LONDON (Reuters) – Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said on Thursday that U.S. President-elect Joe Biden wanted Britain to reach a Brexit trade deal with the European Union, so Prime Minister Boris Johnson should knuckle down to securing one.
Biden’s win in the U.S. presidential election has changed the international context of Brexit: U.S. President Donald Trump backed Britain’s decision to leave the EU, while Biden served as vice president under Barack Obama, who advised against it.
Biden, who is proud of his Irish heritage, has repeatedly said the U.S.-brokered 1998 “Good Friday” peace deal for Northern Ireland must not be undermined. That has been seen as a warning against a bill proposed by Johnson that would negate parts of Britain’s EU divorce agreement governing the UK-Ireland border.
Biden repeated his support for the Good Friday agreement in a phone call with Johnson on Tuesday, and has previously said that if Britain undermines the pact, it will not be able to obtain a trade deal with the United States.
“He is very committed to the Good Friday Agreement,” Martin said. “Particularly in relation to Brexit, he would favour, obviously, a deal between the European Union and Britain.
“And I think that’s where, if I could respectfully say it, that’s where the British government should head, in that direction, in my view. It should knuckle down and … get a deal with the European Union,” Martin told BBC radio.
A spokesman for Johnson said Britain had continually worked “hard to get a deal with the EU, but it does have to be one that respects the UK’s sovereignty”.
The United Kingdom left the EU in January but the two sides are now trying to clinch a deal that would govern trade once a status quo transition period ends on Dec. 31. Many businesses say an exit without a deal would cause chaos.
But the clock is ticking. The latest deadline of Nov. 15, intended to give time for a deal to be ratified by Dec. 31, is already set to be missed.
Martin said Johnson’s Internal Market Bill, which London has acknowledged could violate international law, had raised concerns about how far the EU could trust him.
Johnson’s Brexit supremo, Michael Gove, told parliament that chief negotiators David Frost and Michel Barnier were seeking to close the remaining gaps.
“The UK has already shown a great degree of flexibility in these negotiations, but it’s important also that the European Union shows flexibility too,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Kate Holton and Kevin Liffey)