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Amid Growing Crisis Neal Planning London Trip

Congressman Richard Neal is reportedly planning a trip to London on a mission intended to remind the British government that the U.S. Congress has the back of the Good Friday Agreement and the Irish Sea Protocol.

The Guardian was reporting the planned visit and that of other Congress members Thursday.

And on Thursday Neal, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, met with the British government's Northern Ireland Minister of State Conor Burns.

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Said Neal in a statement after the meeting: “The people of Northern Ireland just underwent a seismic election, and now, their newly elected officials must carry out their democratic duty through the power-sharing institutions established by the Good Friday Agreement.

"I reiterated the need for focusing on getting this new government up and running with Minister Burns and emphasized that all parties must stay the course to find durable solutions to implement the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland and preserve peace and stability on the island.”

The Guardian report stated that "a delegation of influential US congressmen will fly to London within days amid growing concern in the White House about spiraling tensions over the Northern Ireland protocol, the Guardian can reveal."

The report added: "With the UK government poised to table legislation next week which could revoke parts of the protocol, arrangements are being made for at least half a dozen representatives from the US Congress to fly to Europe for a series of meetings in Brussels, Dublin, London and Belfast.

"The delegation will be headed by the influential chair of the ways and means committee, Richie Neal, which has significant power over future trade deals."

Neal's meeting with Burns came against the backdrop of mounting British government pressure on the protocol, the convening of the post-election Stormont Assembly and a failure to elect an Assembly speaker due to the DUP's refusal to take part in the process, and the seemingly imminent appointment of a U.S. Special Envoy to Northern Ireland.

Former congressman Bruce Morrison has been linked to the envoy position and indicated to the Echo some time ago his willingness to take up the post if asked.

Neal's statement also followed a statement from fellow House members William Keating of Massachusetts and Brendan Boyle from Philadelphia.

Rep. Keating, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, and Rep. Boyle, Co-chair of the Congressional EU Caucus, sent a letter to British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss in response to recent reports that the UK has threatened to end negotiations related to the Northern Ireland Protocol and introduce domestic legislation that would unilaterally remove he need for checks on goods being sent from Britain for the use in Northern Ireland, eliminate jurisdiction from the European Court of Justice for matters in the region, and requirements for businesses in Northern Ireland to follow EU regulations. 

In the letter, the congressmen state: “The entertainment of the possibility of invoking Article 16 of the Protocol threatens peace in Northern Ireland, undermines the Good Friday Agreement, and is direct confrontation with the wishes of the majority of elected officials in the Northern Ireland Assembly.”  

The two Democrats further warn that the “the worst possible outcome of Brexit would be one that leads to violence and upheaval in Northern Ireland” and call on the UK to “act in good faith, within the parameters of international law, to maintain peace and stability in Northern Ireland.”

Said a release from the two House members: "Last week in a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Congressman Keating urged US Secretary of State Blinken to work with President Biden to appoint a U.S. Special Envoy for Northern Ireland, a policy that Congressmen Keating has repeatedly supported during his chairmanship.

The full text of the letter from Keating and Boyle to Foreign Secretary Truss states: "We write you today alarmed by recent reports and indications that your government may end negotiations with the European Union related to the Northern Ireland Protocol and introduce domestic legislation that would unilaterally remove the need for checks on goods being sent from Britain for the use in Northern Ireland, remove jurisdiction from the European Court of Justice for matters in the region, and remove requirements for businesses in Northern Ireland to follow EU regulations. This decision would be in direct violation of international law and squarely threaten the Good Friday Agreement.

"Secretary Truss, this announcement comes on the heels of a historic Assembly election in Northern Ireland where the majority of Members of the Legislative Assembly firmly support the Northern Ireland Protocol and urge your government to find an agreement with the EU on mitigating certain implementation problems within the Protocol’s parameters. While we do commend your government’s encouragement for all political parties in Northern Ireland to enter the devolved government, we believe that entertaining invoking Article 16 of the Protocol threatens peace in Northern Ireland, undermines the Good Friday Agreement, and is direct confrontation with the wishes of the majority of elected officials in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

"Further, and as you are aware, this afternoon the Minister of State for Northern Ireland, the Rt Hon Conor Burns MP, was on Capitol Hill discussing these issues with Members of Congress and staff. While we respect your government’s concerns, we are steadfast in our support for a positive outcome to your negotiations with the EU, one which respects international law and one that works within the parameters of existing mechanisms. To that end, we will continue to encourage all parties to act as honest brokers in these negotiations.

"Bearing this in mind, we strongly believe the United States must play an active role in supporting peace and stability on the island of Ireland in line with our historical role as a good faith arbiter. A major step in that process is the appointment of a U.S. Special Envoy to Northern Ireland and together, last year, we sent a letter to President Biden requesting that he make this appointment. Assuredly, last week in a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Secretary Blinken confirmed this appointment saying directly, 'in short, I anticipate that we’ll be moving forward soon on naming an envoy.'

"Secretary Truss, the worst possible outcome of Brexit would be one that leads to violence and upheaval in Northern Ireland. With a commitment that we will act as honest brokers, we call on you to uphold your end of the deal and act in good faith, within the parameters of international law, to maintain peace and stability in Northern Ireland."