Brexit: Joe Biden's ties to Ireland 'could see him intervene if talks turn acrimonious'

·3-min read

Joe Biden's close ties to Ireland could see him make further interventions in Brexit if talks turn acrimonious, Sky News understands.

The Democratic presidential hopeful has already intervened once in the withdrawal debate this autumn, warning Boris Johnson there would be no US-UK trade deal if Britain goes back on the treaty it signed with the EU last year.

Sky News understands that if Brexit talks break up without agreement and the relationship becomes acrimonious, the Irish government hopes that Mr Biden might be persuaded to visit the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Irish officials have said such a visit was a realistic possibility, given his concern for the issue and the strength of the US Irish community.

Mr Biden has struck a close personal relationship with his cousins in Ireland, paying visits to the country to trace his ancestry and seen Irish cousins fly to the US to help with his campaign.

Ireland hopes this gives them the diplomatic edge in the event Mr Biden is elected president after Tuesday's election.

At the height of the row over the Internal Market Bill in September, which gives the UK government powers to renege on the deal with the EU, Mr Biden tweeted: "We can't allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit.

"Any trade deal between the US and the UK must be contingent upon respect for the agreement and preventing the returning of a hard border."

British diplomats have met friends of Mr Biden in recent months, but a ban on his campaign team meeting foreign diplomats has made it harder for the US embassy to forge a closer relationship pre-election.

There are hopes that the strength of the intelligence relationship will mean whoever is the president reaches out to the UK soon after the election.

One Tory said he suspected the power of special relationship with the UK would prohibit any president going to border, unless the security situation plummeted.

Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the defence select committee, said nevertheless Britain should "apologise" to the US for threatening to break international law, which is one of the bedrocks of the UK-US special relationship.

He told Sky News: "The overarching principle of Britain abiding, defending supporting international law - should not be questioned at all.

"I'm sorry, I think we should apologise to Americans that we even opened up this Pandora's box. I think when we read the memoirs - it was an error of judgement."

He said however that a lot of the reason that he tweeted about the Good Friday Agreement was "theatre", adding: "Assurances given to us on all fronts - including for our embassy here, to say we are committed to international law. But whichever party next president, we will have a very strong bond."

One former Downing Street advisor who oversaw the relationships with President Bush to President Obama alongside Gordon Brown and later David Cameron, said that Mr Biden's Irish connections could actually benefit the UK.

Tom Fletcher, a former senior foreign policy advisor in No 10, told Sky News: "I think Biden clearly has strong sentimental links to Ireland.

"He will be more interested in what's happening this side of Atlantic. He had a close working relationship with the UK system."

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He added that as President Obama's vice president, his counterpart was deputy prime minister Nick Clegg.

"He had regular contact, carried a lot of the load in US-UK relationship. He knows us well. And he knows that defence security intelligence relationship," he continued.

He said he doubted Brexit would sour the relationship.

"I think Biden and his closest advisors are anti-Brexit, but wouldn't see this as polluting the wider relationship."