The Minister for Foreign Affairs said a Joe Biden presidency may make
some difference to Brexit negotiations, adding that the US
president-elect is a “real friend to Ireland” and supporter of the Good
Simon Coveney said the US and UK are close allies but the fact that
Mr Biden will be the next US president may give Downing Street “pause
for thought” to ensure Irish issues are prioritised as efforts are made
to close out this phase of Brexit negotiations.
It comes as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to proceed
with his controversial Brexit bill despite US president-elect Joe Biden
having previously warned the UK over the draft legislation.
Mr Biden, who has Irish heritage,
warned last September 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.
After congratulating Mr Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris
on their victory, Mr Johnson told broadcasters he intended to push ahead
with the Internal Market Bill, with peers due to vote on it this week.
The bill would override clauses in the Withdrawal Agreement relating
to Northern Ireland and the British government has admitted it breaks
Simon Coveney told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that if international
treaties “are going to be broken by the UK” in the context of its
Internal Market Bill, that would make agreement in lots of other areas
“a lot more difficult” between the EU and the UK.
He said this is arguably “the most important week we have had in the
Brexit trade negotiations since this time last year” when efforts were
being made to close a withdrawal agreement.
Mr Coveney said “we are really in the endgame now” and big efforts will be made this week to “close this out in a way that both sides can live with”.
Big issues remain, which include trying to find agreement on what the EU calls a level playing field and fishing.
Mr Coveney said “we all want to see the back” of tense stand-offs
linked to Brexit in the coming months and years. “We want to see
Ireland, the EU and the UK working together in partnership in many areas
and with the new incoming administration.”
He agreed with the former EU ambassador to the US, David O’Sullivan, that a new transatlantic deal between Europe and US is needed and said it is something he has argued for.
It makes absolute sense, in his view, he said, that the EU and the US
would be talking to each other seriously about creating a trade
partnership and that the UK should also be involved in that discussion.
The minister added that a Biden presidency creates new opportunities
like that, which will result in less division in terms of international
politics and hopefully more partnership from like-minded countries.
Former British deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said the UK could “struggle for relevance” under a Biden presidency.
Speaking to BBC’s Westminster Hour, he warned Boris Johnson about the
way Brexit would be viewed through an Irish lens in future in the Oval
“Joe Biden is immensely proud of his Irish roots – he did it publicly
in his speech (after being announced president-elect), he does it
privately as well, quotes Seamus Heaney at the drop of a hat,” he said.
Meanwhile, British Environment Secretary George Eustice
today insisted the Internal Market Bill was “not about undermining the
peace deal in Ireland”.
He told Sky there was “goodwill on both sides” to progress towards a Brexit trade deal.
Boris Johnson, asked whether he was determined to pass Internal
Market Bill in the face of Joe Biden’s criticisms, said yesterday: “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
“And again, that’s one of the things that we’re united on with our friends in the White House.”
Last week, the UK breached the deadline for responding to legal action by the European Commission over the Internal Market Bill.
A “reasoned opinion” is the next stage in the infringement procedure taken by the EU.
Brexit talks have resumed
Britain and the European Union resumed crucial negotiations in London
today over a post-Brexit free trade deal, with time running short and
both sides saying major obstacles remain.
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier arrived in the English capital
late last night before another week of talks with his UK counterpart
David Frost, as they scramble to find an agreement within weeks.
Britain formally left the EU in January but remains bound by most of its rules and regulations until the end of the year under the terms of its divorce.
Parliaments on both sides of the Channel need time to ratify any deal
struck, leaving scant time for London and Brussels to find a compromise
on key outstanding issues.
These include agreeing rules for competition between British and European companies and fishing rights and access.
The question of who is US president has no bearing on the Brexit
trade talks, a spokesman for the European Commission said on today.