NI Protocol: US has 'unwavering' support of Good Friday Agreement

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Congressman Richard Neal is leading a congressional delegation to the UK and Ireland

US congressman Richard Neal has said the US will be "as unwavering as is necessary" in its support of the Good Friday Agreement.

It comes amid heightened tensions over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Mr Neal met with Liz Truss on Saturday and urged the UK to have "good faith" talks with the EU to find solutions to the protocol.

But the DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson warned the protocol will "destroy the Good Friday Agreement".

Responding to calls from the US to "fully implement" the protocol, Sir Jeffrey said "implementing the protocol means ending grace periods with an economic tsunami hitting Northern Ireland".

"Power sharing only works with cross-community consensus. There is no unionist support for the protocol," he added, in a tweet.

Congressional delegation

Mr Neal is leading a congressional delegation visiting the UK and Ireland.

On a visit to County Kerry in the Republic of Ireland on Sunday, Mr Neal described the United States as a "guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement".

"The Good Friday Agreement has worked, and it's worked quite well," he said.

"We don't want to see it disturbed."

Mr Neal said he believed any issues around the Northern Ireland Protocol can be negotiated.

"That was the clear message from Brussels, they're ready to negotiate," he said.

"A clear message that we offered to the UK: if they want to negotiate and you say you want to negotiate, there should be negotiation."

Their visit comes after Foreign Secretary Liz Truss announced on Tuesday that new legislation would be introduced to change the protocol.

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Image caption,
The foreign secretary met with the delegation led by Mr Neal on Saturday

The foreign secretary met the congressional delegation on Saturday, ahead of its trip to Ireland.

Ms Truss said the UK had a "cast-iron commitment" to the Good Friday Agreement.

Posting on Twitter on Sunday, Mr Neal thanked Ms Truss for a "frank discussion regarding our duty to protect peace and stability on the island of Ireland".

He "urged good faith negotiations with the EU to find durable solutions for post-Brexit trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland".

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

The delegation arrived in the Republic of Ireland on Sunday afternoon, visiting County Kerry.

The visit included a a trip to Great Blasket Island of the coast of the Dingle Peninsula in West Kerry, where Mr Neal traces his routes.

'Fundamental importance'

Earlier this week, US house speaker Nancy Pelosi urged both the UK and EU to continue talks to preserve "progress and stability" brought about by the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement.

"The Good Friday Accords are the bedrock of peace in Northern Ireland and a beacon of hope for the entire world," she said.

"It is deeply concerning that the United Kingdom now seeks to unilaterally discard the Northern Ireland Protocol, which preserves the important progress and stability forged by the Accords."

Ms Pelosi's comments were condemned by former Brexit minister Lord Frost who said the statement was "ignorant" of the realities in Northern Ireland.

Democratic Unionist Party Northern Ireland Assembly member Gordon Lyons said his party looked forward to meeting the bipartisan congressional delegation, but that representatives "must recognise" that the protocol had undermined the Good Friday Agreement, which he claimed representatives had "continually" misunderstood.

"It is high time the American administration recognised the fundamental importance of securing the support of both unionists and nationalists," he said.

"Without such support, devolution cannot function."