Mr Biden was met on the tarmac by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak after arriving in the country at around 9 pm local time at the Royal Air Force base in Aldergrove in County Antrim near Belfast.
The arrival of the president comes at a particularly contentious time for the UK province, with police in Northern Ireland raising the terror threat level being raised to “severe” last week, meaning that they believe an attack is highly likely.
On Monday, at an Irish republican parade in Londonderry, police were attacked by black bloc-clad youths with petrol bombs. On Tuesday, police discovered four suspected pipe bombs in a Derry cemetery, believed to have been intended to have been used during Monday’s parade.
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The heightened tensions come amid continued disputes over the post-Brexit state of affairs in Northern Ireland, which has been subjected to draconian EU regulations and trade barriers imposed between it and the rest of the United Kingdom, angering the largely pro-unionist population of the region who have felt betrayed by London in allowing Brussels to maintain such control after voting for independence from the bloc.
Prior to boarding Air Force One, the 80-year-old Democrat said: “I look forward to marking the anniversary in Belfast, underscoring the US commitment to preserving peace and encouraging prosperity.”
It has been reported that Biden will attempt to try to convince the pro-Brexit Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) into coming back to the devolved local parliament at Stormont after nearly a year of no functioning local government over the DUPs refusal to give the post-Brexit trading regime legitimacy.
It remains to be seen, however, what sway the anti-Brexit American leader will have with the DUP, given his history of taking the European Union’s side during previous negotiations, and his history of emphasising his Irish heritage, while downplaying his English ancestry.
Even left-wing former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who was an original signatory to the Good Friday Agreement, issued a warning to Biden to tread carefully so that it does not appear that he was interfering with the internal domestic affairs of the United Kingdom.
“The Americans can play a real role but it’s something that you need to do carefully because there’s a difference between influencing and pressurising and the one tends to be positive and the other can be negative,” Blair said ahead of the trip.
The Good Friday Agreement is widely seen as a major accomplishment for the Democrat party, given former President Bill Clinton’s involvement in the negotiations. Therefore the preservation of the peace would likely be seen as necessary for President Joe Biden, given his large Irish-American voter base in unions across the “Rust Belt” of the United States. Biden will be followed next week by failed Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who also holds the honorary title of chancellor at Queen’s University Belfast.
On Wednesday, Mr Biden is expected to meet with UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak after which he will give a speech at Ulster University in Belfast. Then he will cross the border into the Republic of Ireland, where he will visit counties Louth and Mayo, where he still has relatives, and a visit to the capital city of Dublin, where he will meet with both Irish President Michael D Higgins and Prime Minsiter Leo Varadkar before issuing an address to a joint session of the Irish parliament.
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