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Coveney: Biden victory could give Downing Street 'pause for thought' as Brexit talks near end

Coveney described Biden as a “real friend to Ireland” who has made clear his position on the Good Friday Agreement.

irish-government-cabinet-meeting Simon Coveney Source: PA Images

MINISTER FOR FOREIGN Affairs Simon Coveney has said “we are in the endgame” of Brexit talks as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson proceeds with his controversial Brexit bill.

Despite US president-elect Joe Biden having previously warned the UK over the draft legislation, Johnson told broadcasters that he intended to push ahead with the Internal Market Bill, with peers due to vote on it this week.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Coveney described Biden as a “real friend to Ireland” who has made clear his position on the Good Friday Agreement in any Brexit negotiations. 

Coveney also said that Biden’s election could give the UK government “pause for thought” as Brexit talks near an end. 

“The US is a close ally of the UK, we know that, but I think the relationship between Donald Trump and Boris Johnson was a close one,” said Coveney.

“There was a lot of talk about a US-UK trade deal happening quickly. I think that the statements that have come, not only from Joe Biden, but from many on Capitol Hill that if the Good Friday Agreement and peace on the island of Ireland isn’t protected through Brexit that securing a trade deal between the US and the UK would be very, very problematic,” said Coveney. 

Meanwhile, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier is in London this week for talks with his UK counterpart Lord Frost as he seeks to “find an agreement that respects the interests and values of the EU and its 27 Member States”.

Biden, who has Irish heritage, in September warned that the Good Friday Agreement cannot be “a casualty of Brexit” and said a UK-US trade deal would be dependent on the peace terms being upheld.

Johnson, asked yesterday, whether he was determined to pass the bill in the face of Biden’s criticisms, said: “Yes, as I told Ursula (von der Leyen, European Commission president) the parliamentary timetable goes ahead.

“The whole point of that bill, and indeed the Finance Bill, is to protect and uphold the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process in Northern Ireland.

“And again, that’s one of the things that we’re united on with our friends in the White House.”

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Britain had listened “very carefully to our American friends”, including those in the powerful Irish lobby in Washington, about their concerns regarding Brexit’s impact on Northern Ireland.

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But Raab told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show he remained “confident we will navigate all of those issues sensitively, correctly”.

Labour leader Keir Starmer, however, has called on Downing Street to scrap the Brexit bill if it wants to build a world-leading alliance with the Biden administration, which is due to be inaugurated in January.

“We will soon have a president in the Oval Office who has been a passionate advocate for the preservation of the Good Friday Agreement,” he wrote in an article for The Guardian.

“He, like governments across the world, will take a dim view if our Prime Minister ploughs ahead with proposals to undermine that agreement.

“If the Government is serious about a reset in its relationship with the United States, then it should take an early first step and drop these proposals.”

“We will soon have a president in the Oval Office who has been a passionate advocate for the preservation of the Good Friday Agreement,” Starmer wrote in an article for The Guardian.

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