White House warns that 'undoing' NI Protocol would not be 'conducive' to a US-UK trade deal

Thu 8 Sept 2022
Posted by: Phillip Adnett
Trade News

White House

Any move to unilaterally amend the Northern Ireland Protocol could harm US-UK trade talks, according to a senior White House spokesperson.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre warned yesterday (7 September) that any attempt to “undo” the protocol would have an effect on relations between the two countries, according to Reuters.

Jean-Pierre stated that while “there is no formal linkage on trade talks between the US and the UK and the NI Protocol, as we have said, efforts to undo the NI Protocol would not create a conducive environment”.

US relationship

The Guardian notes that the spokesperson was not asked specifically about Northern Ireland but brought it up anyway.

The protocol, part of the UK’s withdrawal agreement with the EU, is a set of unique customs and immigration arrangements for trade between Great Britain and NI designed to avoid the need for a hard border between NI and the Republic of Ireland.

The BBC notes that US President Joe Biden had indicated previously that he felt "very strongly" about the protocol and has repeatedly called on the UK to avoid any action that could potentially create a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Biden used his first conversation with new prime minister Liz Truss on Tuesday (6 September) to caution that triggering Article 16 would affect UK-US relations, as reported by the IOE&IT Daily Update.

‘Negotiated’ settlement

“My preference is for a negotiated solution, but it does have to deliver all the things we set out in the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill,” the PM told the House of Commons on Wednesday.

As foreign secretary, Truss introduced the bill into parliament that would allow the government to alter aspects of the agreement.

According to The Telegraph, Truss has appointed two staunch Brexiters to lead on her plans regarding the protocol.

The negotiators

New NI secretary Chris Heaton-Harris and new minister at the NI office Steve Baker are both former chairmen of the euro-sceptic European Research Group.

The Guardian also reports that two of the architects of the Good Friday Agreement – former PM Tony Blair and former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern – are involved in behind-the-scenes talks to try to bring the UK and the EU back to the negotiating table.

Former NI minister Conor Burns revealed their role in the Commons yesterday, as he gave thanks to both Blair and Ahern for their assistance in negotiations over the summer.

State level deals

The UK has yet to sign a trade deal with the US post-Brexit, instead choosing to focus on state level deals.

Previous Trade minister Penny Mordaunt said that these efforts with individual US states could pave the way for nationwide talks with the White House.

The first such deal was signed with Indiana in May, with a second agreement signed with North Carolina in July.