U.S. President Joe Biden is poised to name former Congressman Joe Kennedy as special envoy to Northern Ireland.
The 42 year-old politician, who hails from the Kennedy political dynasty, will fill the post which has been vacant since January 2021 when Donald Trump’s former White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney stepped down from the role.
It comes at a sensitive time for Northern Ireland, which has been without a sitting executive, and has found itself at the center of a standoff between the U.K. and the EU over Brexit trade arrangements.
Kennedy is the grandson of former U.S. Senator and Attorney General Robert Kennedy who was assassinated in 1968. He represented Massachusetts in Congress between 2013 and 2021. He chose not to run for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2020 elections, instead challenging Senator Ed Markey for his seat in the U.S. Senate. But in a blow to his political career, he lost the Democratic primary contest to Markey, paving the way for his exit from frontline politics.
Two officials told POLITICO that an announcement is imminent from the White House. From January, new rules mean that all special envoy roles must be approved by the U.S. Senate — a procedural requirement that could delay any appointment.
Negotiations are continuing between British and EU officials over the Northern Ireland protocol — the part of the Brexit agreement that deals with trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Unionists, who support Northern Ireland’s status as part of the U.K., oppose the protocol which they say erects barriers between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. But the EU argues that the British government committed to the arrangement which is now set out in international law during earlier negotiations, and that the protocol preserves Northern Ireland’s place in the EU’s single market.
On Thursday, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly met European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič for high-level talks in Brussels on the protocol, amid indications that a deal could be agreed by February next year.
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