The US Envoy for Northern Ireland Mick Mulvaney says he has been “reassured” by the UK that a Westminster bill which breaks international law is a “contingency plan”.
Mr Mulvaney, President Trump’s former chief of staff, who was appointed to his new role in May, travelled from Washington for a series of meetings on Brexit.
Mr Mulvaney met with Northern Ireland Secretary of State Brandon Lewis and Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster on Sunday, and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney this morning before Mr Coveney left for his trip to Washington.
The special envoy said he believed that the UK’s Internal Market Bill, which breaks international law, is a “contingency plan” and has been reassured by Mr Lewis on the matter.
The Internal Market Bill would allow the UK to override key elements of the Brexit deal already agreed with regards to Northern Ireland staying in the single market.
American lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have previously condemned Boris Johnson’s Internal Market Bill and says there will be no US trade agreement with the UK if it undermines the Good Friday Agreement.
“I’ve read the bill or at least the relevant parts of the bill, and I’m satisfied that it is what Brandon says that it is, which is a contingent plan,” Mr Mulvaney said.
“That is a safety net and will only become relevant if there is no underlying larger EU-UK agreement.
“I think that the British government is intimately familiar with the fragility of the status of the peace process in the North. I actually pressed Simon (Coveney) this morning on whether or not the Europeans more broadly shared an awareness of the risks of a reimposition of a hard border.
“I think I will leave from this visit saying that they absolutely do and that was encouraging to me.”
Mr Mulvaney says that President Trump, who is in the throes of a presidential race, “takes it (Ireland) very seriously”, and is fully read up on the history of the Troubles, and “told me more about Gerry Adams than I knew about myself”.
President Trump has been openly supportive of Brexit, once proclaiming he predicted the result, and Mr Mulvaney suggested this is due to issues dealing with Brussels on trade.
“Not only do we just in general like countries asserting their own sovereignty it’s what we like to do, something we can relate to,” he said.
“It is very difficult for us to deal with Europeans collectively on trade.
Talks are ongoing in London in order to reach a trade deal for the UK’s exit from the EU, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says his deadline for the talks reaching their conclusion is October 15, just over two weeks away.
Mr Mulvaney said that: “If you move the deadline you’re simply putting things off to another day. Politicians work towards deadlines if you give them an additional six months, they will take all of the six months. Generally speaking, I’m against extending deadlines for the sake of giving people more time to work things out, the pressure sometimes encourages people to do the right thing.”
He added he is optimistic that a deal will be struck with EU-UK negotiators and by the US and UK after that.