G7 summit ends in bust-up after French taunt that Northern Ireland is not in UK

The world’s most important summit ended in acrimony yesterday over Northern Ireland’s place in the UK.

Monday, 14th June 2021, 6:52 am
Updated Monday, 14th June 2021, 7:15 am
French president Emmanuel Macron reportedly suggested that Northern Ireland was not part of the UK during his talks with PrimeMinister Boris Johnson on the margins of the G7 summit in Cornwall of the world’s top nations. Mr Johnson said that the UK is indivisible

The DUP leader Edwin Poots and prime minister Boris Johnson reacted angrily to a taunt from the French president that the province was no longer in the Union.

Emmanuel Macron reportedly suggested Northern Ireland was not part of the UK during his talks with Mr Johnson on the margins of the G7 summit in Cornwall the world’s top nations.

Mr Poots said he has sent Mr Macron a copy of the Belfast Agreement to remind him of NI’s constitutional status. The exchange came after earlier pressure on the prime minister at the G7 from officials speaking on behalf of US president Joe Biden, who reiterated American support for the Irish Sea border.

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The DUP leader Edwin Poots said he has sent Emmanuel Macron a copy of the Belfast Agreement: “Key leaders in the European Union clearly do not even understand the basics let alone the finer details"

The DUP leader said: “Key leaders in the European Union clearly do not even understand the basics let alone the finer details. It is time for the government to stop talking about fixes to the protocol and get on with taking the necessary steps to remove it.”

At a close-of-summit press conference in Cornwall yesterday, Mr Johnson said: “Of course we make the point continuously we are part of one great, indivisible United Kingdom.”

He added: “What I am saying is that we will do whatever it takes to protect the territorial integrity of the UK, but actually what happened at this summit was there was a colossal amount of work on subjects that have absolutely nothing to do with Brexit.”

The exchange with Mr Macron led Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to tell Sky News: “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, it has real-world effects on the communities in Northern Ireland, creates great concern, great consternation.

DUP leader Edwin Poots said: "It is time for the government to stop talking about fixes to the protocol and get on with taking the necessary steps to remove it"

“Could you imagine if we talked about Catalonia, the Flemish part of Belgium, one of the Länder [states] in Germany, northern Italy, Corsica in France, as different countries? We need a bit of respect here.”

The exchange came amid ongoing problems between the UK government and the EU with the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol, which was designed to ensure a border would not be introduced on the island of Ireland to protect the Good Friday Agreement.

The protocol sees Northern Ireland continue to follow many of the EU rules on trade.

But the regulatory border in the Irish Sea has infuriated unionists who have called for the protocol to be scrapped.

At a close-of-summit press conference in Cornwall, Boris Johnson said: "Of course we make the point continuously we are part of one great, indivisible United Kingdom"

In response to Mr Macron’s reported remarks, Mr Poots said he had written to him and attached a copy of the 1998 Belfast Agreement.

Mr Poots said: “Emmanuel Macron’s suggestion that Northern Ireland is not part of the United Kingdom is offensive and demands a statement from the French administration which recognises Northern Ireland’s constitutional status.

“This also exposes the ignorance which lies at the heart of the EU.

“They seem blind to the destruction the protocol has caused to the Belfast Agreement.

“It’s five years since the (Brexit) referendum. Northern Ireland has been centre stage for most of that time yet the most powerful man in one of the most powerful EU countries still doesn’t realise that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom.

“It’s incredible.”

The DUP leader added: “Key leaders in the European Union clearly do not even understand the basics let alone the finer details.

“It is time for the Government to stop talking about fixes to the protocol and get on with taking the necessary steps to remove it.”

According to a UK government source, the British Prime Minister attempted to explain his frustration with the Northern Ireland Protocol by asking Mr Macron what he would do if sausages from Toulouse could not be moved to Paris.

The French president was said to have argued the comparison did not work because Paris and Toulouse were both part of the same country and that Northern Ireland is not part of the United Kingdom.

Hinting at the exchange in an interview with Sky News he said that some leaders needed to get it “into their heads” that the UK was a “single country”.

The comments came after Emmanuel Macron reportedly suggested Northern Ireland was not part of the UK during his talks with Mr Johnson in the margins of the G7 summit.

Mr Macron used his G7 summit press conference to call for calm, but also insisted the terms of the Brexit deal must be honoured.

“I’m doing things very calmly,” he said.

“I believe that as far as this subject matter is concerned everybody has got to come back to reason.

“My wish, my will is that we succeed – we succeed collectively – to put into operation what we decided upon a few months ago.”

The row risked overshadowing the G7 summit, but Mr Johnson insisted it had taken up only a small part of the time in Carbis Bay, and that “there has been a fantastic degree of harmony between the leaders of our countries”.

At a close-of-summit press conference in Cornwall, Mr Johnson said: “Of course we make the point continuously we are part of one great, indivisible United Kingdom.”

He added: “What I am saying is that we will do whatever it takes to protect the territorial integrity of the UK, but actually what happened at this summit was there was a colossal amount of work on subjects that have absolutely nothing to do with Brexit.”

Mr Raab also told Times Radio: “There was more than one senior European figure talking about this at this summit and I’ve heard it for years now.

“And the truth is Northern Ireland cannot be talked about as a separate country to the UK. It’s offensive.

“And that kind of approach speaks volumes. That is one of the reasons we have the problems we do with the Northern Ireland Protocol, because there isn’t a proper appreciation and there’s been a lopsided approach.”

Meanwhile, The Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney said the UK and EU should find a “middle ground”on aligning food standards that could reduce checks on food from GB to NI.

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