The two leaders were forced to insist they were in ‘complete harmony’ over Northern Ireland last night – despite explosive claims of an extraordinary eve-of-summit diplomatic row.
After their first face-to-face talks, Boris Johnson said he and Joe Biden shared ‘common ground’ over maintaining Ulster peace and the Good Friday Agreement.
It came amid the ‘sausage war’ with the EU over Brussels’ threats to retaliate if Britain takes unilateral action to continue the flow of British-produced chilled meats to Northern Ireland when a grace period ends this month.
Boris Johnson said he and Joe Biden shared ‘common ground’ over maintaining Ulster peace and the Good Friday Agreement
Last night French president Emmanuel Macron said it was ‘not serious’ to want to review the post-Brexit trade rules this month, because ‘nothing is renegotiable’.
‘I think it’s not serious to want to review in June what we finalised after years of debate and work in December,’ he said.
Mr Macron added that he will discuss the Brexit agreement with Mr Johnson during a bilateral meeting at the summit.
Claims of a row over the Northern Ireland Protocol and the post-Brexit trading relationship between the UK and the EU had threatened to overshadow the G7.
Asked yesterday if the President had made his alarm about the situation with the Northern Ireland Protocol clear, Mr Johnson said simply: ‘No, he didn’t.’
He added: ‘What I can say is that America – the United States, Washington – the UK, plus the European Union, have one thing we absolutely all want to do and that is to uphold the Belfast Good Friday Agreement and make sure we keep the balance of the peace process going. That’s absolutely common ground and I’m optimistic that we can do that.’
Meanwhile, a senior US administration official also tried to play down the row yesterday, insisting that the President had not come ‘to give a lecture’ on the issue.
Claims of a row over the Northern Ireland Protocol and the post-Brexit trading relationship between the UK and the EU had threatened to overshadow the G7. Asked yesterday if the President had made his alarm about the situation with the Northern Ireland Protocol clear, Mr Johnson said simply: ‘No, he didn’t’
‘The US is not in those negotiations and not seeking to be in those negotiations,’ the official said.
‘We are instead a strong and vigorous supporter of practical, creative, flexible, results-oriented negotiations that, at the end of the day, produce a result that protects all of the gains that the people of Northern Ireland have made.
‘It will not be confrontational or adversarial or… he didn’t come here to give a lecture. He came merely to communicate what he believes very, very deeply about peace in Northern Ireland.’
It was alleged yesterday that Mr Biden had ordered officials to issue a rare diplomatic rebuke to the UK only last week over its continued opposition to the full implementation of the Protocol.
It was reported that Yael Lempert, America’s most senior diplomat in Britain, had told Lord Frost, the Brexit minister, that the Government was ‘inflaming’ tensions with its opposition to checks at Northern Irish ports.
Minutes of the meeting on June 3 were said to have revealed that Lord Frost was told of Mr Biden’s ‘great concern’ over his stance.
It was said to have resulted in a ‘demarche’ – a formal diplomatic communication or protest.
The disclosure of Mr Biden’s apparent protest sparked anger in some quarters yesterday, with new DUP leader Edwin Poots saying that the President’s alleged intervention was ‘not well informed’.
He accused America of potentially ‘ignoring’ problems with the Protocol. Mr Poots warned BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘America may be prepared to drive a coach and horses through the Good Friday Agreement.’
A Whitehall source played down the significance of the demarche, saying it was ‘not uncommon’ for allies to voice their disagreements in diplomatic notes.
There was irritation at the leaking of the note, with some suspecting it was done by anti-Brexit officials to damage the Government.
Brexiteer MP Peter Bone said: ‘If he is just urging a resolution of the dispute, that’s fine – we want a resolution. But he should not be taking the EU’s side.’
Pro-Remain Tory MP Tom Tugendhat said: ‘I’m surprised that the President decided to enter this debate so publicly at a very sensitive time for all parties.’
But Irish premier Micheal Martin said Mr Biden’s rebuke was a call to do the ‘sensible thing’ and resolve trade issues with the EU.
Pair discuss Harry Dunn
The Prime Minister raised the case of teenage motorcyclist Harry Dunn in his first face-to-face meeting with Joe Biden.
Boris Johnson reiterated that the UK wants justice for Harry, 19, who was killed when a car on the wrong side of the road crashed into his motorbike outside RAF Croughton, a US intelligence base in Northamptonshire, in August 2019.
Anne Sacoolas, the wife of a US intelligence official at the base, was charged with causing death by dangerous driving but had sought diplomatic immunity and returned to the US, sparking an international controversy. The Dunn family said they were ‘very pleased’ to see the case raised at the ‘first available opportunity’.
They have challenged Mrs Sacoolas’s immunity, which will be heard in the Court of Appeal next year. Mr Dunn’s parents have also brought a civil claim against the suspect and her husband in Virginia in the US.