US politicians warn British overriding protocol would threaten Belfast accord

US on verge of sending envoy to Northern Ireland, letter to UK foreign secretary suggests

Any unilateral move by the British government to override parts of the Northern Ireland protocol would " squarely threaten the Good Friday agreement", leading US politicians have maintained.

In a strongly worded letter on Tuesday night to British foreign secretary Liz Truss they also suggested that the Biden administration in the US was on the verge of appointing a special envoy to Northern Ireland.

In the joint letter congressman Bill Keating, chairman of the foreign affairs subcommittee on Europe, and congressman Brendan Boyle, co-chair of the congressional EU Caucus in the House of Representatives said the majority of those elected in Northern Ireland supported working within the parameters of the Northern Ireland protocol.

The congressmen said the “worst outcome of Brexit would be one that lead to violence and upheaval in Northern Ireland”.


They urged Ms Truss and the British government to “uphold your end of the deal and act in good faith, within the parameters of international law, to maintain peace and stability in Northern Ireland”.

They said they were "alarmed by recent reports and indications that your government may end negotiations with the European Union related to the Northern Ireland protocol and introduce domestic legislation that would unilaterally remove the need for checks on goods being sent from Britain for the use in Northern Ireland, remove jurisdiction from the European Court of Justice for matters in the region, and remove requirements for businesses in Northern Ireland to follow EU regulations".

“This decision would be in direct violation of international law and squarely threaten the Good Friday agreement.”

The two congressmen told Ms Truss in the letter: “While we do commend your government’s encouragement for all political parties in Northern Ireland to enter the devolved government, we believe that entertaining invoking Article 16 of the protocol threatens peace in Northern Ireland, undermines the Good Friday agreement, and is direct confrontation with the wishes of the majority of elected officials in the Northern Ireland assembly.”

They suggested that briefings in London indicating that the British government may move unilaterally to override parts of the protocol came on the day that UK Northern Ireland minister Conor Burns was on Capitol Hill meeting with US politicians.

“While we respect your government’s concerns, we are steadfast in our support for a positive outcome to your negotiations with the EU, one which respects international law and one that works within the parameters of existing mechanisms. To that end, we will continue to encourage all parties to act as honest brokers in these negotiations.”

Congressmen Keating and Boyle said they strongly believed the United States "must play an active role in supporting peace and stability on the island of Ireland in line with our historical role as a good faith arbiter".

“A major step in that process is the appointment of a US special envoy to Northern Ireland and together, last year, we sent a letter to president Biden requesting that he make this appointment.”

“Assuredly, last week in a House foreign affairs committee hearing, secretary Blinken confirmed this appointment saying directly, ‘in short, I anticipate that we’ll be moving forward soon on naming an envoy’.”

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent