Donald Trump addresses Biden missing King’s coronation
Joe Biden has provoked a furious backlash after claiming his visit last month was to ensure the “Brits didn’t screw around” with the Good Friday Agreement.
The US President – who was heavily criticised for his partisan stance on the trip – said he wanted to make sure Northern Ireland didn’t “walk away” from their commitments on the historic accord.
Critics said his latest sceptical remark about the UK’s approach to post-Brexit issues shows that he is “incompetent” to be the so-called leader of the Free World.
Speaking at a Democrat fundraising event in New York on Wednesday, the President said: “I got to go back to Ireland for the Irish Accords, to make sure the Brits didn’t screw around and Northern Ireland didn’t walk away from their commitments.”
Mr Biden was branded “anti-British” for making only a flying visit to Northern Ireland to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement last month before embarking on an extensive tour of the Republic – where he has family roots.
He also posed for a selfie with former Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams and rebuked the UK for not cooperating more closely with Ireland on Brexit.
His “Beast” limo flew the Irish flag in Dublin – but not the Union Flag in Belfast.
The US President provoked more anger by skipping the Coronation of King Charles last weekend, instead sending his wife and First Lady Jill Biden.
Former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind told the Daily Express: “The Americans speak English in their own unique way. I have no doubt that the President was intending to be helpful, as usual.”
DUP MP Sammy Wilson was more acerbic in his criticism, blasting: “It is frightening to think that someone who is so incompetent is the leader of the Free World.
“Instead of coming to Northern Ireland to make sure the Brits ‘don’t screw up’, perhaps he should look at his screw-ups and reflect on the damage he has done since taking office.
“Whether it be his screw-up in Afghanistan or his disrespect towards our newly-crowned King, the President ought to spend less time pontificating about his pro-Irish Nationalist agenda and actually focus on addressing the problems his administration has created.”
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The President and other senior Democrats saw Brexit as a threat to the peace process because it risked the need for a return to a hard border on the island of Ireland.
Before the new Windsor Framework was agreed, Mr Biden warned Britain it could forget about a UK-US trade deal if it carried out its threat to tear up the Irish Sea border treaty with the EU.
In Belfast, he urged the DUP to back Rishi Sunak’s new Brexit deal for Northern Ireland and dangled the prospect of billions of US investment if they ended their boycott of Stormont.
Former Cabinet minister Simon Clarke said: “Once again Biden’s comments are as ill-judged as they are offensive. The UK has every right to assert its sovereignty and territorial integrity after we left the EU.
“To see the President once again pedalling his false Irish patter would be embarrassing if not so damaging to UK-US relations.”
Fellow Conservative MP Sir James Duddridge said: “Following the Declaration of Independence the US opted out of direct influence on UK soil. The President would be well placed to mind his own business.
“He has plenty to do Stateside, as is reflected in his poor state in the opinion polls.”
When asked about Mr Biden’s remarks, No10 said Mr Sunak’s Brexit deal with the EU was about protecting the Good Friday Agreement. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman added: “The Windsor Framework was a culmination of substantive work between the UK and EU. And the UK priority was always protecting the Agreement.
“We have been consistent throughout and are pleased that between the UK and EU we have been able to reach an agreement that works for Northern Ireland, and the whole of the UK.”
Mr Biden is a Catholic who is fiercely proud of his heritage. But he is suspected by some unionists of wanting a united Ireland.
As a senator in 1985, Mr Biden opposed and watered down a treaty with Britain that would have made it easier to extradite IRA terrorists.
And when welcoming Irish PM Enda Kenny to the White House in 2015, he joked: “If you are wearing orange, you are not welcome here.”
In November 2020, a reporter asked him for “a quick word for the BBC”. Mr Biden replied: “I’m Irish.”
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