The value of a meeting between Northern Ireland’s DUP and US Congressman Richard Neal and his delegation has been “diminished”, according to the party’s MLA for South Belfast.
Edwin Poots said this is because Mr Neal made so many statements about the Northern Ireland Protocol and that he is meeting key players in the Good Friday Agreement at the end of his trip.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Poots said: “He came to Ireland. He met Sinn Féin, has met all of the government ministers and, at the tail end of the trip, it comes to actually meet key players in the Good Friday Agreement.
So if they’re for real about the Northern Ireland Protocol, if they’re for real about the Good Friday Agreement; the place that they should have come in the first place was Belfast.
The former DUP leader said the Good Friday Agreement is being demolished as a result of the protocol and that he did not expect that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson would accept threats from US politicians “coming over here and issuing threats about what is very clearly a UK matter”.
He added that his party will meet Congressman Neal tomorrow and that he will attend that meeting if he is available.
Mr Neal, who is chair of the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee, yesterday told the Seanad that the “number one priority” for the United States on the island of Ireland is to ensure the hard-won peace in Northern Ireland is preserved and reinforced.
He added that Brexit poses “unprecedented challenges for the island of Ireland”, and warned that “we’re losing institutional memory in the UK”.
“Any incautious move to undo the protocol, would put at risk this durable agreement that we helped to create,” he said.
He later told RTÉ’s Six One News that the United States did want to agree a trade deal with the UK, but not at a cost to the Good Friday Agreement.
“The Good Friday Agreement belongs to America too,” he said.
“We were honest brokers along the way, accepting the notion that we could make space for the planter and the Gael to live together.”
He said a trade agreement with the UK would be “out there for everybody” but only if the Good Friday Agreement was not “disturbed”.
Meanwhile, Britain’s foreign minister Liz Truss said her government wants to remove the “customs bureaucracy” whilst at the same time protecting the EU Single Market.
Ms Truss made the comments while visiting a haulage company in Lisburn.
“I am in Northern Ireland to talk about our solution on customs, putting in place a red and green lane to make sure that we remove customs bureaucracy for those goods that are travelling from Great Britain into Northern Ireland, so we can restore the balance between the communities and restore the working of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement,” Ms Truss said.
“We have had months of negotiations with the EU and our preference remains a negotiated solution but what we cannot allow is for this situation to drift.
“We do have difficulties with companies, and I have met them before in Northern Ireland and am meeting more today, of being able to get goods into Northern Ireland, there is an issue with costs, there is an issue with communities not feeling respected in Northern Ireland.
“It’s very important that we deal with these practical issues, how we remove the customs bureaucracy whilst at the same time protecting the EU Single Market to resolve this situation.”