European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday said U.S. President Joe Biden supports the European Stance that Britain should not suspend the Northern Ireland Protocol. Photo by Oliver Contreras/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 10 (UPI) -- European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday said U.S. President Joe Biden supports that Britain should not suspend the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Von der Leyen said in a statement after meeting with Biden at the White House that "it is very important" that the protocol and the Brexit withdrawal agreement, which keep the land border open between Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom and Ireland in the European Union, remain in place.
"They are the possibility to keep peace and stability on the island of Ireland," she said. "So we are willing, as a European Union, to show the utmost flexibility and we have shown utmost flexibility within the protocol, but it is important to stick to what we have agreed and signed together, to work with that."
The White House issued a statement later Wednesday saying that both von der Leyen and Biden "expressed their continued support for political and economic stability in Northern Ireland."
"This protocol has managed to square the difficult circle that Brexit caused," von der Leyen told reporters. "And now Northern Ireland has access to both markets that have access to the single market, the British single market as well as the European single market. Therefore, the situation is a positive one. And we want to do everything to cut red tape to be as flexible as possible within the protocol."
The withdrawal agreement allows Northern Ireland to remain in the single market and creates a customs border in the Irish Sea, but allows portions of the agreement to be suspended as a "safeguard" to any "economic, societal or environmental difficulties."
Riot police last week were sent to respond to protests in Belfast as demonstrators opposing the Northern Ireland Protocol allegedly aimed missiles and fireworks at officers and set trash bins on fire.
Next week, the European Commission is expected to present members of the European Union with retaliatory options if Britain chooses to suspend parts of the agreement, including targeted tariffs on goods or ending arrangements allowing data to travel between the EU and Britain.