Protocol Standoff Comes Up At State Department Press Briefing

The U.S State Department is closely monitoring the standoff between the EU and UK over the Irish Sea Protocol

By Irish Echo Staff

The attempt by the British government to set aside and renegotiate the current stipulations in the agreed Irish Sea Protocol - a move that has been already rejected by the European Union - was the subject of a question during Wednesday's press briefing at the U.S. State Department.

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The reporter (not identified in the transcript) asked: "I just wanted to ask on the UK-EU agreement on Northern Ireland. The – Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to renegotiate parts of that. The E.U. today has rejected that attempt at renegotiation, just saying that it imperiled the Good Friday Agreement, among other things. Just wanted to know where the U.S. stands. Are they – is the U.S. worried about the Good Friday Agreement or is the U.S. worried about the flow of goods between the UK and – between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK – things like sausages, medicine, even seeing eye dogs – that London says have been obstructed by the current deal?"

The response from the State Department spokesman was: "Well, we have seen the reports of the UK’s command paper proposal on the Northern Ireland Protocol. We would refer you to the UK and to the E.U. for questions on the negotiations. Of course, the United States is not a direct party to them. But we do and we have encouraged all parties to prioritize political and economic stability in Northern Ireland in the context of these discussions.

"To your question, President Biden has been nothing but unequivocal in his support for the Belfast and the Good Friday Agreement, which was an historic agreement at the time, remains significant and incredibly important. We support a close relationship between the UK and the EU, and between all communities in Northern Ireland as well. And we continue to encourage the parties to negotiate within existing mechanisms, and to avoid unilateral actions.

The reporter followed up thus: "Just further to that, do you have any comments on how the implications of this might impact a future U.S.-UK trade deal?"

The response from the State Department spokesman was: "Look, I – what we’re going to focus on now is what we would like to see broadly, and that is we would encourage all the parties to prioritize political and economic stability in Northern Ireland in these discussions while continuing to negotiate within existing mechanisms and avoiding unilateral actions.

"I’m not going to entertain hypotheticals, what might happen. Right now, we’re focused on what is happening between the parties."

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