President Joe Biden has warned the prime minister that peace in Northern Ireland must not be jeopardised by tensions over post-Brexit trade rules at a meeting in the White House.
Speaking in the Oval Office at the start of a face-to-face meeting, Biden stressed the importance of maintaining the careful balance that was achieved by the Good Friday/Belfast agreement.
“I feel very strongly,” he said, when asked about the Northern Ireland protocol. “We spent an enormous amount of time and effort in the United States. It was a major partisan effort, and I would not like to see – nor would many of my Republican colleagues – a change in the Irish accord.”
Johnson is expected to spell out the UK’s concerns about the operation of the Northern Ireland protocol – the agreement aimed at preventing a hard trade border on the island of Ireland – in a series of meetings on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
He will meet Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell and Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, as well as the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.
The UK has repeatedly delayed the implementation of some of the checks on goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and warned that the protocol is proving disruptive to trade flows.
Responding to Biden, Johnson said: “We are completely at one, because nobody wants to see anything that interrupts or unbalances the Belfast or Good Friday agreement.”
Johnson irked the Dutch government earlier this week by claiming that prime minister Marc Rutte had offered to mediate in the dispute between the EU and the UK over the implementation of the complex rules.
The prime minister is expected to set out the UK’s concerns about the way the protocol is being implemented as he meets key figures on Capitol Hill on Wednesday as part of a Washington charm offensive.
Speaking to journalists before retiring for private talks with Biden, Johnson highlighted the close links between the US and the UK, including through the new Aukus defence and security deal.
He welcomed Biden’s earlier announcement that the US will double climate financing to $11.2bn, in the run-up to the Cop26 summit in Glasgow in November, which Biden said he was keen to attend.
Biden highlighted the fact that Johnson had travelled to Washington from New York by train, and told an extended anecdote about his own extensive use of the Amtrak train service as a senator and then vice-president, claiming to have clocked up 2m miles.