The government isn’t saying whether Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will join U.S. President Joe Biden in emphasizing the need not to “imperil” the peace in Northern Ireland during meetings at the G7.
The gathering comes as the U.K. is facing accusations of trying to skirt its Brexit commitment to put customs checks in place on goods coming into Northern Ireland from Britain., rather than try to make those checks be done along the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
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But while Biden’s national security advisor told the BBC on Wednesday that the U.S. president plans to use the G7 forum to raise the issue with the U.K.’s Boris Johnson, the Canadian government would not say whether Trudeau plans to do the same.
Global News reached out to the Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday asking whether Trudeau will raise the risks posed to the fragile peace in Northern Ireland with Johnson at the G7.
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That request was passed to political staff with the office of Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau, who passed questions to bureaucrats at Global Affairs Canada.
“Canada is concerned about the recent violence in Northern Ireland. Canadians helped support the establishment of the Good Friday Agreement, and Canada has consistently worked to support the peace process,” said a spokesperson for the department.
“We encourage the U.K. and the EU, in the context of their post-Brexit relationship, to continue to work together to ensure the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol and that the integrity of the Good Friday Agreement is preserved.”
Garneau tweeted on Wednesday afternoon that he had spoken with his Irish counterpart, Simon Coveney, on the same day about “global cooperation and priorities of mutual interest to our countries, including support for media freedom and human rights, regional issues and the benefits of CETA.”
The department did not provide a readout of that conversation but confirmed Garneau and Coveney did discuss North Ireland, stating: “Minister Garneau reiterated Canada’s strong support for the peace process and preserving the integrity of the Good Friday Agreement, including in the context of Brexit.”
Officials wouldn’t say whether Garneau raised the issue at the G7 foreign minister’s meeting last month.
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Eamonn McKee, Irish ambassador to Canada, described the conversation as “thorough.”
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‘We’re absolutely sure that Canada fully supports the agreement and its implementation, including in regards to the protocol,” he told Global News, noting he wasn’t surprised to see the U.S. administration voice its concerns for the Good Friday Agreement to be respected.
“Clearly, America is a valued partner of the U.K.,” McKee said. “We would expect them to pay attention when [Biden] expresses his views on this matter in terms of how this is resolved.”
McKee noted that Irish officials have gone to “extraordinary” lengths to be flexible with the U.K. and that this is not the first rough patch for officials to navigate in the relationship.
“We’ve been through difficult patches before. With a bit of goodwill and cooperation, we can go ahead.”
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The Good Friday Agreement is the deal laying out terms for peace in Northern Ireland.
It established both the framework for power-sharing among the parties in Northern Ireland and the vow not to put a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to the south.
Maintaining that open border across the island of Ireland was a central point of concern in Brexit negotiations because while Ireland remains a member of the European Union, Northern Ireland is part of the U.K. and was removed from the EU along with England, Scotland and Wales by Brexit.
That means some EU standards such as those in place for quality checks on meat and dairy are no longer in place on goods made and shipped within the U.K. The Northern Ireland Protocol in the Brexit deal laid out an agreement that those checks would be done at Northern Irish ports rather than along the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Boris Johnson’s government, though, has faced accusations of not fully implementing those checks and of putting the Good Friday Agreement at risk by pushing back at the EU to loosen those terms.
Jake Sullivan, national security advisor to Biden, said in an interview with the BBC on Wednesday that the U.S. president planned to emphasize the importance of the Northern Ireland Protocol at the G7.
He described the protocol as “critical” to protecting the “spirit, promise and future” of the Good Friday Agreement, and said that any path forward must not “imperil” the agreement.
“Our concern runs very deep on the Northern Ireland issue and we want to make sure that the work the U.K., Ireland and the United States have all done in addition to the key parties in Northern Ireland that that work has got to be honoured and protected and respected as we go forward,” he said. “That’s the thing we’re going to be most focused on.”
McKee said he’s confident people in Northern Ireland want to maintain peace and that any disruption as officials work out a path forward that respects the protocol won’t erase that hard work.
“There are tensions and real fallout from these things, but ultimately, all of this comes from Brexit,” he said. “We are trying to manage something that we just never predicted and couldn’t envisage — and so far, we’ve managed it,” he added.
“This is a difficult one but once we have this resolved, I think people will see the benefits of the protocol for all sides. And we can get on with rebuilding trade relations, rebuilding economies, engaged in both COVID economic recovery and the things that really matter to people.“
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