Liz Truss has been urged to “grasp the nettle” and assert Britain’s sovereignty in talks with Joe Biden and Ursula von der Leyen centred on resolving the wrangle over the Northern Ireland Protocol. Prime Minister Ms Truss met both US President Mr Biden and European Commission President Ms von der Leyen in New York today, where all are attending the 77th United Nations General Assembly.
A joint statement issued on behalf of Ms Truss and Ms von der Leyen after their discussions confirmed they had talked about the protocol, the controversial mechanism for preventing a hard border on the island of Ireland which critics claim has instead imposed a border down the Irish Sea, and which Ms Truss has said she wants to “fix”.
She later staged a joint press conference with Mr Biden, with the latter saying he was looking forward to hearing about possible solutions.
However, former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib, who has called on Ms Truss to trigger Article 16 and hence suspend the Protocol, was not optimistic.
He told Express.co.uk: “Unionists across the UK eagerly waited Prime Minister Truss’s first engagement with von der Leyen.
“We wanted to hear her repeat to the President of the Commission her declaration to bring Northern Ireland back into the United Kingdom.”
However, he added: “In the end the meeting ended with the Protocol only receiving incidental mention. That is a shame.
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“The problem will only get worse, not better. And this time round, unionists will not settle for a fudge.”
Addressing wider issues, he said: “Yes, the cost-of-living crisis is hugely pressing but so is the integrity of our country.
“The Prime Minister should not allow herself to be cowed by Biden, von der Leyen or Maros Sefcovic.
“She must tell them where to go when it comes to our country. We need decisive bold unilateral British action.”
The statement said Ms Truss and Ms von der Leyen “strongly condemned Russia’s actions in Ukraine and agreed that Vladimir Putin’s recent calls to mobilise parts of the population were a sign that Russia’s invasion is failing”.
The statement continued: “They recognised the courage and bravery of the Ukrainian people and underscored their joint commitment to sustaining support for Ukraine in its struggle as long as it takes.
“They also discussed UK-EU relations including energy, food security and the Northern Ireland Protocol.”
Mr Biden told Liz Truss he looks forward to hearing what she has to say about the Northern Ireland peace process post-Brexit.
In opening remarks at the start of their UN meeting, the US president said: “We are both committed to protecting the Good Friday Agreement of Northern Ireland, and I’m looking forward to hearing what’s on your mind.”
Liz Truss replied that she would discuss how she will uphold the Good Friday Agreement as she seeks to address concerns over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The Prime Minister told the US president: “Of course I’m looking forward to discussing the Belfast Good Friday Agreement and how we make sure that’s upheld into the future.”
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