President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by meeting with Ireland’s prime minister and reiterating US support for the contentious Good Friday Agreement.
The commander-in-chief and the vice president will hold separate meetings with Irish Taoiseach Micheál Martin on Wednesday, as Harris is on the West Coast promoting the administration’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill.
During those meetings, senior administration officials told reporters Tuesday evening, Biden and Harris will both express their firm commitment to maintaining the hard-won peace agreement.
The Good Friday Agreement was approved in 1998, ending decades of bloodshed between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The two nations share a border, though Northern Ireland is a part of the UK while Ireland is part of the EU.
Brexit negotiators struggled for years to make a deal that did not violate the accord or create a situation where a hard border or no border would be placed between the two countries.
Critics of Brexit proposals during negotiations had cautioned that any deals that altered the agreement could put peace between the two at risk.
Post-Brexit, the Republic of Ireland was left to enforce EU customs rules. Northern Ireland, meanwhile, was not.
The move effectively established a guarded border between the two, which has created trade impediments between Northern Ireland and the UK.
The EU has taken legal action against the United Kingdom as a result of the disruptions, accusing it of violating international law with its trade policy.
“President Biden has been unequivocal in his support for the Good Friday Agreement, which was a historic achievement,” one National Security Council senior staffer said. “And as he said on the campaign trail last year, we need to ensure that it does not become a casualty of Brexit.”
Asked by a reporter whether the US planned to take sides in the legal dispute, one senior administration official said no.
“The US administration is not looking to take sides in this disagreement. The Northern Ireland Protocol is something that was legally binding and that was agreed to by both sides. And there was support for it here as a way to manage the practical challenges around the EU single market while preventing a return of a hard border.
“As I said, we’re aware that there have been challenges over its implementation. We see that as something that the UK and the EU need to resolve.”
Asked about the matter as during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Wednesday, Martin said he planned to promote a legal initiative he launched to address these problems.
“We need to build reconciliation, true reconciliation between traditions and people,” he said. “To work on that, to develop on a significant number of North-South projects and to build that understanding, build on the genius of the Good Friday Agreement.”
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“And Brexit has changed the dynamics somewhat, but it’s incumbent on all of us to work to ensure that we can develop that reconciliation and understanding I spoke about earlier, and also making sure that there’s a constructive relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union going into the future.”