Joe Biden watching Boris Johnson carefully and ‘may seek to intervene’ on Brexit changes

Northern Ireland 'feel sense of betrayal' says Reverend

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The protocol was agreed by the EU and UK during the Brexit negotiations last year in a bid to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland. It was designed to keep trade flowing smoothly on the island and to avoid a hard border and checkpoints.

However earlier this year a row over coronavirus vaccine supplies prompted the EU to use the “nuclear” option of invoking Article 16.

Article 16 is part of the Protocol which governs the island’s trading arrangements with the EU and Britain.

Brussels quickly reversed its decision after criticism from both the UK and Ireland.

Now, Allister Heath, editor of the Sunday Telegraph, has claimed US President Mr Biden “may intervene” if the protocol breaks down.

In his latest column, Mr Heath said: “The EU itself threatened to trigger Article 16 during its row with AstraZeneca.

“But the Biden administration may seek to intervene if the protocol breaks down, and the repercussions would need to be very carefully controlled.

“Longer term, Stormont will vote on the continuation of the protocol in 2024: what will the British Government’s view on it be by then?

“What will any detailed, realistic alternative look like?”

Mr Heath went on to warn how tensions are “bound to rise”.

He continued: “More generally, the UK will now seek to defend its interests openly across the board and be more explicit about diverging from EU rules.

“The sad but inevitable reality is that tensions are bound to rise as we fight back; it will, at times, be fraught.”

Article 16 is intended to be used when the protocol is unexpectedly leading to serious “economic, societal or environmental difficulties”.

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However, tensions over the Northern Ireland Protocol escalated back in February and “troubling” threats to trade staff forced post-Brexit food checks to be suspended.

Edwin Poots, the Northern Ireland Minister for Agriculture, said he had decided to withdraw staff from the port of Belfast as well as Larne after “sinister and menacing” graffiti sparked concerned over staff safety and welfare.

The graffiti objected to the perceived “Irish Sea border” imposed as a result of terms of the Brexit trade deal with the EU.

Ulster loyalists, who oppose any divergence between Northern Ireland the rest of the UK, were believed to be behind the messages.

Unionist parties in the North called for the Protocol to be scrapped and for Article 16 to be invoked to address problems over the supply of food and other goods.

The EU was widely criticised for invoking Article 16 back in January, a move that was quickly U-turned.

At the time, European Commission Chief Ursula von der Leyen said it was an “oversight”.

She tweeted: “We agreed on the principle that there should not be restrictions on the export of vaccines by companies where they are fulfilling contractual responsibilities.”

Since the 2016 referendum, Mr Biden has been a vocal critic of Brexit.

Ahead of his presidential win last year, Mr Biden warned Ireland must “not become a casualty” of Brexit, intervening to try and dissuade Mr Johnson from following through with the Internal Market Bill.

Mr Biden, who has Irish ancestry, warned: “We can’t allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit.

“Any trade deal between the US and UK must be contingent upon respect for the Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period.”

The Good Friday Agreement ended three decades of violence in Northern Ireland.

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