What did the Irish prime minister discuss with US president Joe Biden on St Patrick's Day?

Thu 18 Mar 2021
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

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Irish Taoiseach Micheál Martin has told Joe Biden that the UK and EU must “stand by what has been agreed” on post-Brexit rules for trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Speaking on a video link to Biden on St Patrick’s Day yesterday (17 March), Martin said London and Brussels must “move forward with a positive relationship” on the Northern Ireland protocol, the FT reports.

Tensions have increased this week after the EU launched legal action against the UK for its decision to unilaterally extend grace periods for agrifoods and parcels traded into Northern Ireland.

Unwavering support

The traditional St Patrick’s Day meeting between the two leaders gave Biden the opportunity to confirm his “unwavering support” for the Good Friday Agreement, reports the Irish Post.

“We strongly support [the GFA], we think it’s critically important [it is] maintained and the political and economical stability of Northern Ireland is very much in the interest of all of our people,” he said.

Biden’s had earlier int he week urged both UK and EU leaders to “prioritise pragmatic solutions to safeguard and advance the hard-won peace in Northern Ireland”, the IOE&IT Daily Bulletin reported.  

Vaccine supply

The talks came as tensions increased again over vaccine availability in Europe.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said “all options are on the table” when it comes to ensuring EU countries receive supplies, the Telegraph reports.

The EU is struggling to get sufficient supplies to accelerate its own vaccination programme, while almost 40% of Britons have received a jab – compared to 12% in Europe.

Von der Leyen said the bloc “will reflect on whether exports to countries who have higher vaccination rates than us are still proportionate,” Reuters reports

It is thought that she was referring to both the US and UK.

Article 122

The EU could trigger the seldom-used Article 122, she has warned, which could result in European exports of vaccines to the UK being blocked.

According to the BBC, von der Leyen said that 41 million vaccine doses have been exported from the EU to 33 countries in six weeks. More than 10 million of them have gone to the UK.