Northern Ireland tells Joe Biden’s team what’s really happening with NI Protocol

Boris Johnson discusses Northern Ireland protocol

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The protocol was agreed by the EU and UK during the Brexit negotiations in a bid to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland. It was designed to keep trade flowing smoothly on the island and to avoid a hard border and checkpoints.

Under the agreement signed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Brussels, Northern Ireland remained part of the EU’s Single Market.

But Stormont’s Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots – a vocal critic of the protocol – has held talks with acting US consul general in Belfast Bryan Wockley to discuss the post-Brexit trading arrangements.

Mr Poots said: “I highlighted the concerns I am hearing from businesses about the impact the protocol is having and stressed that NI’s agri-food sector continues to be disproportionately affected.

“We need permanent solutions to the issues and I will continue to push the UK Government and EU to make sure that Northern Ireland’s businesses and people are not disadvantaged.”

Mr Poots added how he indicated his desire for a UK/US trade deal.

He continued: “The US market for agri-products is very important to us – we have been sending our high-quality dairy and pork products to the US for many years and I welcome the decision last year by the US authorities to grant market access to two NI beef processors.

“I am keen to see a continuation of the UK-US trade talks which will bring much-needed confidence at a time of great uncertainty for the NI agri-food industry.”

Back in January, a row over coronavirus vaccine supplies prompted the EU to use the “nuclear” option of invoking Article 16.

Article 16 is part of the Protocol which governs the island’s trading arrangements with the EU and Britain.

It is intended to be used when the protocol is unexpectedly leading to serious “economic, societal or environmental difficulties”.

At the end of March, it was revealed Government ministers are being taken to court over the Brexit deal, with an action launched over the impact of trade on Northern Ireland.

If the legal action is successful, it could force the Government to pay out huge financial settlements in compensation for the disruption to trade caused by the Brexit deal.

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Many goods travelling from the British mainland to Northern Ireland are subject to customs checks.

Since the 2016 referendum, Mr Biden has been a vocal critic of Brexit.

Ahead of his presidential win last year, Mr Biden warned Ireland must “not become a casualty” of Brexit, intervening to try and dissuade Mr Johnson from following through with the Internal Market Bill.

Mr Biden, who has Irish ancestry, warned: “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 US and UK must be contingent upon respect for the Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period.”

Just last month, Ireland’s Taoiseach Micheál Martin held a virtual summit with Mr Biden to mark St Patrick’s Day.

Mr Martin said he wants to see a “continuation” of Mr Biden’s support for Ireland and for the Northern Ireland peace deal, known as the Good Friday Agreement.

He said: “We want to see a continuation of the president’s interest in Ireland and support for the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement and also of upholding the Brexit agreement itself.”

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