working in partnership to resolve these issues,” Mr Martin said.
“I believe the European Union is up for a solution. Where there's a will there's a way and these issues can be resolved.”
On Wednesday, Mr Eustice claimed that the US president was “wrong” to have concerns about the Good Friday Agreement and did not “fully appreciate” the row over the Protocol.
“[Mr Biden] is probably at the moment just reading the headlines, reading what the EU is saying, reading what Ireland might be saying, which is that they would like the Northern Ireland Protocol to work in the way the EU envisage,” the Cabinet minister told Sky News.
“We think he is wrong because the truth is that unless we have a sustainable solution that enables trade to continue between GB and Northern Ireland then we are going to have issues, and that itself would become a challenge to the Belfast Agreement.”
His comments followed a White House meeting between Mr Biden and Boris Johnson, in which the US leader said that he felt “very strongly” about issues surrounding the peace process in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
“I would not at all like to see - nor, I might add, would many of my Republican colleagues like to see - a change in the Irish accords, the end result having a closed border in Ireland,” Mr Biden said.
Mr Johnson also noted that he agreed with the president on this issue, adding: “On that point, Joe, we're completely at one, nobody wants to see anything that interrupts or unbalances the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.”
Downing Street said this week that the prime minister updated Mr Biden on developments with the protocol since they last met in June.
Additional reporting by PA