White House says Brexit deal will ‘open up new avenues’ amid speculation over US-UK trade deal

‘We believe that this will help improve the prosperity of both the EU and the UK, and will open up all kinds of now avenues for trade that were somewhat at risk’

Andrew Feinberg
Monday 27 February 2023 23:41 GMT
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The White House on Monday welcomed the announcement of an agreement between the UK and European Union to govern the flow of goods between Northern Ireland and Great Britain while avoiding breaching the Good Friday Agreement by reestablishing a hard land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said the Biden administration is “grateful that the two sides were able to come up with this Windsor framework ... in keeping with the Northern Ireland protocols” when asked about the deal at the White House daily press briefing.

“We believe that this will help improve the prosperity of both the EU and the UK, and will open up all kinds of now avenues for trade that were somewhat at risk,” he said.

Mr Kirby, however, demurred when pressed on whether the advent of the UK-EU agreement would improve the prospects of a post-Brexit bilateral trade deal between the UK and the United States, telling reporters that he was “not gonna get ahead of where we are right now”.

The new agreement, which was unveiled on Monday by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, will allow EU exports bound specifically for Northern Ireland — which under post-Brexit terms has remained part of the EU’s single market — to be handled separately from exports destined for the island of Great Britain. It eliminates the possibility of a hard border with customs checks being imposed between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which remains part of the EU.

The question of how to resolve Northern Ireland’s status without a land border has divided British conservatives, and called into question the future of the 25-year-old Good Friday Agreement that ended decades of sectarian violence between largely Catholic proponents of a unified Ireland and Protestant Unionists who wished to keep Northern Ireland as part of the UK.

The status of the agreement has been of significant concern to President Joe Biden, who is of Irish descent and has long maintained an interest in the viability of the Good Friday peace deal.

In a statement Mr Biden said: “I appreciate the efforts of the leaders and officials on all sides who worked tirelessly to find a way forward that protects Northern Ireland’s place within the UK’s internal market as well as the EU’s single market, to the benefit of all communities in Northern Ireland.

“I am confident the people and businesses of Northern Ireland will be able to take full advantage of the economic opportunities created by this stability and certainty, and the United States stands ready to support the region’s vast economic potential.”

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre also said the White House “welcomes” the UK-EU deal and added that the administration’s “long-stated” position has been that “we wanted to see the UK and the EU reach a negotiated agreement”.

“We commend ... officials for doing that, and we certainly welcome the announcement,” she said.

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