Biden rumored to cancel upcoming state visit to U.K. if deal with EU over Northern Ireland isn’t soon reached

President Joe Biden is tentatively scheduled to pay a state visit to the United Kingdom next year to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement that helped end decades of political turmoil and violence in Northern Ireland.

That trip may now be in doubt, though, as reports indicate that Biden will cancel the visit if the U.K. and European Union are unable to reach a post-Brexit deal on jurisdiction over Northern Ireland, according to Breitbart.

The small nation has effectively been in governance limbo since the 2016 Brexit vote as it is technically part of the U.K. but continues to be subject to the customs and regulations of the EU, particularly with regard to trade, under what is known as the Northern Ireland Protocols.

To go or not to go

According to The U.K. Telegraph, “sources in Dublin” asserted that the U.S. president would not travel to the U.K. for a formal state visit to coincide with the Good Friday Agreement anniversary if some sort of arrangement involving Northern Ireland is not reached before then.

Instead, the U.K.’s i News reported that, according to “diplomatic sources,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken would be dispatched in Biden’s place to participate in anniversary-related events.

Some measure of high-level participation in the anniversary celebration by the U.S. is expected given that the U.S. is a guarantor of the peace that was established by the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

“The fact they have a Plan B I don’t think means the president has changed his mind, I think he is very keen to come,” an unnamed foreign diplomat told the outlet of the rumored contingency plan. “The Americans are putting pressure on the EU side and the UK side to get it done because Biden really wants to come (for Good Friday).”

Deal could soon be reached, but not on any “arbitrary” deadline

According to i News, that quiet talk of President Biden potentially canceling his planned state visit to the U.K. has likely put extra pressure on new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to reach a deal with the EU on the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocols.

To that effect, the outlet noted that Sunak held discussions this week with European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen about exactly that, in which they reportedly “agreed on the importance of working together to agree a solution” on what to do about Northern Ireland.

There are rumors that a deal could potentially be reached by mid-February, but Sunak has stated that he won’t be held to any sort of “arbitrary” deadline, nor did he appreciate the outside pressure being placed on the negotiations between the two sides.

“I’ve been clear that I haven’t put an arbitrary or strict deadline on the conversations that we are having and I don’t think that that’s necessarily helpful and I don’t want to unnecessarily raise people’s expectations of an imminent breakthrough,” the prime minister told the Commons Liason Committee this week.

Sunak added, “What I am committed to doing is working constructively with our European partners to see if we can find a way through this, to resolve the very clear challenges the Protocol presents to Northern Ireland’s place in the union.”

Situation doesn’t look good for Sunak

If an agreement is not reached on the Northern Ireland Protocols and President Biden does cancel his scheduled state visit to the U.K. next year, it will be widely viewed as an embarrassment for Prime Minister Sunak and could undermine his authority and leadership going forward.

It is unclear where, exactly, Biden stands with regard to the terms of any deal reached between the U.K. and EU, but given the fact that he staunchly opposed Brexit in the first place and often proudly touts his Irish heritage, it seems likely that he is not fully aligned with the U.K. and would prefer a deal that is more favorable to the EU.

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