Trump’s Northern Ireland envoy warns Boris Johnson not to create a hard border ‘by accident’

  • Mick Mulvaney became the first figure in the Trump administration to express concern over Boris Johnson’s contentious plan for Northern Ireland.
  • Trump’s envoy to the province — formerly his acting chief of staff — urged the UK not to reinstate a hard border “by accident.”
  • Johnson’s plan to break international law by disapplying parts of the UK’s Brexit deal with the EU infuriated Brussels and has prompted concern in Washington.
  • Joe Biden created shockwaves in the UK when he criticized the UK plan on Wednesday.
  • Nancy Pelosi and other lawmakers have warned that there will be no US-UK free trade deal if Johnson’s government does not uphold the Northern Ireland protocol agreed with the EU.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The Trump administration’s envoy to Northern Ireland has urged UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson not to let his controversial plans for the province result in a contentious hard border with the Republic of Ireland “by accident.”

Johnson’s plan to disapply parts of the Northern Ireland protocol agreed with the European Union caused upset in the bloc, has prompted concern among senior members of the US Congress.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal, and Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Eliot Engel all warned the UK prime minister that any post-Brexit free trade deal with the US is contingent on his upholding the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement with the EU, which contains the Northern Ireland protocol.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Wednesday became the most senior US political figure to comment, tweeting that Northern Ireland and the Good Friday peace agreement between the UK and Republic of Ireland must not “become a casualty of Brexit.”

In an interview with The Financial Times, Mick Mulvaney, the former White House acting chief of staff and current US envoy to Northern Ireland, expressed concern that Johnson might inadvertently bring about the return of a hard border.

“Everyone assures me that no one is interested in seeing a hard border between the republic and Northern Ireland,” Mulvaney said.

“We appreciate that, we respect that and we agree with that. The one thing I keep trying to assure is on the front of everybody’s mind is avoiding a border by accident.”

“The Trump administration, State department and the US Congress would all be aligned in the desire to see the Good Friday Agreement preserved to see the lack of a border maintained.”

Mulvaney’s intervention is significant as he is the first figure in the Trump administration to express concern over Johnson’s plan to unilaterally determine elements of Northern Ireland’s trade with Great Britain from next year.

Details of how trade will flow across the Irish Sea after the Brexit transition period are currently being negotiated by UK and EU officials.

However, Johnson’s government is using legislation to give itself the power to decide unilaterally what checks on trade will take place. The UK government has admitted that using those powers would break international law.

Washington has a strong interest in how Brexit will affect Northern Ireland. The US played a key role in brokering peace in the province. There is fear in the US, EU, and in Westminster that a failure to uphold the Northern Ireland protocol, designed to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, would lead to the return of physical border infrastructure between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Biden’s intervention created shockwaves in the UK and outraged pro-Brexit members of Parliament in Johnson’s Conservative party.

Iain Duncan Smith, a former Conservative leader, told Biden to stop lecturing the UK. “If I were him I would worry more about the need for a peace deal in the USA to stop the killing and rioting before lecturing other sovereign nations,” he told The Times of London.

MP Scott Benton on Thursday tweeted: “Joe Biden is no friend of Britain. His Irish republican sympathies and ignorant comments on Brexit and the peace process are another reminder of why he’d be an awful President and undermine our special relationship with the US.”

Responding to Biden on Thursday, a spokesperson for Johnson insisted that the prime minister was committed to avoiding a hard border. “We will continue to engage with our US partners on a bipartisan basis to ensure our positions are understood,” they said.

However, the prime minister’s intention to break international law riled dozens of Conservative MPs, leading him to agree to a compromise in which he must secure parliamentary approval before enacting his plan for Northern Ireland.

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