Irish PM says on Brexit: Biden wants a deal so Johnson should knuckle down

Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said on Thursday that US President-elect Joe Biden wanted Britain to reach a Brexit trade deal with the European Union, so Prime Minister Boris Johnson should knuckle down.

Biden's win in the US presidential election has changed the international context of Brexit: US President Donald Trump backed Britain's decision to leave the EU, while Biden served as vice president under Barack Obama, who advised against it.

Biden, who is proud of his Irish heritage, has repeatedly said the US-brokered 1998 "Good Friday" peace deal for Northern Ireland must not be undermined. That has been seen as a warning against a bill proposed by Johnson that would negate parts of Britain's EU divorce agreement governing the UK-Ireland border.

Biden repeated his support for the Good Friday agreement in a phone call with Johnson on Tuesday. The president-elect has said that if Britain undermines it, London will not be able to obtain a trade deal with the United States.

"He is very committed to the Good Friday Agreement," Martin said of Biden. "Particularly in relation to Brexit, he would favour obviously a deal between the European Union and Britain."

"And I think that's where, if I could respectfully say it, that's where the British government should head, in that direction, in my view. It should knuckle down and... get a deal with the European Union," Martin told BBC radio.

The United Kingdom left the EU in January. The two sides are trying to clinch a deal that would govern trade once a status quo transition period ends on Dec. 31. Many businesses say an exit without a deal would cause chaos.


But the clock is ticking: the talks are now likely to go beyond yet another Brexit deadline - this time Nov. 15 - though negotiators are racing to clinch a deal with enough to ratify it before the end of the year.

Martin said Johnson's Internal Market Bill, which London has acknowledged could violate international law by overturning parts of the Brexit divorce agreement on Northern Ireland, had raised concerns about how far the EU could trust him.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said Britain would not compromise on its sovereignty but that the government hoped for a deal in the days ahead.

"We hope that in the days ahead, admittedly, time is short, but in the days ahead, both sides will be able to reach agreement and the EU will show some further flexibility in those respects," he told the BBC.