Northern Ireland news

Boris Johnson rules out US trade deal in the short-term as President Biden restates warning over Brexit's threat to the peace process

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (left) meets US President Joe Biden in the Oval Office. Picture by Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

BORIS Johnson believes a trade deal with the US cannot be ruled out in the long-term but has conceded that it is not President Biden's immediate focus.

Downing Street said yesterday that the British prime minister does not think the US will never broker a transatlantic trade deal "full stop" but that it was not Washington's current priority.

President Biden used the Tory leader's Stateside visit to issue a fresh warning to the UK not to let the fallout from Brexit damage the peace process.

He did not counter the assertion from his predecessor Barack Obama that Britain would be at the "back of the queue" for a post-Brexit free trade agreement.

Seated next to Mr Johnson in the Oval Office, the president told reporters: "We're going to talk a little bit about trade today and we're going to have to work that through."

He said he felt "very strongly" about issues surrounding the peace process, as problems with the protocol persisted.

"And I would not at all like to see - nor, I might add, would many of my Republican colleagues like to see - a change in the Irish accords, the end result having a closed border in Ireland," he said.

Mr Johnson subsequently admitted to a major downgrading of his ambitions for post-Brexit ties with the US.

After more than 90 minutes of talks with the president in the White House, the British prime minister conceded that he is currently looking to make only "incremental steps" to trading with the US.

"The Biden administration is not doing free trade deals around the world right now but I've got absolutely every confidence that a great deal is there to be done," the Tory leader told reporters on Capitol Hill.

"And there are plenty of people in that building behind me who certainly want a deal."

Downing Street said Mr Johnson updated the president on recent developments with the Northern Ireland Protocol during their meeting in the White House.

The White House said President Biden "reiterated his longstanding support for a secure and prosperous Northern Ireland in which all communities have a voice and enjoy the gains of the hard-won peace".

Meanwhile, speaking in New York, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said issues around the protocol could be resolved with the proper will.

"I think the focus has to switch now both with the UK government, the Irish government and the EU working in partnership to resolve this issue," he told RTÉ.

"I believe it can be done and I believe the European Union is up for a solution."

He described Brexit as the greatest threat to peace in Northern Ireland in recent years and described the protocol was a "special arrangement" that "offers real opportunities to Northern Ireland".

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