Insight

Biden could make state visit in 2023 as UK government hopes to solve NI protocol

President Joe Biden at the United Nations General Assembly meeting. Credit: AP

A senior British official has suggested that 2023 could be a good year for president Joe Biden to make a state visit to the UK - in comments that suggest the government hopes to solve the disagreement over the Northern Ireland protocol within six months. 

They said: “There’s nothing planned at the moment but if you look at the calendar you will conclude that next year might be an obvious reason to visit Europe.”

Next April marks the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement - which was discussed by the president and Liz Truss today at their first bilateral meeting since she became prime minister. 

Prime Minister Liz Truss holds a bilateral meeting with US President Joe Biden at the United Nations headquarters. Credit: PA

Ahead of a 75 minute meeting, the president made clear that he wanted to discuss Russia and Ukraine, Iran, energy security, but also the tensions between the UK and the EU over the Northern Ireland protocol. 

Critics say that Truss’s threat to unilaterally rewrite the protocol is causing tension with our closest ally, and is one of the reasons that Liz Truss was forced to admit that there is no hope of talks about a US-UK trade deal in the short to medium term. 

But officials said that her motivation in Northern Ireland is not to damage the GFA but to try to protect it, and after the bilateral a Downing spokesperson said: “The prime minister and president Biden both agreed that the priority must be protecting the Belfast Agreeement and preserving the gains of peace in Northern Ireland.”

Earlier on the trip to New York for the UN general assembly, Truss told reporters that her preference was for a negotiated deal on the protocol - and not to push through legislation that would overwrite it - but also added that she would not “allow the situation to drift”.

The diplomatic source also claimed that Tony Blair had been a “helpful” voice in trying to diffuse tensions over the issue. They said he had “been explaining to the Europeans and the Americans that the British government have a real point” on some aspects of the NI protocol and that it isn’t about the GFA but about communities. 

Sources close to Blair would not comment on that characterisation. They said he had made his position clear and that he believed the solution to this was not a question of technical work but political will.