Northern Ireland news

Contender to be US ambassador to Ireland fires warning shot to British over hard border

Joe Biden said his forthcoming administration did 'not want a guarded border'. Picture by AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

ONE of the main contenders to be the Biden administration's first ambassador to Ireland has reiterated the US President-elect's commitment to ensuring there is no hard border after Brexit.

Brian O'Dwyer, a second generation Irish-American who also has roots in Counties Mayo and Galway, said Donald Trump's defeat meant there was now a "new game in town" and an administration that was less supportive of Brexit's "self-destructive situation".

He again warned that the British government's hopes of securing a transatlantic trade deal would be scuppered if a hard border were imposed in the event of no trade deal between the UK and EU.

Speaking to The Irish News yesterday from New York, Mr O'Dwyer was also critical of the Internal Market Bill, which by Secretary of State Brandon Lewis's own admission will breach international law.

The former president of the Irish Chamber of Commerce USA, who was also a close ally of President Bill Clinton, said it was "foolish" and "wrong-headed" of the British government to persevere with the proposed legislation.

A board member of the Ireland West Airport Knock in Co Mayo, before Covid the 75-year-old was a regular visitor to Ireland, north and south.

Mr O'Dwyer said the president-elect has already made his feelings clear on preserving peace in Ireland.

Earlier this week, Mr Biden said his administration did "not want a guarded border".

Mr O'Dwyer described the Good Friday Agreement as "sacrosanct".

"Irish Americans are immensely proud of the role they played in bringing peace to Northern Ireland, so the agreement is not only intellectually something that needs to be preserved but for many of us it has an emotional component to it," he said.

Asked about the prospects of US-UK trade deal in the event of a hard border, he responded: "There would be none – it's as simple as that."

"President-elect Biden has made it abundantly clear that the sine qua non of a trade deal is that the Good Friday Agreement is preserved and honoured – there will be no trade deal if there's a border between north and south.

"And even if he were to agree to that, all of these trade deals have go to before the House's Ways and Means Committee, where Congressman Richard Neal and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi have already made it clear that they are strong supporters of Ireland and the peace process."

He conceded that a regulatory border between Britain and the north was "potentially a breach of the agreement" but said it was more important to ensure there was no hard land border.

"So I assume Britain understands there's a new game in town now – President Trump was a great believer in Brexit but President-elect Biden is not," he said.

When asked about being touted as a potential US ambassador to Ireland, Mr O Dwyer said: "There are 35 million Irish Americans in the United States and every one of them thinks they're the next Irish ambassador.

"It would be a great honour but it's up to the president."

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