Home Office minister has rejected claims that Joe Biden is “anti-British” and insisted the Prime Minister’s meeting with the US president involved “extensive discussions”.
Chris Philp defended Rishi Sunak’s movements in Belfast on Wednesday amid criticism that the bilateral talks between the two leaders appeared to be a low-key affair.
Asked on GB News why Mr Sunak had not stayed to attend the president’s speech at Ulster University later in the day, Mr Philp said: “I don’t know exactly what the Prime Minister’s schedule was.
“I haven’t discussed it with him or No 10… Of course they did have extensive discussions in Belfast yesterday before President Biden’s speech.”
We agree with President Biden, we think the parties should get around the table, restore the powersharing arrangements
Mr Biden’s visit to the island of Ireland continues on Thursday in Dublin, where he is to carry out a series of engagements.
Asked whether he agreed with claims the president was anti-British, Mr Philp replied: “No I don’t. I think the president, when he spoke to the King recently, agreed to come to the United Kingdom on a full state visit which is fantastic.
“I think he’s been here four times since becoming president so no, I don’t think – I would not accept that characterisation at all.”
Mr Philp also echoed the president’s remarks on powersharing, saying political parties in Northern Ireland should “get around the table” to bring an end to the deadlock.
He described the Windsor Framework as a “huge step forward” by the UK Government which helped to remove obstacles to restoring the executive.
The minister told Sky News: “That was a huge step forward by the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak when he got that Windsor Framework agreed with the European Union just a few weeks ago. So those obstacles we feel have now been removed.
“So we agree with President Biden, we think the parties should get around the table, restore the powersharing arrangements.”
Mr Philp added that Mr Biden’s remarks that the return of powersharing could unlock new investment were “interesting” and made the case for ending the current paralysis “really strong”.
Mr Biden will address the Irish parliament on Thursday, as well as visiting President of Ireland Michael D Higgins at his official residence in Phoenix Park.
He will also have a meeting with Irish premier Leo Varadkar at nearby Farmleigh House where he will be invited to watch a sports demonstration by young Gaelic games players.