Boris Johnson reiterates threat to suspend Northern Ireland Protocol | Brexit
Boris Johnson reiterated his threat to unilaterally suspend the Northern Ireland protocol as a war of words with EU leaders over Brexit risked overshadowing the G7 summit in Cornwall.
French President Emmanuel Macron told the British Prime Minister on Saturday morning that the British government must honor its word on Brexit or risk jeopardizing the country’s relations with France.
Speaking to Sky News after Macron and other EU leaders used sidelines of the summit to urge him to compromise, Johnson hit back, saying the EU is building “all kinds of obstacles ”instead of applying the protocol“ judiciously ”.
“I think we can fix the problem, but it is up to our friends and partners in the EU to understand that we will do whatever it takes,” he said. “If the protocol continues to be applied in this way, then we will obviously not hesitate to invoke article 16, as I have already said”.
He also said that some EU leaders he spoke to “seem to fail to understand that the UK is one country, one territory. I just need to put that in their heads.
Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had used their bilateral meetings with Johnson to insist on the need to fully implement the protocol.
The Élysée Palace said the French president had underlined the common values between the two countries and the prospects for a “reset” of the relationship.
But he added that Macron had “strongly emphasized that this re-engagement obliges the British to honor their word to the Europeans and the framework defined by the Brexit agreements”.
The UK had hoped to keep Brexit off the agenda at Carbis Bay, with other pressing issues, including the climate crisis, to be discussed. But talks on the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol were broken off without a deal earlier this week, and the stalemate threatens to overshadow the summit.
Downing Street said the protocol was also discussed in separate meetings with Merkel and the two EU Presidents, Ursula von der Leyen of the European Commission and Charles Michel of the European Council, suggesting a concerted effort on the part of the ‘EU to solve the problem.
An EU official said Von der Leyen and Michel had impressed the prime minister with the EU’s unanimity on the issue, and urged him to moderate the rhetoric on the issue.
The Prime Minister’s spokesperson disputed the Elysee’s account of the meeting with Macron. “This is not how I would characterize their meeting,” he said. “The Prime Minister and President Macron have agreed on the need to deepen bilateral relations between the UK and France.”
He claimed Macron had not made this closer relationship dependent on resolving the protocol impasse.
Johnson’s spokesman said he in turn told EU leaders he was looking for “urgent and innovative solutions” to the protocol’s problems.
When asked whether the UK is committed to implementing the Northern Ireland deal, the spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister’s objective is to work within the framework of the protocol; this is currently our approach.
The official reading of Issue 10 from the meeting with Merkel said Johnson “underscored the UK’s position on the Northern Ireland Protocol and the need to maintain both the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the UK. United”.
Dominic Raab, the foreign minister, used stronger terms in public on Saturday, urging the EU to be “pragmatic”, not bloodthirsty “in the way it applies the protocol.
Raab told the BBC Radio 4 Today program: ‘They may be more pragmatic about implementing the Northern Ireland Protocol in a win-win manner or they may be bloody and purist about it, in which case I fear that we will not allow the integrity of the UK to be threatened.
European sources said Von der Leyen and Michel had made their position on the protocol clear publicly before flying to Cornwall and wanted to hear Johnson’s point of view.
The pair met Johnson at 9:20 a.m. Von der Leyen told a press conference earlier this week that the Northern Ireland protocol “must be implemented” – while Macron warned that “nothing is negotiable” in the protocol.
Both sides insist it is the other’s turn to compromise in the bitter row, with the UK claiming to have made more than 10 proposals and received no response from the EU.
The UK has threatened to unilaterally extend the grace period for implementing certain checks on goods entering Northern Ireland, which is due to start from June 30.
This could lead the EU to impose an effective ban on chilled meat products such as sausages shipped from Britain to Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland is respecting EU agri-food rules as part of the delicate compromise found to prevent the emergence of a hard border on the island of Ireland. But the European side says the UK has failed to keep its promises to implement controls on goods entering Northern Ireland.
They were also enraged by the combative tone of David Frost, the cabinet minister responsible for negotiations with the EU.
Lord Frost was unexpectedly added to the Cornish summit’s guest list earlier this week as it became clear that the Brexit issue would be inevitable.
US President Joe Biden also floundered through the row this week, as it emerged US diplomats had warned the UK that Frost’s actions risked fueling tensions in Northern Ireland.
Johnson insisted there had been no disagreement on the issue when the two met on Thursday, but both sides reiterated the importance of preserving the Good Friday deal.