Northern Ireland news

Gordon Lyons: Yet again we are dealing with more American politicians who are very much one-sided

Richard Neal met Liz Truss ahead of his visit to the north 
Paul Ainsworth

A US congressional delegation is to visit the north this week to encourage the UK and European Union to find "durable solutions" to the Northern Ireland Protocol impasse.

The team, led by Democratic Massachusetts Congressman and chair of the Congressional Friends of Ireland caucus, Richard Neal, arrived in Co Kerry yesterday after visiting Britain where they met with UK foreign secretary Liz Truss.

DUP Economy Minister Gordon Lyons said his party would be stressing the difficulties the Northern Ireland Protocol is causing during meetings.

Mr Lyons accused Congressman Neal of having a “one-sided” view of Northern Ireland.

He said: “He very clearly takes a different view than unionists would on many things.

“He has worked closely together with Friends Of Sinn Féin in America, attending their events.

“He has planted trees in memory of hunger strikers and spoken glowingly about them. He commended president (Michael D) Higgins for not attending a service to commemorate the centenary of Northern Ireland.

“He has said he is hopeful there will be a united Ireland in his lifetime.

“So, yet again we are dealing with more American politicians who are very much one-sided.

“That adds to the challenge, but we are up for that, and letting them know about the issues that the protocol is causing.”

Yesterday, the delegation and Ms Truss had a "frank discussion" about the north, which came just days after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned that the UK acting unilaterally on the protocol issue would place chances of a free trade agreement between Britain and the States at risk.

Ms Truss has confirmed she plans to introduce legislation to scrap parts of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement containing the protocol; a move that has prompted the EU to warn against it and raised fears of a trade war.

In a tweet following the meeting with Ms Truss, Mr Neal said both sides had a "frank discussion regarding our duty to protect peace and stability on the island of Ireland".

He added: "I urge good faith negotiations with the EU to find durable solutions for post-Brexit trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland."

The foreign secretary said in a tweet she had discussed "our cast-iron commitment" to the Good Friday Agreement along with "the importance of free trade" in the meeting.

Congressman Neal will address the Seanad Éireann in Dublin tomorrow before heading north.

Seanad Cathaoirleach, Senator Mark Daly, said ahead of the visit: "Chairman Neal's involvement in ensuring the Good Friday Agreement is protected has been extraordinary, it has been vital. There is no greater friend Ireland could have hoped for at this time."

Meanwhile, the former chair of Westminster's Brexit Select Committee has urged the UK and EU to find the "political will" to resolve the protocol issue.

Labour MP Hilary Benn also told the BBC's Sunday Politics show yesterday that if the US believes the Belfast Agreement of the protocol will be undermined by the actions of Boris Johnson's government, then "the UK will be waiting a very long time for a trade agreement with the US".

Referring to the EU, the Leeds Central MP said: "The last thing we want is a trade war with our biggest and nearest trading partner."

He continued: "The protocol is indeed very complicated, but the objective is very very clear - checks are required to make sure that goods that go into the Republic meet the standards of the Single Market, and the agreement is that goods that are going to remain in Northern Ireland, well the protocol recognises there is a difference between the two.

"It's for those who are doing the detailed negotiations to work out how to do it."

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