Carbis Bay (United Kingdom) (AFP)
Britain’s anger with Europe exploded on Sunday after a sausage-themed dispute between British and French leaders over post-Brexit trade deals in Northern Ireland.
Brussels is also angry at London’s refusal to implement checks on goods entering Northern Ireland from England, Scotland and Wales.
Talks collapsed earlier this week and the European Union threatens retaliation if Britain unilaterally extends a grace period for trade in chilled meat, including sausages, next month.
The issue was raised again when Prime Minister Boris Johnson met French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday for talks on the sidelines of the G7 summit in southwest England.
Johnson asked the French leader to imagine a situation where Toulouse sausages could not be sold in Paris, which left Macron “astonished”, according to a source in the president’s office.
“He … told him that Toulouse is part of the same territory, which is not the case of Northern Ireland” because it is separated from Great Britain by the Irish Sea, specified the same source.
“These are different geographic configurations and we are comparing things that are absolutely not comparable.”
Johnson was furious, according to the Sunday Times. “Northern Ireland and Great Britain are part of the same country,” he reportedly told Macron.
The exchange explains Johnson’s comments on Saturday that “some of our friends … seem to misunderstand that the UK is one country and one territory.”
“I think they just need to get that into their heads,” he told Sky News, threatening to put Brexit trade deals on hold if the situation is not resolved.
– ‘Ignorant comments’ –
Foreign Minister Dominic Raab went further on Sunday by demanding that the EU show more “respect” for the UK’s territorial integrity and avoid “ignorant comments”.
“We have seen EU figures talking about Northern Ireland as if it is somehow a different country from the UK,” he said, calling it ” offensive “and detrimental to the communities of the troubled province.
“Can you imagine if we were talking about Catalonia, the Flemish part of Belgium, northern Italy, Corsican France, like different countries?
French officials called the meeting “tense”, although Johnson’s spokesman insisted he and Macron still have a “constructive” relationship.
The leader of the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, Edwin Poots, was indignant and demanded that France “recognize the constitutional status of Northern Ireland”.
“The main leaders of the European Union clearly do not understand even the basics, let alone the finer details,” he said in a statement.
“It is time for the government (UK) to stop talking about fixes to the protocol and take the necessary steps to remove it.”
The Northern Ireland protocol, signed separately from the Brexit trade deal reached in December, is supposed to provide for controls on goods entering the province from mainland Britain.
Trade unionists say this has created a wedge between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK and makes reunification of Ireland more likely.
The deal effectively keeps Northern Ireland in the European customs union and the single market that the UK left in January, to prevent uncontrolled goods from going into the bloc via the neighboring state of the United Kingdom. EU, Ireland.
But the protocol has ignited lingering tensions and has been blamed for the recent violence.
© 2021 AFP