Dominic Raab has slammed French President Emmanuel Macron for saying Northern Ireland is not in the UK, calling the comments “offensive” and disrespectful.
Multiple media outlets reported yesterday that Macron made the claim during a fiery meeting with Boris Johnson at the G7 summit yesterday.
The pair were discussing the UK-EU row over the Northern Ireland Protocol and how chilled meats produced in Great Britain are due to be banned in Northern Ireland from the end of the month.
Speaking to Sky News today, Raab said: “That is not only offensive, it has real world effects in the communities in Northern Ireland, creates great concern, creates great consternation.
“But also, could you imagine if we talked about Catalonia, the Flemish part of Belgium, one of the lander in Germany, northern Italy, Corsica in France as different countries?
“We need a bit of respect here, and also, frankly, an appreciation of the situation for all communities in Northern Ireland.”
The Prime Minister was reportedly trying to explain the anger over the upcoming sausage ban, saying to Macron that he would not be happy if meats could not be transported from Toulouse to Paris.
The French President is said to have replied that the comparison does not work as Paris and Toulouse are in the same country, unlike Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
Johnson told Sky News yesterday shortly after his meeting with Macron that EU leaders needed to get it “into their heads” that the UK was a “single country”.
The UK and EU are in the midst of tense negotiations over how to implement the post-Brexit Northern Ireland protocol, with Johnson’s government calling for a more relaxed approach on customs checks for goods going between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The UK government argues that the imposition of stringent checks are damaging the economy and leading to tensions in the unionist community.
The EU, meanwhile, want to avoid unchecked food and medicines entering into its single market through Northern Ireland.
One area of disagreement is the future of sausages produced in Great Britain as they are set to be banned in Northern Ireland from the end of this month.
Johnson warned that he would “obviously not hesitate to invoke Article 16” if “the protocol continues to be applied in this way”.
The UK and EU both have the right to unilaterally trigger Article 16 and suspend the protocol if there are “serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties that are liable to persist, or to diversion of trade” caused by the other side.
Brussels has already threatened to launch a trade war with the UK if Johnson does not stick to the Northern Ireland Protocol on this issue.
Macron, German chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the Prime Minister in separate one-on-one meetings yesterday that he must stick to the Northern Ireland Protocol or face deteriorating relations with Brussels.
European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic earlier this week said his “patience is very, very, very thin”.
“If the UK were to take further unilateral action over the coming weeks, we will not be shy in reacting swiftly, firmly and resolutely to ensure that the UK abides by its international obligations,” he said.