Biden and Irish leader Varadkar reiterate their support for the UK-EU deal on post-Brexit terms

By Jeff Mason, Susan Heavey and Simon Lewis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – US President Joe Biden and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar expressed their support for a UK-EU deal on post-Brexit trade rules as the two leaders met to mark St .to celebrate Patrick’s Day.

They met in the White House Oval Office before heading to the US Capitol for lunch with lawmakers from both countries, where Biden, a Democrat, spoke of his desire to find “common ground” with Republicans in deeply divided Washington.

Biden said earlier this week he intended to visit the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland around the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement next month, which largely ended political violence in Northern Ireland.

In his Capitol speech, Biden, who often speaks proudly of his Irish roots, reiterated his support for the deal.

London and Brussels reached an agreement last month aimed at easing tensions caused by the Northern Ireland Protocol, which set trade rules after Britain left the European Union.

Biden said he discussed the deal with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in California this week.

“It’s an important, important step and it will help ensure that all people in Northern Ireland have the opportunity to reach their full potential,” Biden said.

Varadkar previously thanked the United States for supporting Ireland’s position on Brexit, which he says has “really made a difference”.

Speaking to lawmakers over lunch, the Irish leader joked it was a pleasure to sit next to President and Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy “not to keep the peace” but to thank them for their support for Ireland .

Biden has made the fight to ensure democracy and democratic norms a central pillar of his presidency, telling the crowd:

“There’s no reason we can’t find common ground. There’s no reason why we can’t hope to change that direction to extremes in both parties. I think it’s important. I think it’s really important,” Biden said, citing Irish poet Seamus Heaney, a favorite of the president.

McCarthy, a Republican at odds with Biden’s administration on many issues, told the president, “From one Irish American to another … our positions may be reversed, but our goals can be the same.”

(Reporting by Jeff Mason, Susan Heavey, Simon Lewis, and Rami Ayyub; Writing by Simon Lewis; Editing by Mark Porter, Paul Simao, and Cynthia Osterman)

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