Joe Biden has praised Rishi Sunak’s post-Brexit deal with the EU, saying it could bring “significant” US investment to Northern Ireland.

The US president backed the Windsor Framework Agreement aimed at ending the Protocol row, as he shared his hope that parties in Northern Ireland would “soon” return to a power-sharing arrangement.

Mr Biden was careful not to mention the DUP’s refusal to return to Stormont during his speech in Belfast on Wednesday – but insisted that forming and running a stable, developed government could spell economic defeat for the region.

In a keynote speech at the University of Ulster to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, Mr Biden said the protocol agreement opposed by the DUP was a “necessary step” to ensure peace and progress were “protected and strengthened”.

The President said: “As a friend, I hope it is not too presumptuous of me to say that the democratic institutions established in the Good Friday Agreement are critical to the future of Northern Ireland.”

“That’s a decision for you – not for me, but I think they are related. An effective progressive government … a government that looks for solutions to difficult problems together, will bring greater opportunity to the region,” he told the Belfast audience.

Mr. Biden added: “So, I hope that the Assembly and the Executive will be restored soon. That’s not for me to decide, but for you to make, but I hope that it happens with the institutions that facilitate North-South and East-West relations, which are all are important pieces of the Good Friday Agreement.

DUP politicians attacked Mr Biden – a Catholic who played up his Irish roots – ahead of his speech as a pro-Irish republican, as he resisted pressure to resume power sharing in Stormont.

Former party leader Dame Arlene Foster claimed “Joe Biden hates the UK”, while DUP MP Sammy Wilson said the president was “anti-British” and “anti-Protestant”.

After the DUP voted against Mr Sunak’s deal with the EU in Parliament last month, it continues to refuse to go to the Assembly until the UK Government addresses its concerns around the protocol.

Mr Biden – warned by former prime minister Tony Blair not to “pressure” unionists to end the Stormont boycott over their opposition to Brexit protocol arrangements – chooses his words carefully.

He said the Windsor Framework agreed by Mr Sunak and EU Commission President Ursul; A von der Leyen has helped address some of the “complex challenges” created by Brexit.

“Negotiators heard from UK and Irish business leaders who shared what they need to succeed, and I believe the stability and predictability offered by this framework will encourage greater investment in Northern Ireland – significant investment in Northern Ireland,” he said, echoing the arguments. Created by Mr. Sunak.

Joe Biden takes a selfie with Ulster University students


Mr. Biden said that 25 years without violence means “an incredible economic opportunity has just begun”, adding: “There are big American corporations that want to come here, want to invest,” he said.

“25 years after the Good Friday Agreement, Northern Ireland’s gross domestic product has literally doubled,” he said – it could triple in the coming years.

Mr Biden also said his special envoy for Northern Ireland, Joe Kennedy III, would work “supercharged” to encourage more investment in the region and help realize its “huge economic potential”.

DUP leader Sir Geoffrey Donaldson described Mr Biden’s comments as “measured”, saying he was right to point to “prosperity as the focus for the next 25 years”. But the DUP leader said the speech would “not change the political dynamic” on protocol.

Asked if he believed Mr Biden was “anti-British”, Sir Geoffrey said he welcomed the US president’s reference to “the Ulster Scots who made such a huge contribution to the building of the United States of America”.

Joe Biden with Rishi Sunak at the Grand Central Hotel in Belfast

(PA wire)

Earlier, while a spokesman for the US National Security Council supported Mr Biden on his trip, saying his “track record shows he is not anti-British”, comments by Ms Foster and others in the DUP were “simply untrue”.

Mr Biden met briefly with the leaders of five major political parties after arriving at Belfast’s Ulster University campus – including Sir Geoffrey, Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill, Coalition leader Naomi Long, UUP leader Doug Beattie and SDLP leader Colm Eastwood.

Sinn Fein Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill said Mr Biden’s speech “sent a clear message to the DUP” that the party must end the boycott and return to government.

Speaking after a brief meeting with Mr Biden, Ms O’Neill said she felt her message was “on the right note”. She said: “I think his message was clear, we need peace, we need stability and we need prosperity, all those things go together.”

Mr Sunak said the relationship between Britain and the US was in “great shape” after his own meeting with the US president. “I know he shares my ambition to see the institutions here back up and running, that the people and businesses of Northern Ireland deserve.” The Prime Minister told broadcasters.

However, Mr Biden and Mr Sunak did not discuss any UK-US free trade deal during their meeting, it was indicated. A spokesman for Mr. Biden said the pair would not discuss business deals.

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris rejected any suggestion Mr Sunak’s lack of attendance at Ulster University was a “snub”. He said: “They had a bilateral meeting this morning. He has also gone to other private functions of the Prime Minister.”

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