President Biden ordered US officials to issue Boris Johnson with an extraordinary diplomatic rebuke for imperilling the Northern Ireland peace process over Brexit, The Times can reveal.
Yael Lempert, America’s most senior diplomat in Britain, told Lord Frost, the Brexit minister, at a meeting that the government was “inflaming” tensions in Ireland and Europe with its opposition to checks at ports in the province.
In a move without recent precedent, Lempert said she had been told to take the step of issuing London with a demarche, a formal diplomatic reprimand seldom exchanged between allies.
Government minutes of the June 3 meeting reveal that Frost was told of Biden’s “great concern” over his stance in a tense encounter at which Lempert was said to have “slowly and gravely read her instructions [from Washington] aloud”.
She warned that the increasingly bitter dispute between Britain and the EU over the protocol was “commanding the attention” of Biden before his first bilateral meeting with Johnson today.
A demarche is a formal diplomatic communication or protest lodged with a government, more commonly an adversary than a close ally. They are often issued along with a summons for a country’s ambassador to attend the Foreign Office, as in the case of Belarus after the diversion of a Ryanair flight to its territory last month.
The memo said that the US “strongly urged” Britain to come to a “negotiated settlement”, even if that meant “unpopular compromises”. It added: “Lempert said the US was increasingly concerned about the stalemate on implementing the protocol. This was undermining the trust of our two main allies. The US strongly urged the UK to achieve a negotiated settlement.”