- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday the U.S. supports British efforts to leave the European Union but that it will urge the U.K. to respect the Good Friday Agreement that allows for a free-flowing border with Ireland.

Meeting with Ireland’s prime minister, Mr. Pence told his Dublin hosts to negotiate in “good faith” with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is intent on pulling off a Brexit by the end of October.

“Let me be clear — the United States supports the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union in Brexit, but we also recognize the unique challenges on your northern border,” Mr. Pence said. “I can assure you, we will continue to encourage the United Kingdom and Ireland to ensure that any Brexit deal respects the Good Friday agreement.”

Ireland is a member of the EU and shares a land border with Northern Ireland, which is a part of the U.K.

If the U.K. pulls off its Brexit, it raises the specter of immigration checks at the border, which had a contentious history until the 1998 Good Friday, or “Belfast,” agreements ushered in better cooperation at the dividing line.

Irish officials have made it clear to Mr. Pence — who is retracing his family roots on the Emerald Isle — that a return to a “hard border” would be a serious problem.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told Mr. Pence that a border with full inspections and other hurdles would be “deeply disruptive,” so it appreciates American help in addressing the matter. He noted that most people in Northern Ireland voted to stay in the EU.

“I know that you understand the impact that a hard border could have on this island,” Mr. Varadkar told Mr. Pence said. “Barriers to free movement of people and frictionless trade, barriers to north-south cooperation and the risk that the Good Friday agreement and the peace could unravel.

“All I ask is that you bring that message back to Washington with you,” he said. “This isn’t a problem of our making — it is one we want to solve through an orderly Brexit.”

Mr. Pence acknowledged their concerns and put forward a request of his own. He asked Irish officials to help the U.S. box out Chinese companies looking to build 5G cellular networks.

As it wages a trade war with China, the Trump administration is working with allies on alternatives to Huawei, a Chinese telecom firm the administration blacklisted as an espionage threat — a charge the company denies.

“It is well known that Chinese law requires Chinese telecom companies to provide Beijing’s vast security apparatus with access to any data that touches their network,” Mr. Pence said. “We believe in the United States that there is no place for untrusted vendors anywhere in our secure 5G supply chain.”

The leaders used the rest of their joint statement to exchanges pleasantries and muse about their shared heritage.

Mr. Varadkar noted the presence of Mr. Pence’s mother, Nancy, whose father left Ireland for a life in the U.S.

He said the story of Mr. Pence’s grandfather, Richard Michael Cawley, is “an example of the ties of history, kinship and friendship that link our two countries together.”

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