Liz Truss is in New York this week for UN business and is expected to meet with President Biden, a strong supporter of Brexit's Northern Ireland Protocol.
Prospects of a major breakthrough in deadlocked relations between Britain and Ireland over Northern Ireland improved this week, and have been further raised by an expected meeting this Wednesday, September 21, between President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Liz Truss.
A planned meeting in London before Queen Elizabeth’s funeral was rescheduled for Wednesday at the UN. The Observer reported that officials from both countries said that the meeting in the margins of the UN general assembly in New York would allow “fuller” bilateral discussion, and the rescheduling was not the result of friction.
While the Russian war in Ukraine will be high in their talks, Northern Ireland will also be given prominence following a 45-minute meeting at 10 Downing Street on Sunday between Truss and Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
On Tuesday, Truss admitted that the much vaunted U.S.-U.K. trade deal that was promised by pro-Brexit politicians is not going to materialize anytime soon.
Before departing London for New York she told reporters, "There aren't currently any negotiations taking place with the U.S. and I don't have an expectation that those are going to start in the short to medium term."
With regards to the Truss-Martin meeting, no statements were issued because of the official period of mourning in Britain, but it is understood both leaders agreed there was an opportunity to reset the relationship between the U.K. and Ireland. That fueled hopes that talks between Britain the EU over the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol will resume within weeks.
Martin strongly hinted at prospects of progress when he described the talk with Truss as an “initial warm meeting.”
Aides said that Martin and Truss agreed an opportunity existed for the EU and UK to find a negotiated outcome to the disagreements on the Protocol mechanism for avoiding a hard border in Ireland.
Truss and the taoiseach are believed to have agreed that an opportunity exists for the EU and U.K. to now find a negotiated outcome that would resolve the issue for once and for all.
Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney asked about the meeting, and said, “I think the signals that we’ve got in the last number of days from London have been quite positive in terms of the willingness to talk honestly with each other again about trying to find a compromise and a negotiated way forward on the issues round the Protocol and Brexit, and certainly both the Taoiseach and I will be working hard to support that.”
A controversial bill proposing to introduce laws that would enable the UK to tear up part of the Protocol was tabled by Truss earlier this summer when she was foreign minister. It is expected to reach the House of Lords in mid-October.
But the mood music has changed, with Truss’s elevation to the position of prime minister seen as an opportunity for a reset moment.
At her meeting with Biden, who is on record that he wants the Good Friday Agreement in Ireland preserved, she’s bound to consider her king’s observation in Hillsborough Castle last week. Charles noted then that Sinn Féin is the biggest party in Northern Ireland and he humiliatingly sidelined Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party which is boycotting a Stormont power-sharing administration.
*This column first appeared in the September 21 edition of the weekly Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication to IrishCentral.