Senior US embassy diplomat in London, backed by US security adviser Jake Sullivan, has directly warned Britain’s Brexit negotiator, Lord Frost, that he will be set on fire in Northern Ireland if he does not compromise on border controls.
A meeting between US prosecutor Yael Lampert, currently the top US diplomat in London, and Frost led to a call from the US for Britain to reach a negotiated settlement with the EU, according to an internal British government memo.
However, U.S. officials questioned whether the United States had issued a formal demarche to Britain, a rare reprimand between two such close allies. The United States has said its role was to call for compromise from all sides.
Sullivan told a briefing about Air Force One before Joe Biden landed in the UK on Wednesday night: “Any move that hinders or undermines the Good Friday agreement will not be welcomed by the United States.”
He declined to say whether this was what he thought Boris Johnson was doing, adding: “The president did not issue threats or ultimatums … [he] has been crystal clear about its firm belief in the Good Friday Agreement as the basis for peaceful coexistence in Northern Ireland. The agreement must be protected. ”
A senior US government official said on the subject that “engagement was not reinforced or instructed” by Biden. “As with any ally, we have honest diplomatic talks. Jake Sullivan addressed these issues in his BBC interview, which addressed the same themes as we have sent messages privately. ”
Although the United Kingdom may insist that it seek an amicable agreement with the EU and its position does not challenge the agreement, the US tone suggests that the Biden administration is closely interested in the details of the talks, as it has a formal role in maintaining the Good Friday agreement. .
Biden’s devotion to Ireland, where his ancestors come from, and skepticism about Brexit’s wisdom have hardly been disguised, but he has always accepted Britain’s right to leave the EU. There were some indications in the British Government’s remark that the United States was prepared to dangle a free trade agreement as an incentive if Britain compromised on the legitimacy of border controls in Northern Ireland to protect the integrity of the internal market.
The US warnings came when direct negotiations between the EU and the UK on Northern Ireland emerged on the brink of collapse. London indicated that they were still considering unilateral action to keep unhindered supplies flowing from the UK to the region. The negotiations are designed to recast Northern Ireland’s protocol, which creates a trade border after Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom after Brexit.
EU Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič said patience was “wearing very, very thin” and described relations with Britain as “at a crossroads”.
Amid fears that the escalating crisis over Northern Ireland would develop into a trade war, Frost said there had been “no breakthrough” over Brexit control, but no “breakdown” either after a two-hour meeting with Šefčovič in London.
They agreed to continue trying to find a solution by June 30, when a ban on chilled meat including sausages and minced meat is to take effect.
Wednesday night, Johnson insisted there was no crisis. “I am very optimistic about this. I think it’s easy to do, “he said, referring to a topic that was at the heart of the full-blown Irish border negotiations two years ago: preventing a border on the island of Ireland while protecting trade in Britain after Brexit.