Brexit: Expert warns of ‘big confrontation’ over Northern Ireland
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And French frustrations over the sausage trade war are sizzling after the feud became the main talking point as the world’s most powerful leaders met in Cornwall over the weekend. Prime Minister Mr Johnson and EU leaders exchanged fiery words as tensions flared on the final day of the G7 summit. The war of words escalated the bloc’s threat to impose a ban on the export of chilled meats from Great Britain to Northern Ireland under a hardline interpretation of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.
French President Emmanuel Macron waded into the dispute, accusing Downing Street of alleged “incoherences” in the UK’s divorce treaty.
Despite the pint-sized president’s attempts to play a prominent role in the argument over trade checks on Northern Ireland, it was Mr Johnson who was blamed by the French media.
Le Monde, the country’s newspaper of record, accused the Prime Minister of allowing the row to mar the final day of the summit – which was meant to focus on the global supply of Covid jabs, climate change and challenging rogue regimes, like China.
In an article published on the French newspaper’s website, its London correspondent Cecile Ducourtieux wrote: “Six months after Brexit, UK-EU dispute over Northern Ireland poisoned the G7.
“The summit, hosted by Boris Johnson, was plagued by the lingering feud between Europeans and Britons over the status of Northern Ireland, with London refusing to conduct planned divorce checks on property in transit through the province.
“How to sabotage a G7 summit presented as historic, supposed to take crucial decisions to stop the COVID-19 pandemic and fight against climate change?
“Continuing, as Boris Johnson and European leaders have done, a grievous and never-ending standoff over Northern Ireland.
“The ‘sausage war’ as the British press described it partly obscured, Sunday June 13, the last day of the summit chaired by the British Prime Minister in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, the announcements on the donations of vaccines and the release of funds to protect the oceans.”
The war of words between London and Paris is expected to intensify in the coming weeks after the Government traded insults with President Macron.
Mr Johnson’s bilateral talks with the French leader, who had been accused of being “offensive”, appeared to send the row into overdrive.
At a news conference, the Prime Minister said: “What I am saying is that we will do whatever it takes to protect the territorial integrity of the UK. We are all part of one great indivisible United Kingdom and that is the job of the UK government to uphold.”
His public rebuke came after the French President was said to have misunderstood that Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom.
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Discussing the EU’s hardline interpretation of the Brexit deal’s Protocol to avoid a hard border, Mr Johnson asked: “How would you like it if the French courts stopped you moving Toulouse sausages to Paris?”
According to a British Government source, Mr Macron dismissed it as “not a good comparison because Paris and Toulouse are part of the same country”.
Dominic Raab accused the French leader of “offensive” behaviour over the apparent remarks.
The Foreign Secretary said: “We have serially seen senior EU figures talk about Northern Ireland as if it was some kind of different country to the UK. It is not only offensive, but it also has real-world effects on the communities in Northern Ireland, creates great concern, great consternation.”
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But Mr Macron hit back, claiming Mr Johnson was “well aware” when he signed the Northern Ireland Protocol that it would result in “controls” of goods crossing from mainland Britain.
The French President added: “We know very well what British sovereignty is. I don’t think there is any country in Europe that has had others spend as much time in respect of its sovereignty.”
He also accused Downing Street of attempting to create “polemics” when there were more important issues on hand at the G7 summit.
Mr Macron said: “Let’s not lose time in disagreements that are often created in corridors.
“France has never allowed itself to question British sovereignty. Brexit is the child of this British sovereignty.”
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