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US Rep. Richard Neal voices concern over Irish border, trade with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson

U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, met with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Wednesday amid fears over potential changes in the relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Johnson has raised concerns in some quarters by warning that the United Kingdom might trigger Article 16 — the override mechanism that suspends parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol, the section of Britain’s 2019 European Union withdrawal agreement, or “Brexit,” that covers regional trade.

President Joe Biden opposes a closed Irish border or any changes that would undo the improved relations that followed the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

Neal said he had a lengthy discussion with Johnson during his visit to the U.S. Capitol on a range of issues, including a possible revision to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“As chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, I shared my strong belief that any agreement reached between the UK and the EU on the future of the Protocol must not undermine the integrity of the Good Friday Agreement nor threaten the institutions it created.“ Neal said.

He added, “Having worked with five British Prime Ministers throughout the peace process, I reminded Prime Minister Johnson that everyone had to make sacrifices to achieve this historic accord, and that 23 years later it remains a template for successful conflict resolution around the globe.”

The congressman said Johnson assured him there would be no return to a hard border on the Irish island and that the British government remains committed to the full implementation of the 1998 peace deal.

A staunch supporter of the Irish peace process, Neal is co-chair of the ad hoc Committee on Irish Affairs and has been chairman of the Friends of Ireland since 2007.