Biden ‘will understand EU is breaking Belfast agreement' says expert
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The week of terrifying violence has centred around increasing tensions over the Irish Sea trade border following Brexit and the fallout from the police’s handling of the mass republican funeral that took place during pandemic restrictions last year. US President Mr Biden, who is of Irish heritage, has often lashed out at Brexit, with his relationship with the UK and Prime Minister Boris Johnson subsequently getting off to an extremely uncertain start. He has continued to repeat his support for the Northern Ireland Protocol, a key part of the Brexit deal negotiated between the UK and European Union.
Under the terms of the agreement, goods arriving from the UK are now subject to additional custom controls at ports in Northern Ireland.
But Unionists have warned the introduction of trade barriers has strained ties with the rest of the UK and has inflamed loyalist tensions.
President Biden’s Administration called for calm in Northern Ireland and repeated his support for the Good Friday Agreement, but warned it must not become a “casualty” of Brexit.
State Department spokesman Ned Price told a briefing: “As the United Kingdom and the EU implement Brexit related provisions, this administration encourages them to prioritise political and economical stability in Northern Ireland.
“President Biden has been unequivocal in his support for the Belfast and Good Friday agreement, which was a historic achievement. We believe that we must protect it, and we believe that we must ensure it doesn’t become a casualty of Brexit.
“We remain steadfast supporters of a secure and prosperous Northern Ireland, in which all communities have a voice and all communities enjoy the gains of a hard-won peace.”
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, also said: “We are concerned by the violence in Northern Ireland and we join the British, Irish and Northern Irish leaders in their calls for calm.
“We welcome the provisions in both the EU-UK trade co-operation agreement and the Northern Ireland protocol, which helped protect the gains of the Belfast/Good Friday agreement.”
The violence in Northern Ireland continued on Thursday night as rioters were blasted with water cannons by police on the streets of west Belfast.
Stones and fireworks were thrown at officers by groups gathered on the nationalist Springfield Road with the police warning them to “disperse immediately or the water cannon will be used”.
But despite several warnings, those present continued to fire missiles at police before the water cannon was deployed.
Later in the evening, there were reports the crowds had been warned by police “impact rounds will be fired”.
Impact rounds, known simply as plastic bullets, are not used as a means of crowd control in any part of the UK apart from Northern Ireland.
On Thursday, Northern Ireland Secretary of State Brandon Lewis rushed to Belfast for talks with political leaders in a desperate bid to find a resolution to the ongoing violence.
He said in a statement: “All communities in Northern Ireland must work together to resolve the tensions that we are currently facing.
“The people of Northern Ireland deserve better than a continuation of the violence and disorder that we have witnessed in recent days.
“I know, from my ongoing contact with party leaders, that this is a view that is shared by all. The only way to resolve differences is through dialogue and in that regard we must all lead by example.
“Those engaged in this destruction and disorder do not represent Northern Ireland.
“I have seen first hand the true spirit of Northern Ireland – the creativity, the optimism and the determination to never return to the conflict and division of the past.
“We cannot allow that spirit to be crushed by a small minority intent on violence.
“The strength of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement lay in providing a framework for all communities in Northern Ireland, through mutual respect and tolerance, to live and work together.
Mr Lewis added: “I am aware of the ongoing concerns from some in the unionist and loyalist community over recent months and I have been engaging and listening to those concerns.
“However, I remain clear that the right way to express concerns or frustrations is through dialogue, engagement, and the democratic process, not through violence or disorder.”
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