THE VICE PRESIDENT: Hey, everybody. Well, thank you all for being here. It’s an honor to be here at the Ambassador’s Residence with Ambassador Crawford. And we just finished a good meeting with business leaders of companies that operate here in Ireland and actually originate here in Ireland.
And it is truly remarkable to think of the trading relationship between our two countries. American companies actually support over 100,000 jobs here in Ireland, but Irish companies actually sustain more than a quarter of a million jobs in the United States of America. It’s evidence of a robust trading relationship that we have.
And in my meetings today with Taoiseach Varadkar and my meetings with President Higgins, we talked about how we can continue to build on that growth in the American economy and expand opportunities for American exports into Ireland.
The reality is, the American economy is growing. While there are some economies around the world that are beginning to show some weakness, the American economy is soaring. Our stock market is soaring. Six million new jobs created. Unemployment is at a 50-year low. Wages are rising at their fastest pace in more than a decade. And every country in the world wants to do more business with the United States of America.
And I made it very clear with Taoiseach Varadkar, today, that we’re anxious to build our trading relationship with the European Union. We’re all focused so much on Brexit and on what’s — the United States commitment after Brexit is completed to negotiating a free trade agreement with the UK. But I told the leader of Ireland, today, that we were also equally anxious to have a free trade agreement with the European Union and expand trading opportunities that will create jobs in the United States and more prosperity for all of our countries.
We also talked about a broad range of security issues, most notably, Huawei. Had a very frank and direct conversation with Taoiseach Varadkar about the United States’ profound concerns that a Chinese telecommunications company — which is required by Chinese law to give their government access to any data that they acquire — would have access to our economies, leave alone access to the security in the West.
And I was grateful that Taoiseach Varadkar informed me that they were continuing to review the Huawei issue, and appreciated hearing from me on that.
Finally, on the subject of Brexit, we made it very clear the United States of America supports the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union.
That being said, we recognize that Ireland has unique challenges with their northern border. And we’re absolutely determined to play a positive role in ensuring that the historic Good Friday Agreement that the United States helped to broker more than 20 years ago is preserved in the context of any Brexit agreement. But I did encourage Taoiseach Varadkar to convey to other leaders across the European Union some of Ireland’s unique challenges and encourage the EU to come to the table.
I’ll be meeting in just a day or two with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and he made very clear yesterday that he is determined to sit at the table and negotiate with the European Union. But I encouraged Taoiseach Varadkar to carry the message of Ireland’s unique challenges to other allies and partners in the European Union, and encourage them to come the table, negotiate in good faith, and make it possible for all parties to achieve a Brexit that honors the sovereignty of the United Kingdom, but at the same time avoids any unnecessary disruption of commerce.
So, with that said, I’m happy to take a question. Catherine?
Q Yeah. Vice President, thank you. If Brexit does result in a hard border, does the U.S. see that as a violation of the Good Friday Agreement? And if so, do you agree with Speaker Pelosi and others who say that, under those circumstances, a UK-U.S. free trade deal would not be possible?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the President made very clear last week with Prime Minister Johnson that the moment Brexit is completed, we will begin immediate negotiations for a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom.
But let me say I’m encouraged to learn that all parties have made a commitment to honor the Good Friday Agreement. When we think of those decades of violence between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, much of the violence took place along the border. And the Good Friday Agreement worked on an arrangement that brought an end to the violence, brought peace to this island, and we’ll continue to affirm our belief the Good Friday Agreement needs to be intact.
And we remain confident, if the European Union will come to the table and negotiate in good faith with Prime Minister Johnson, we’re confident that some of these more complex issues can be addressed.
But it’s important to understand that the deal that was negotiated by Prime Minister May was rejected by the Parliament. And so it’s absolutely incumbent on all parties to come together and negotiate, in good faith, a Brexit agreement that respects the decision of the people of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union and do that in an orderly way.
Q But does the agreement have to be in place for there to be a trade deal?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I’m sorry. Say again.
Q Does the agreement have to be in place for there to be a trade deal?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, let me leave the details to others. I think I’ve answered that.
We’re going to continue to affirm the importance of the Good Friday Agreement, but we really believe that there is an opportunity here, if all parties would come to the table and negotiate in good faith, to achieve a — to achieve a Brexit in a way that honors the sovereignty of the United Kingdom and involves the least disruption here in Ireland or anywhere all across this region.
Q I might be taking a risk in, sort of, re-asking the question. But in, sort of, declining to condition a UK-U.S. free trade agreement on no hard border in Ireland, you’d seem to be endorsing Prime Minister Johnson’s approach to this and the idea that the U.S. would be willing to go forward, even if it did disrupt the Good Friday Agreement because you think the referendum — the Brexit referendum is more important.
So, is that a misreading of the situation? And is there a risk in endorsing Prime Minister Johnson, who just now lost his working majority a few minutes ago in the UK? And I guess, I’m curious of your reaction to that as well, if that gives you guys any pause in terms of how you’re approaching these negotiations and your meeting later this week.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, look, the United States of America respects the sovereignty of the United Kingdom and the decision by the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union.
At the same time, we are going to continue to affirm the central importance of the Good Friday Agreement. It was a historic peace agreement that brought an end to violence in the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland. It was decades of violence. We all grew up watching that hardship, the loss of life. And that was brought to an end.
And I remain confident that if both parties will come to the table and negotiate in good faith, we truly believe that, by the end of October, a deadline can be met with Brexit.
Q Do you have a reaction to what’s going on in the UK with Prime Minister Johnson?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I’ll have more to say about that in a day or two.
Q Do you think —
AIDE: One last question.
Q Okay. In terms of — one of the ideas that has been floated is a three-month delay for the deadline for Brexit. Given the situation that’s so in flux, do you think that might be a good option?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I wouldn’t care to comment on it. What we want to do is be very respectful of the sovereignty of the United Kingdom. The people of the United Kingdom have spoken. And now years have passed since that referendum passed. There is a new Prime Minister. There is a new government. There’s much dynamics to all of this that’s going on.
But the United States of America supports the United Kingdom’s decision to withdraw from the European Union. And we’ll respect the process. We’ll affirm our commitment to agreements in the region that have contributed to peace and stability. But we will respect the right of the people of the United Kingdom to leave the EU.
Q Mr. Vice President, just to give you a chance to respond: Democrats have criticized you today for staying at the Trump property in Doonbeg. They say you’re enriching the President. What’s your response to that criticism?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It’s wonderful to be back in Ireland, for many reasons. Ireland is so important to the United States of America as a trading partner. But in so many ways, for more than 30 million Americans, Ireland is family. And I’m one of them.
I mean, it’s deeply humbling for me to be able to come back to Ireland and have the opportunity to go to the very hometown of my mother’s grandmother. I mean, we’ll have dinner tonight at a little pub that I worked at when I was 22 years old, when I came over here shortly after my grandfather passed away.
And right across the street is the house where my great-grandmother grew up. She often spoke of the castle that was out the window of her bedroom.
And to be able to be here and to be able to reaffirm our commitment to the Republic of Ireland, to all of our economic ties, our diplomatic ties, but, at the same time, to have an opportunity to connect to the roots of my family, I think supports the relationship between the United States and Ireland.
I mean, if you think about — if you think about the bonds that exist between the Irish people and the American people, they have much to do with shared heritage. They have much to do with family.
And that’s why it was important for me, before our original trip plan, to at least spend one night in Doonbeg. And I understand political attacks by Democrats, but if you have a chance to get to Doonbeg, you’ll find it’s a fairly small place, and the opportunity to stay at Trump National in Doonbeg, to accommodate the unique footprint that comes with our security detail and other personnel, made it logical.
We checked it with the State Department. They approved us staying there. And I was pleased to have the opportunity to return to that family hometown and to be able to stay there — and not just on a personal level, but also to do it — do it in a way that helps me celebrate with the people of Ireland the connection that so many tens of millions of Americans feel to the Emerald Isle.
Okay? Thank you.