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Biden warns Truss not to break Northern Ireland protocol

US President Joe Biden has warned Liz Truss against unilaterally breaking Britain’s deal with the EU on trade deals in Northern Ireland, a sign the issue could affect transatlantic relations. Western Ocean.

The White House said in a statement that the two leaders, who spoke on Tuesday night, discussed “the importance of reaching a negotiated agreement with the EU on the Northern Ireland protocol”.

Truss, Britain’s new prime minister, is the architect of legislation, now passed through parliament, that will rewrite the protocol, a key part of the UK. Brexit deal with the EU.

EU diplomats say the law is like “putting a loaded gun on” and it must be cooled down if any talks are to take place between Brussels and Truss on the issue.

Biden asserted that Shoes should resolve the dispute over Northern Ireland’s trade status through negotiations with Brussels increasing the stakes in the dispute.

The Downing Street account of the call made no mention of the president’s insistence on a negotiated deal, saying only that the leaders “agreed on the importance of protecting Belfast.” [Good Friday] agreement”.

In a sign that Truss wants to lower the temperature in relations with the EU, she has decided to withdraw from the early confrontation with the EU over protocol.

Brussels and Dublin believe there is a narrow “opportunity” to re-establish relations with the new prime minister, with Biden now urging both sides to compromise.

Truss’ allies say the new prime minister will not trigger the emergency provision overriding Article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol in the coming weeks, a move EU diplomats say will be seen as “a provocative action”.

Truss’ team has consider using Article 16 because the so-called extension, which the EU and the UK agreed in 2020 to allow for lighter contact controls on trade between the UK and Northern Ireland, expires on September 15th.

However, EU officials now expect Truss to ask for an extension of the grace period and both sides agree to “pass it over” to buy time and open the door for negotiations to try to end the status quo. difficult deadlock.

One Truss ally said: “I would be very surprised if we went the Article 16 route, although we don’t rule anything out.”

Irish Prime Minister Michael Martin said Truss’ election opened an “opportunity” to re-establish relations. He said in a statement: “I hope we can use the coming period to prioritize EU-UK engagement and reach agreed outcomes on issues around implementation. current Northern Ireland protocol.

Truss supporters in the pro-Brexit European Study Group say they are comfortable with Article 16 not being used but say the prime minister must push ahead with legislation unless the EU makes major concessions on the protocol. .

These include the removal of many checks on goods moving from the UK intended to remain in Northern Ireland – using red and green lanes at ports – and ending the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice. Europe in the region.

The bill has passed the stages of the House of Representatives and is currently awaiting detailed consideration in the House. EU diplomats argue that Truss needs to put the bill on ice to allow for new negotiations. “That’s the bare minimum,” said one.

Senior EU officials said the UK’s softer approach to asking Brussels for an extension would be preferable to using Article 16. One said it would allow both. the party “continues to dispute” in the short term.

Mujtaba Rahman, Europe managing director at Eurasia Group, a consulting firm, said the decision not to trigger Article 16 would create space for diplomacy, although the EU’s flexibility will ultimately depend on Truss’ approach to the Northern Ireland bill.

He added: “European Commission and Council lawyers hate the idea of ​​extending the grace period, but politically important voices in Brussels and EU capitals recognize this well. rather than a major Article 16 war.

The European Commission declined to comment. Bernd Lange, a veteran German MEP who co-chairs the European parliament’s liaison group on the UK, said he expected a truce. “What she actually does as prime minister may be different from what she promised during an election campaign,” he said.

Tory Eurosceptics wants the EU to agree a new mandate for negotiators to allow for a fundamental rewrite of the protocol.

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