The head of a high-powered American political delegation has urged all involved in the current impasse surrounding the Brexit-related Northern Ireland Protocol to continue negotiating until a solution is found.
Congressman Richard Neal is heading a nine-strong team from the US House of Representatives' Ways and Means Committee, currently in Ireland for a four-day trade visit.
The mission comes against a backdrop of increased concerns about the failure to revive the Northern Ireland political institutions, with the DUP refusing to get involved in that process until its worries about the Northern Ireland Protocol are addressed.
The British government last week signalled its intention to over-ride parts of the protocol, heightening concern in Brussels and Dublin.
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The protocol was the result of EU-UK negotiations, post-Brexit, and is designed to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland. It instead moves the focus towards checks on goods coming from Britain into Northern Ireland, rather than from the north to the south.
Mr Neal said today that the protocol is not the problem, but that it is made out to be by some and that he addressed such concerns when he and his colleagues met yesterday with the UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.
"I think that the assurance we were offered was that there would be continued negotiations," he said, when asked if Ms Truss had given the delegation any assurances about the future of the Good Friday Agreement," Mr Neal said.
"I think the firm posture we adopted was that the protocol has not really presented the problem that has been articulated. 7% of the voters in the north two weeks ago cast their vote based on the protocol, that means that 93% did not, so whatever challenges are offered by the protocol, we think can be negotiated," he added.
"That was the clear message from Brussels, they're ready to negotiate. The clear message that we offered to the UK, if they're ready to negotiate, and you say you want to negotiate, there should be a negotiation."
He added that the United States' Government's views are clear: "President [Joe] Biden, Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and I have made our position known. Nothing can jeopardise the Good Friday Agreement or any sort of return to a hard border."
The congressional delegation is due to meet the Taoiseach tomorrow in Dublin, when Micheál Martin is expected to reaffirm the Irish Government's belief that the Good Friday Agreement must be protected and that the Northern Ireland institutions should be up and running again.
Mr Neal will address the Seanad on Tuesday to mark its centenary.
They will also meet with other political leaders north and south before departing for home on Wednesday.
Mr Neal said the delegation had been "equally firm" in its statements as the UK Government has been in recent weeks.
"I think that we've met the moment in terms of discussing the importance of the Good Friday Agreement as it relates to the work that many people, myself included, did," he said.
"It should be a template for the world, coming up to the 25-year anniversary, it should be celebrated not just on this island but across the world.
"We also made it clear that we do not intend to embrace a trade agreement on a bilateral basis with the UK if there's any jeopardy to the Good Friday Agreement."
DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said that implementing the protocol in full would result in "an economic tsunami" hitting Northern Ireland.
Responding to a tweet from a member of the US House of Representatives, the DUP leader said that calling on the Northern Ireland Protocol to be implemented in full was "such folly".
He said: "Implementing the protocol in full means ending grace periods, with an economic tsunami hitting Northern Ireland. Power sharing only works with cross community consensus.
"There is no unionist support for the protocol. The protocol will destroy the GFA if not dealt with."
Earlier today, Britain insisted it is up to the European Union to unblock political paralysis in Northern Ireland, after assuring the delegation the Congress of its "cast-iron" commitment to peace.
Interviewed by the Sunday Telegraph newspaper, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis demanded that the EU adopt a new negotiating mandate to address the fierce objections of the Democratic Unionist Party.
"I made this point to the EU myself before the [Stormont] elections. My view was, it was much easier to get a deal before the elections than afterwards," Mr Lewis said.
"The idea that it was going to be easier after the elections was a crazy one from the EU."
The Protocol's requirement for checks on goods arriving from England, Scotland and Wales has infuriated the DUP and other unionists, who say it drives a wedge between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
Mr Lewis stressed that the DUP, as the biggest unionist party, had a democratic mandate to back its position.
Earlier this week Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, warned that the UK could forget about a post-Brexit trade deal if it rewrites the agreement.
Additional reporting: PA, Reuters