US visit ‘a waste of time if they don’t listen to unionist concerns’, says DUP leader

Rodney Edwards

A visit to Northern Ireland this week by a delegation from the US led by a key ally of US p resident Joe Biden will be a “waste of time” if they “cannot see” unionist concerns around the Northern Ireland Protocol, DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldso n has said.

The US delegation, which will include Congressman Richard Neal, will visit Belfast, Derry and Dublin, where it will meet politicians at Leinster House.

During its visit to Stormont, the group will attempt to apply pressure on the DUP who are refusing to re-establish the institutions over the post-Brexit agreement.

Mr Donaldson said yesterday he will warn Mr Neal that the Good Friday Agreement “will flounder” if problems with the protocol are not resolved.

“I will be telling them that if they want to protect the Good Friday Agreement and the political institutions created by it, they need to recognise that the protocol is fundamentally undermining and harming both.”

Without “such decisive action to resolve the problems created by the protocol, the Agreement will flounder” he said.

“If the American delegation can’t see that, then they are blind to reality — and their visit will be a waste of time,” he told the Sunday Independent.

Mr Neal has said part of his job is to convince the UK not to breach the Brexit treaty with the EU.

“My purpose is manifold, but we really want to reaffirm America’s unwavering commitment to the Good Friday Agreement and to remind everybody that, on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the Agreement, it has worked splendidly.

“I want to remind everybody in the UK and in Northern Ireland that it should not be treated as a cavalier achievement,” he said, in an interview with The Guardian.

The US delegation was in Brussels last Friday for a series of meetings, including with the European Commission’s vice-president and Brexit commissioner Maros Sefcovic.

Yesterday they visited London and met with UK foreign secretary Liz Truss, international trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan, and Labour leader Keir Starmer.

It follows a warning from US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that the US Congress will not support a free trade agreement with the UK if London persists with “deeply concerning” plans to “unilaterally discard” the protocol.

In a strongly-worded intervention last Thursday, Ms Pelosi urged the UK and the EU to keep negotiating on the post-Brexit trade arrangements to uphold peace in the region.

The congresswoman said in a statement: “The Good Friday Accords are the bedrock of peace in Northern Ireland and a beacon of hope for the entire world.

It comes as Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann warned that a “great deal of uncertainty” now hangs over the region by not having a functioning Assembly at Stormont.

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