President Joe Biden on Wednesday reassured British Prime Minister Liz Truss that the United Kingdom is America’s ‘closest ally’ as he prepared to pressure her to ensure the sanctity of the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland.
‘You’re our closest ally in the world and there’s a lot we can do, continue to do, together,’ Biden told her as the two leaders met in New York City on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.
The two spoke on the life and funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, the war in the Ukraine and the energy wooes in Britain.
But the main topic of tension between them is Northern Ireland. The White House made clear Biden would confront Truss on the issue in their first leader-to-leader sit down. Biden wants the agreement protected as the U.K. deals issues related to the post-Brexit trade fallout.
‘We both are committed to protecting the gains of the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland,’ the president said. ‘And I look forward to hearing what’s on your mind and how we can continue to cooperate.’
Truss noted: ‘I’m looking forward to discussing the Belfast Good Friday Agreement and how we make sure that’s upheld into the future.’
President Joe Biden reassured British Prime Minister Liz Truss that the United Kingdom is America’s ‘closest ally’ as he prepared to pressure her on N. Ireland
Biden and Truss met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly — their first formal sitdown as leaders
Biden, who is proud of his Irish heritage, strongly opposed Brexit and has expressed huge concern over the future of Northern Ireland, its trade and the deal signed in 1998 that set the peace protocols in stone and ended 30 years of sectarian violence.
On Tuesday, before their sitdown, the White House said Biden would make his views clear when he met with Truss.
‘The President will communicate his strong view that the Good Friday Agreement, which is the touchstone peace and stability in Northern Ireland, must be protected,’ National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said at the White House press briefing in response to a question from DailyMail.com.
Biden will encourage all parties to work together to ensure peace protocols and decades-old friction will not resurface.
Truss is pushing ahead with her controversial Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, that the European Union and other critics say will breach international law by suspending elements of the agreement.
Northern Ireland is likely to be the most tense part of Biden’s and Truss’ conversation, which will take place on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.
The meeting is already set to be tense after Truss clashed with Biden over economic policy and said a US-UK trade deal could take years.
Topics will also include the situation in the Ukraine — the UK has been one of America’s staunchest allies — trade, the economy and the energy crisis.
‘We must collectively take steps — the US, the UK, the parties in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland — to ensure that it is protected,’ Sullivan said of the Good Friday Agreement.
‘And in that regard, he will encourage the UK and the European Union to work out an effective outcome that ensures there is no threat to the fundamental principles of the Good Friday Agreement. And he’ll speak in some detail with her in depth in that conversation,’ he said.
‘The President will communicate his strong view that the Good Friday Agreement, which is the touchstone peace and stability in Northern Ireland, must be protected,’ National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told DailyMail.com
Truss, in route to New York, kicked off her first visit to America as prime minister with the announcement that a U.K-U.S. free trade deal is not going to happen for years.
Truss said such an agreement simply wasn’t a priority.
‘There (aren’t) currently any negotiations taking place with the U.S., and I don´t have an expectation that those are going to start in the short to medium term,’ she told reporters.
Sullivan said it’s not surprising as ‘free trade agreements take a long time to negotiate.’
He said Biden and Truss will discuss ‘the economic relationship between the US and the UK.’
Biden called Truss to congratulate her shortly after she was elected prime minister in early September.
Both leaders attended Queen Elizabeth’s funeral in London on Monday but it’s unclear if they talked at that event.
The two have met before.
She, in her role of foreign secretary, accompanied then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson on his visit to the White House last September. She and Biden also talked when he attended the COP26 conference in Scotland last October.
Administration officials are worried Truss could upend the post-Brexit trade agreements in Northern Ireland — a move that would then threaten the 1998 Good Friday peace deal thuat ended three decades of conflict.
Under the Northern Ireland Protocol, Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom, essentially stays in the European Union market, along with its neighbor the Republic of Ireland, an independent country.
To keep the land border between the two open, customs checks are done on goods being moved to and from the mainland UK.
U.K. leaders want to renegotiate this deal because, they claim, it erodes the standing of Northern Ireland within the U.K.
Truss is one of the agreements fiercest critics and has publicly committed to push legislation that would give ministers the power to unilaterally suspend parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol through Parliament.
Speaking to reporters on a flight to New York, Truss suggested Thursday’s meeting with Biden would focus on security.
‘The number one issue is global security and making sure that we are able to collectively deal Russian aggression and ensuring that Ukraine prevails and that Putin doesn’t have success in Ukraine,’ she said.
President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Liz Truss attended Queen Elizabeth’s funeral in London on Monday but it’s unclear if they talked at that event
Liz Truss, then foreign secretary, met with President Joe Biden and Camillla, Duchess of Cornwall at a COP26 reception at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow on November 1, 2021
The Good Friday Agreement: The deal that helped end 30 years of sectarian conflict
The Belfast Agreement is also known as the Good Friday Agreement, because it was reached on Good Friday, 10 April 1998. It helped end 30 years of sectarian conflict, that were also known as ‘The Troubles’.
This conflict began when Northern Ireland separated from the rest of in the 1920s and away from British rule.
It was an agreement between the British and Irish governments, and most of the political parties in Northern Ireland, on how Northern Ireland should be governed.
The political deal designed to bring an end to 30 years of violent conflict in Northern Ireland, known as the Troubles.
It was approved by public votes in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
It says: ‘Northern Ireland is part of the UK and this can change only through a referendum — if most people in Northern Ireland want it to
People born in Northern Ireland can have Irish or British nationality or both
As part of the agreement:
Armed groups agreed to dispose of their weapons
People who had been involved in violence were released from prison
The UK government agreed to aim for ‘normal security arrangements’ — including the scaling back of the British military presence
Truss formally replaced Johnson as prime minister earlier this month after meeting with the Queen at Balmoral and being formally asked by HM to form a government.
It was the last public appearance by the Queen before her death.
In her first remarks as PM, Truss vowed to deal with Britain’s energy crisis. Energy bills are due to soar next month as winter approaches and European nations are struggling to wean themselves off of Russian energy sources as a consequence of President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of the Ukraine.
‘I will deal with the energy crisis caused by Putin’s war,’ Truss told reporters on the steps of 10 Downing Street.
‘I will take action this week to deal with energy bills and to secure our future energy supply,’ she said.
The situation in the UK is threatening a cost-of-living crisis for millions. The United States is also dealing with inflation as a result of the war, mostly in higher food prices.
While the UK and US have been presenting a united front in response to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Truss has frustrated Biden officials at times.
Earlier this year, she said the UK and US must work together to create a Marshall Plan-style programme for Ukraine, echoing the one used to rebuild Europe after the Second World War.
But the speech ‘raised eyebrows’ among officials in the Biden administration, a US official told the Financial Times, because Washington has donated billions more in money and weaponry to Ukraine than the UK has.
Meanwhile, during a Conservative party conference last year, Truss said that the relationship between the US and UK was ‘special, but not exclusive’ while noting Britain has other allies such as Australia and India.
Adding to tensions, Truss insisted in October that a post-Brexit trade deal with the US is not the ‘be all and end all’ as she refused to commit to a pact being completed by 2030.
Truss said the UK has a ‘huge pipeline of deals’ ready for the coming months and told the US: ‘We are ready when you are ready.’
The White House has made clear a trade agreement with Britain is not an immediate priority for Biden, raising questions over the strength of the ‘Special Relationship’.
A trade deal with the US was billed by Brexiteers as one of the main prizes of leaving the EU. But talks have stalled after Biden became President.