Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, 48, and a group of US delegates met with Britain’s Brexit team, including Minister Lord David Frost, 56, in London yesterday. The Irish-American Democrat, who was described in the Hill as once a “dark horse candidate” for President, issued a warning to the UK’s negotiating team about how to proceed with action on the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Writing on Twitter, Mr Murphy said: “Thanks to @USAmbUK and the whole team at Embassy London for hosting me to talk with British officials about bipartisan congressional concern that the Northern Ireland Protocol debate will adversely affect the Belfast Good Friday Agreement.”
However, in a separate social media post, the member of the US Foreign Relations Committee showed the US delegation sitting opposite Lord Frost, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis, 50, and the Prime Minister’s foreign policy advisor John Bew, 41.
Before arriving in the UK, the Democratic Senator penned a letter with Republican Pat Toomey, 60, calling on Boris Johnson, 57, to “communicate the strong interest from Congress in ensuring that the Good Friday Agreement is protected in any future arrangements”.
During his visit to Stormont, the Senator from Joe Biden’s party reaffirmed the position had cross-party support in Washington.
“I am here on behalf of Republicans and Democrats in the United States Senate who are interested in continuing our legacy of friendship with Northern Ireland,” he told Stormont.
Despite Murphy’s bipartisan message, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, 38, shared his thoughts on how President Joe Biden, 79, feels about Brexit and the Protocol.
Taking to Twitter, the MP for Foyle said: “The US administration and President Joe Biden @POTUS are firmly behind us in protecting the North from the negative outcomes of Brexit.”
Mr Murphy’s comments come amid talks between Lord Frost and his Czech-born EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic, 55.
The UK Government has threatened to trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Such a move would suspend elements of the agreements but could lead to an escalation in tensions between Brexit Britain and the Brussels bloc.
During Murphy’s visit to the United Kingdom, he also met with representatives from the DUP, Sinn Fein and SDLP.
Following meetings with DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson, 58, and Northern Ireland’s Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, 44, the Senator said: “There is more consensus in Belfast than the headlines may suggest.
“Today I met with DUP leader @J_Donaldson_MP and Sinn Fein leader @moneillsf and both agreed that a deal on the Northern Ireland Protocol is much better than the exercise of Article 16 by Britain.”
But Mr Donaldson, the Brexit-backing MP for leave-voting Lagan Valley, said after the meeting: “Over the weekend Mr Murphy and Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey wrote to the Prime Minister outlining their support for the Belfast Agreement.
“Central to the Belfast Agreement was the principle of consent, something which the Northern Ireland Protocol fundamentally undermines.
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“You can have the Belfast Agreement or you can have the Protocol, you cannot have both.
“The Protocol is wreaking constitutional, economic and social damage upon Northern Ireland, all of which are harmful to stability and progress here.”
The DUP leader added: “I want to see a negotiated solution between the UK and European Union which can resolve the huge problems created by the Protocol.
“However, if the EU continues to reject such progress then it will fall upon the UK Government to take unilateral action.
“That action would not adversely affect the Belfast Agreement, but would be taken to restore the fundamental planks upon which political progress in Northern Ireland has been built.”