Coveney heads for US to meet Biden administration officials

Minister to discuss NI protocol after British signals of law to shelve parts of mechanism

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney is to visit Washington DC on Thursday for meetings with senior Biden administration figures.

During the talks Mr Coveney is is expected to push back against recent British interventions on the Northern Ireland protocol. US support is considered vital by Dublin in efforts to persuade the British government to abide by the terms of the protocol and the EU-UK agreement. Ministers and senior officials have lobbied hard in Washington on the issue.

Senior US politicians and officials have said repeatedly that they will not conclude or approve a UK-US trade agreement if the British government walks away from the protocol.

Last week, British reports suggested that the government planned to introduce fresh legislation in Westminster that would give ministers the power to scrap parts of the protocol. This development was greeted with fury in Brussels and alarm in Dublin.

On Wednesday former British Brexit minister David Frost criticised the Dublin Government. He said the Republic had "chosen to throw its weight behind EU interests and prioritise protecting [the] single market instead of working collaboratively with us to find solutions that can work in Northern Ireland."

Mr Frost’s remarks were met with disdain in Dublin. But there is concern that the British government (of which Mr Frost is no longer a member) is reopening wounds on the protocol in advance of the Northern Ireland elections next week.

A spokesman for Mr Coveney said: “The EU remains fully committed to working with the UK to find pragmatic solutions for genuine issues raised by people and businesses in Northern Ireland on the working of the deal the UK government negotiated in partnership with the EU, following the chaos caused by Brexit.”

Mr Coveney’s visit to Washington has been scheduled for some time, but he is expected to use the opportunity to rebut recent British interventions.

"This visit to Washington DC and Boston is an important opportunity to discuss shared approaches to confronting global challenges and to re-engage with our diaspora community and other friends of Ireland in the United States as we emerge from the pandemic," noted his office.

Biden administration

On Thursday morning, Mr Coveney will take part in a discussion at the German Marshall Fund, where he will provide the Irish perspective on the invasion of Ukraine and the transatlantic relationship, said officials.

He will also meet with senior members of the Biden administration, including national security adviser Jake Sullivan and US deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman, "to discuss areas of continued cooperation in addressing global challenges". Mr Coveney's programme "will also include high level political engagement on Capitol Hill", said the department, including with US senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee.

Mr Coveney travels to Boston on Friday for several engagements, including events at the John F Kennedy Presidential Library, Harvard University and Boston College. "He will also meet with Governor Charlie Baker and members of the Massachusetts State House. Among other topics, he will discuss developments in Northern Ireland, Ukraine and EU-US relations," said officials.

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