Tricky start to the new ‘special relationship’: Joe Biden sends ‘candid’ message to Liz Truss about his ‘personal’ feelings on Northern Ireland Brexit row during talks at UN – as PM signals she wants to resolve standoff with the EU by APRIL
The PM and US president sat down for their first talks at the UN general assembly in New York.
Aides said the discussions went on for 75 minutes rather than the hour scheduled, and there was a united front on Ukraine and the response to Russia.
However, the leaders appear to have had an awkward exchange over Northern Ireland, with US officials describing the conversation as ‘candid’ – usually code that there was not agreement.
Mr Biden is said to have stressed the ‘personal importance’ he sets on resolving the spat over the province and protecting the Good Friday Agreement.
For her part, Ms Truss filled in the US president on her talks with EU commission president Ursula von der Leyen – and has signalled she wants to settle the issues within six months.
The premier is targeting getting the Northern Ireland Executive back up and running in time for the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement in Easter.
That could also coincide with a state visit to the UK by Mr Biden.
Liz Truss and US president Joe Biden sat down for their first talks at the UN general assembly in New York
Mr Biden and Ms Truss spoke for 75 minutes, when the meeting had been scheduled for an hour
Threats by the UK to override parts of the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol have caused tensions between Britain and Washington.
Mr Biden told the Prime Minister he was ‘looking forward to hearing what’s on your mind’ about the protocol when they met at a United Nations summit.
While cameras were still rolling, she told him: ‘Of course I’m looking forward to discussing the Belfast Good Friday Agreement and how we make sure that’s upheld into the future.’
Downing Street said the leaders only had a ‘very short discussion’ about the protocol.
One of the president’s team brought it up at the end of the meeting, with No10 insisting Mr Biden did not seek reassurances.
He characterised the tone of the meeting as ‘warm’ and that they did not discuss a UK-US trade deal, with Ukraine instead dominating discussions.
A US official said Mr Biden made clear that protecting the Good Friday Agreement ‘is a matter of bipartisan importance in the United States and a matter of personal importance to him as president’.
Downing Street said Ms Truss and Ms von der Leyen met ‘one to one’ for more than half an hour.
The spokesman was unable to answer questions about the meeting, including on whether there had been a breakthrough or new ideas discussed between them, because he was not in the room.
The White House had ramped up the significance the protocol would play in talks with Mr Biden, who is vocally proud of his Irish heritage, ahead of the meeting.
US national security adviser Jake Sullivan made it clear Mr Biden would discuss it ‘in some detail’ with Ms Truss.
The leaders appear to have had an awkward exchange over Northern Ireland, with US officials describing the conversation as ‘candid’ – usually code that there was not agreement
The Prime Minister is pushing ahead with the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol Bill which the EU and other critics say will breach international law by suspending elements of the agreement.
There have also been suggestions she could unilaterally trigger Article 16 of the protocol, to override parts of the agreement brokered as part of the Brexit divorce deal.
But instead No 10 said Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and how the US can help on UK energy security were far more prominent in the wide ranging and ‘warm’ discussions.
Mr Biden and Ms Truss were meeting after the president sent a tweet just as the PM was discussing her economic policy, which said he was ‘sick and tired of trickle-down economics’.
‘It has never worked,’ he said.
The comments underlined the differences between the two leaders’ stances just as Ms Truss says she wants to foster closer ties with international allies.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said it was ‘ludicrous’ to suggest Mr Biden was criticising UK policy, arguing each country is facing different economic challenges.