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White House eyes potential threats to Good Friday agreement

UK government’s efforts to salvage controversial deportation policy Asylum seeker to Rwanda Two Biden administration officials said the move was on the White House’s radar as it wants to ensure that any changes do not undermine Northern Ireland’s Good Friday Agreement.

“All eyes are definitely on Northern Ireland,” said one senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

One of the strange side effects of Britain’s membership is that British immigration policies, including one-way flights to the East African country, affect Northern Ireland. European Convention on Human Rightsan international agreement it helped draft after World War II.

And the fact that it has come to Washington’s attention speaks volumes about Northern Ireland’s sensitivity in transatlantic relations. President Biden is a proud Irish American. good friday agreementbrokered under another Democratic president, Bill Clinton, ended decades of sectarian conflict.

Britain’s Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that the Conservative government’s flagship immigration policy —This involves sending asylum seekers to Rwanda to have their asylum claims processed; live there if their claim is accepted — Violated international and national human rights laws.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has vowed to go ahead with the plan anyway by enacting emergency legislation to avoid legal challenges, including those raised by the European Convention on Human Rights.

Some on the right of his party, most notably Suella Bravermanuntil recently served home secretary — Britain has argued that it should simply withdraw from the treaty. Mr. Sunak fired Mr. Braverman. Cabinet renewal She was replaced last week by the more moderate James Cleverley.

White House officials noted that shortly after taking office, Cleverley said he did not think it was necessary for Britain to withdraw from the treaty.According to legal experts, such a move would raise the following problems: Direct threat to the Good Friday AgreementBecause this treaty incorporates this treaty into Northern Ireland law.

Still, these experts say even the government’s promise of new legislation could weaken the Good Friday Agreement. The scope of Mr Sunak’s bill is not yet clear. However, one option for the government is to try to block the powers of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, to enforce the Convention and prevent the court from ruling on the legality of Britain’s asylum policy. be.

“In my view, this is a breach of the treaty,” said Catherine Barnard, a professor at Cambridge University and an expert on international law. It’s not,” he added. ”

Britain’s bid to renegotiate its deal with Rwanda to include a binding commitment not to expel migrants sent there is one of the court’s main concerns. However, it remains unclear whether the new law will survive further legal challenges or whether the House of Lords, an unelected upper house that has the right to review and potentially block legislation, will survive.

Mr Sunak is under intense pressure to stem the flow of asylum seekers crossing the dangerous English Channel in small boats. This is one of his five goals for the government, and is an issue that resonates with many people in the north of England and the Midlands who voted Conservative in 2019.

The issue threatens to divide the party between hardliners like Mr Braverman and moderates who warn that refusing to convene would have the following consequences: damage Britain’s international reputation. The agreement came into force in 1953 and was signed between members of the Council of Europe, a human rights body separate from the European Union, from which Britain left in 2020.

The Irish government, which is party to the Good Friday Agreement, has been lobbying U.S. officials about the risks of Britain leaving the agreement. British diplomats said they were aware of the US’ concerns, but said the Biden administration had not raised the issue since the court’s ruling against Rwanda.

To be sure, Americans have expressed curiosity about Rwanda policy, but the United States has no comparable policy, they said. Like Mr. Sunak, Mr. Biden is also fighting illegal immigration on the eve of the election.

Tensions over the Good Friday Agreement, also known as the Belfast Agreement, have been an undercurrent in transatlantic relations since Mr Biden took office. Earlier this year, he pressed Mr Sunak to resolve a dispute with the European Union over a post-Brexit Northern Ireland trade deal. Mr Sunak did so in February. windsor framework Same with Brussels.

From anyone’s perspective, relations have improved since then. Biden and Sunak are closely aligned in supporting Israel in its war against Hamas and Ukraine in its war with Russia, but British officials are wary of signs of wavering in support for Ukraine in parliament. are doing.

The White House sent Vice President Kamala Harris to campaign for president. artificial intelligence summit It was convened by Mr Sunak earlier this month. Some observers noted that Ms Harris had outperformed Mr Sunak. Introduction of presidential decree Biden signed the bill on AI safety the same week. But British officials said the order made the meeting even more important.

The State Department said in a statement that it would not comment on a hypothetical scenario in which the UK would withdraw from the treaty. But he added: “Our priority remains to safeguard the gains of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement and maintain peace, stability and prosperity for the people of Northern Ireland.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/23/world/europe/britain-rwanda-northern-ireland.html White House eyes potential threats to Good Friday agreement

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