The White House has warned Britain’s new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, against unilaterally changing the Northern Ireland Protocol.
US President Joe Biden raised the protocol in his first phone call with Ms Truss and Washington has since made clear that the issue risks undermining trade talks between the two countries.
"There is no formal linkage on trade talks between the US and the UK and the Northern Ireland Protocol, as we have said,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told journalists.
“But efforts to undo the Northern Ireland Protocol would not create a conducive environment."
New team in charge
The Northern Ireland Protocol was mentioned twice at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, with Ms Truss telling SDLP leader Colum Eastwood that the only way to get the Assembly back up and running was to “fix the issues of the Northern Ireland protocol, which has damaged the balance between the communities in Northern Ireland. I am determined to get on with doing that”.
She also told a Conservative backbencher that, “My preference is for a negotiated solution, but it does have to deliver all the things that we set out in the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill. What we cannot allow is for this situation to drift, because my number one priority is protecting the supremacy of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.”
As Foreign Secretary, Ms Truss was charged with renegotiating aspects of the protocol with Brussels but talks quickly broke down and legislation was brought before the Commons to unilaterally amend it.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said he believes there is still a “pathway” to a deal between the two sides “if there is a will”.
Ms Truss has appointed Chris Heaton-Harris to the position of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and Steve Baker was made Minister of State in the department.
— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) September 6, 2022
Both were members of the hardline European Research Group of Tory MPs that voted down Theresa May’s Brexit deal because it left Britain too closely aligned with the European Union on many issues.
Mr Baker is known to have an interest in Northern Ireland affairs, having earlier this week urged the Foreign Office to handle protocol negotiations with “humility”, while insisting that there should be “a solution that can last.”
Main image: Liz Truss. Picture by: Ian Davidson/Alamy Live News