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Ireland in discussions with Biden administration over UK Article 16 plans

The Irish Government held high level discussions this week with the Biden administration over UK plans to trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol, Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said.

UK Brexit Minister Lord David Frost appeared to row back on a threat to trigger the clause in the Brexit deal on Wednesday, which would effectively suspend elements of the arrangements that prevent a hard border in Ireland.

He said it was “not inevitable” that the British government would invoke the clause, but warned it would be the UK’s only option if the dispute was not resolved.

St Patrick’s Day
Taoiseach Micheal Martin speaking with United States President Joe Biden via video link in the Government Buildings, Dublin, to mark St Patrick’s Day (Julien Behal/PA)

“I’ve been speaking to the Biden administration directly” Mr Coveney told the Dail on Thursday.

“I got a chance to to speak to one of his most senior advisors this week, and also speaking to members of Congress in Cop, Brendan Boyle and others.

“But I think the main focus here is to try to encourage progress in the vice-President Sefcovic/Lord Frost discussions.”

He said he had been encouraged by Lord Frost’s statement that the UK could be convinced not to take the “negative retrograde” step of triggering Article 16.

He said: “Listening to what he had to say yesterday in the House of Lords, I think there is still some time to try to ensure that negotiations and partnership can work.

“We will continue to focus on those efforts, to do everything we can to dissuade the British Government from triggering Article 16, which I believe would be a really serious negative and retrograde step.”

Lord Frost is to meet with Mr Sefcovic on Friday for further talks.

Mr Coveney said he will meet with the vice president on Tuesday, and is hoping to hold “direct discussions” with Lord Frost at some stage next week.

The EU has made clear that the trade deal struck with the UK post-Brexit was dependent on the implementation of the protocol.

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