Brexit: Mick Mulvaney says UK and EU can reach a trade deal

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Mick Mulvaney spoke to BBC News NI after holding talks with the Secretary of State Brandon Lewis at Hillsborough Castle on Sunday

The US special envoy to Northern Ireland has said he believes the UK and EU can still reach a trade deal and has urged optimism from both sides.

Mick Mulvaney met with NI Secretary of State Brandon Lewis at Hillsborough Castle.

He arrived in NI on Sunday as part of a week-long visit to the UK and Republic of Ireland.

It is his first trip here since he was appointed to the role of special envoy by President Trump in April.

This week sees the latest round of talks get under way between the UK and EU to reach a trade deal before the 15 October deadline, set out by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Democratic presidential candidate and former vice-president Joe Biden has warned that he will not allow NI to become a “casualty of Brexit”, if he is elected in November.

But Mr Mulvaney, who is a former chief of staff to President Trump, said the US government had “confidence” the UK and EU would reach agreement.

Speaking to BBC News NI after holding talks with the NI secretary, he said: “Generally speaking, politicians and politics do tend to put things off to the last minute but at end of the day usually they are able to get things that work for everybody.

“Is it clean, is it efficient, does it look good? Probably not but that’s politics.

“What the attitude of my government is – is that we are confident the EU and UK will be able to work this out in a way that’s acceptable to everybody.”

He also said the US government would continue to view NI “through the prism of the Good Friday Agreement”.

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Mr Mulvaney was appointed as special envoy to Northern Ireland in April after being replaced as Donald Trump’s chief of staff

Asked did he have concerns about the British government’s Internal Market Bill – the legislation that would override parts of the Brexit deal relating to NI and would breach international law – Mr Mulvaney said it was a “fail safe”.

“It only comes into play if something else doesn’t happen – it’s gotten the attention it deserves but I don’t want my country to jump to conclusions – we need to look rationally, calmly and coolly at it,” he added.

On Sunday afternoon, First Minister Arlene Foster met with Mr Mulvaney and Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis in Hillsborough Castle.

Mrs Foster is due to meet with Mr Mulvaney again later in the week and said she was looking forward “to further positive discussions”.

Mr Mulvaney will spend time in Dublin, holding meetings with the Taoiseach (Irish PM) Micheál Martin, Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney as well as Sinn Féin President Mary-Lou McDonald on Monday.

‘Steady the ship’

On Tuesday he will hold talks with the five main Stormont parties in Belfast before heading to London later this week for further engagements.

The US official said he was pleased to be able to visit NI and “do some good old-fashioned face-to-face diplomacy”.

“I don’t know if I’m here to steady the ship, if I have a message it’s that things are good when they are steady, and if I can be a calming influence that would be great,” he said.

Mr Mulvaney added that he wanted to focus some of his conversations on the “potential for economic development for Northern Ireland” following the coronavirus pandemic.

He also praised the NI Executive’s handling of the first wave of the virus – but said he was concerned about the recent rise in cases.

“I don’t think it changes the message – the message is that it’s been helpful to me to use the manner in which the devolved government has handled Covid-19 well, as why it’s a good place to do business,” he added.


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