Joe Biden salutes while boarding Air Force One as he began his journey to Britain yesterday (Image: REUTERS)
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Joe Biden ordered his officials to rebuke Boris Johnson’s government for “inflaming” tensions in Northern Ireland, it has emerged today.
The President is said to have approved a rare diplomatic “demarche” – used more often between rivals than allies – over the trade row that Brexit sparked.
Yael Lempert, a senior official at the US Embassy in London, reportedly told Britain’s Brexit chief Lord Frost that the UK government was “inflaming” tensions in the region.
She spoke of President Biden’s “great concern” and “slowly and gravely read her instructions aloud” in the June 3 meeting, according to The Times. The newspaper reported that Government minutes of the meeting said: "Lempert implied that the UK had been inflaming the rhetoric, by asking if he would keep it 'cool'."
The extraordinary diplomatic row threatens to overshadow Boris Johnson ’s first face-to-face meeting with President Biden today in Cornwall ahead of the G7 summit.
US troops welcome President Biden to Britain last night at Newquay airport
First Lady Jill Biden and the PM’s new wife Carrie Johnson will enjoy tea on tidal island St Michael’s Mount while the two men agree a new Atlantic Charter.
With police and the world’s media swarming Cornwall, the Charter will seek to emulate the last one – signed almost 80 years ago by Churchill and Roosevelt – to “build back better” on post-Covid relations and the climate.
But President Biden – who has always stood proudly on his Irish heritage – looks set to use this afternoon’s historic meeting to press his case over Northern Ireland.
Tensions have been rising after Boris Johnson agreed to put Northern Ireland under EU rules as part of his Brexit deal – but then claimed EU checks on goods coming over from Britain were unfair.
Those tensions have already contributed to threats against port staff and the resignation of First Minister Arlene Foster.
Boris Johnson arriving at Newquay airport yesterday by private jet
(Image: Boris Johnson)
Now the EU is threatening retaliation and tariffs as the UK threatens to unilaterally extend sausage trade from Britain to Belfast – which currently will be banned from July 1.
Lord Frost is expected to attend crunch meetings with EU officials to “take stock” in Cornwall, alongside the EU summit.
A UK source added yesterday: “We’d be very happy to talk to the President on Northern Ireland if he wants to talk about it.”
President Biden touched down in the UK for the first time last night, visiting US troops at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk before flying to Newquay.
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His national security advisor Jake Sullivan warned that Mr Biden harbours "very deep" concerns on the issue provoked by Brexit.
Mr Sullivan said the president believes the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol is "critical" to ensuring that the Good Friday Agreement is protected, as Britain and the EU try to resolve the issue of checks in the Irish Sea.
"But whatever way they find to proceed must, at its core, fundamentally protect the gains of the Good Friday Agreement and not imperil that," he added.
"And that is the message that President Biden will send when he is in Cornwall."
Mr Sullivan said the US had been "crystal clear" on the need for the Good Friday Agreement.
Police and security have been sweeping key routes in Cornwall's Carbis Bay
(Image: Rowan Griffiths / Daily Mirror)
He told reporters: "President Biden has been crystal clear about his rock-solid belief in the Good Friday Agreement as the foundation for peaceful coexistence in Northern Ireland.
"That agreement must be protected and any steps that imperil or undermine it will not be welcomed by the United States."
After being asked if Mr Johnson was "taking steps to imperil" the agreement, he added: "I'm not going to characterise that at this point. I'm only going to say that President Biden is going to make statements in principle on this front.
"He's not issuing threats or ultimatums, he's going to simply convey his deep-seated belief that we need to stand behind and protect this protocol."
But not all Tories are happy with the President's intervention. One told Playbook: "He’s so senile that he probably won’t remember what we tell him anyway. Unless an aide is listening I’m not sure he’s going to remember for very long.”
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Talks between Brexit minister Lord Frost and the European Commission's Maros Sefcovic on Wednesday failed to make a breakthrough on Northern Ireland.
The meeting of the two leaders comes on the eve of the G7 summit.
It will bring together the world's wealthiest democracies at a time when the West faces difficult judgments in responding to the rise of China and the destabilising actions of Russia.
As part of that process, the new Atlantic Charter will commit the UK and US to apply their combined strength to the enormous challenges facing the planet today.
HMS Tyne in Cornish waters off the coast of St Ives ahead of the G7 Summit
(Image: Rowan Griffiths / Daily Mirror)
They include global defence and security, "building back better" from coronavirus, and stopping climate change.
Mr Johnson said: "While Churchill and Roosevelt faced the question of how to help the world recover following a devastating war, today we have to reckon with a very different but no less intimidating challenge – how to build back better from the coronavirus pandemic.
"And as we do so, co-operation between the UK and US, the closest of partners and the greatest of allies, will be crucial for the future of the world's stability and prosperity."
Finishing touches are made to a giant sculpture of the G7 leaders resembling Mount Rushmore made out of old electrical items and scrap metal
(Image: Greg Martin / Cornwall Live)
No immediate breakthrough is expected on resuming travel between the US and UK, which ground to a halt as the pandemic hit.
But a new joint taskforce will work on the issue.
Mr Biden told US troops: "We are going to make it clear that the United States is back and democracies of the world are standing together to tackle the toughest challenges and the issues that matter most to our future."
All eyes are also on whether Boris Johnson makes a firm commitment of vaccine doses to poorer countries at the summit.
The PM has so far refused to single out an exact number of donations.
Last night Pfizer and BioNTech said 500 million doses of their vaccine have been sent to the US government, which is donating them to around 100 low- and lower-middle income countries.