Joe Biden has fired a Brexit warning to Boris Johnson as he stressed the importance of keeping the Irish border open.
He said ‘we’ve worked too long to get Ireland worked out’ following decades of conflict.
The President-elect’s intervention comes amid fears the UK government could overrule the Brexit withdrawal agreement and leave the transition period – due to end on December 31 – without a trade deal.
This could complicate the situation at the sensitive border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland – the UK’s only land border with the European Union.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Mr Biden said: ‘We do not want a guarded border. We want to make sure – we’ve worked too long to get Ireland worked out, and I talked with the British prime minister, I talked with the Taoiseach, I talked with others, I talked to the French.
‘The idea of having a border north and south once again being closed is just not right, we’ve just got to keep the border open.’
Mr Biden, who has extensive Irish roots, discussed Brexit with the Prime Minister earlier in November during one of his first phone calls to other world leaders, warning him that Brexit must not jeopardise the Northern Ireland peace process.
He previously touched upon the 1998 Good Friday agreement during his presidential campaign, tweeting in September: ‘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 President-elect has never met Mr Johnson and commentators have suggested the PM will have to work hard to foster the ‘special relationship’ between the historic allies.
Ireland’s prime minister said on Monday he hoped the outline of a Brexit free-trade deal would emerge by the end of this week, despite what the EU negotiator called ‘fundamental divergences’ at talks.
Problematic issues including fishing rights, the ‘level playing field’ aimed at preventing unfair competition in areas such as workers’ rights and state subsidies and the governance of any deal are yet to be resolved.
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